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Immerse in a 4,000 years old mystery at Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head

Posted By ShoutCarolina,Date: 08.23.2009

While you enjoy the attractions packed Sea Pines Plantation make sure to visit the 4,000 years old Native American site nestled inside the Forest Preserve. This unique ring, one of only 20 still remaining, is a national treasure now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once inside the Sea Pines Plantation ($5 all day guest pass per car) admission to the natural wonder Forest Preserve and Indian Shell Ring is free. Here are the highlights (graphics and data provided by the signs and CSA website):

The Indian Shells Ring, a ceremonial, trade and rituals site


Who were the People of the Ring? Hunters, inventors and wanderers…

• Archaic Indians lived in South Carolina from 8,000 to 10,000 B.C. The Indians name who built the ring is unknown. We do know they lived here about 3,800 years ago. They were semi nomadic, arriving on Hilton Head in the fall after wandering up and down the Savannah River for most of the year. When the shell ring was built, they established temporary villages on the coast.

• Their huts were made out of branches and palm fronds. The Shell Ring interior was kept clear and used as a common area. Most likely people from different clans gathered for feasts, celebrations and trade. They brought food and items not commonly found on the island.

Gathering oyster shells to build the ceremonial ring

• Uncovered artifacts suggest the Indians harvested oysters, clams, mussels, fish, crabs, snails and turtles in nearby tidal wetlands. They hunted small game like deer, rabbits and squirrels and picked up hickory nuts and acorns.

•To catch their prey hunters used Ati-Ati (spear throwers) with points crafted from stone, such as chert. They made tools and fishhooks from shells, wood, bones and antlers.

Pottery Inventors? These archaic Indians built one of the first fired ceramics in North America. Their “fiber-tempered” pottery, made of clay mixed with Spanish Moss, is very similar to that found on the Yucatan Peninsula.


Why here? Location, location, location!

The Indians chose this site on purpose. Nearby they could easily harvest shellfish and fish from what once was a salt marsh – part of a tidal basin that joined the Atlantic Ocean near present day Sea Pines Beach Lagoon.

Entrance to 4000 years old Indian Shell Ring at Sea Pines

If you build it, they will come…

Years of seafood feasts generated a massive accumulation of shells. Builders stacked shells in small piles in the shape of a ring, next they padded down the shells to fill in the gaps and then they smoothed the surface with a layer of mixed crushed shells and soil.

Shell Ring Facts

• The ring is 132-140 feet in diameter and about 25 feet wide at the base.
• Originally few feet high today the ring is only 15 inches high. Over centuries the weather, plant growth and foot traffic reduced the height of the ring.
• The ring is not a perfect circle! Maybe different sections were built by different kin groups or some parts were dedicated to high-status people.

The forest provided Indians food and shelter.


What happened next is just another mystery…

3.500 years ago the archaic Indians abandoned the site. No one knows why. Some of theories:
• Rising sea levels diminished shellfish colonies
• The people over harvested the oysters and clams beds
• They learned to rely more upon agriculture and hunting
• The coastal Indians forced them to leave.

History buffs and myth busters stop by the Stoney-Baynard Ruins to admire an antebellum tabby beauty and maybe spot a lonely ghost!

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    5 Responses to “Immerse in a 4,000 years old mystery at Sea Pines Plantation in Hilton Head”

    1. » A poker game mis-fortune, Civil War fire and ghost sightings…the Sea Pines mysterious ruins have it all! »South Carolina Family Attractions, Free, Affordable and Fun Things To Do Says:

      [...] the Sea Pines Plantation (daily guest admission is $5 per car). If nothing else check out the 4,000 years old Indian Shell Ring, a national landmark and one of few still remaining rings to [...]

    2. » Outdoor magic! Coastal Discovery Museum nature trail, a Hilton Head free family fun activity »South Carolina Family Attractions, Free, Affordable and Fun Things To Do Says:

      [...] climb the eye candy Harbour Town Lighthouse (free for kids under 5, $4 otherwise), visit the national treasure 4,000 years old Indian Shell Ring, chase a ghost at the Baynard Ruins or just relax inside beautiful Forest [...]

    3. Free and romantic Hilton Head attractions: mysterous Leamington Lighthouse, a ghost legend and military treasure « Shout About South Carolina Travel, Family Attractions and Free Things to Do Says:

      [...] romantic sites? Drive to Sea Pines Plantation to wander around the haunted Stoney-Baynard Ruins and 4,000 years old mystery-filled Indian Shell Ring. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Family Fun on Tybee Island: [...]

    4. Fun packed family day trip at Sea Pines, a magical world to enjoy the Harbour Town lighthouse, alligators, horseback riding, kayaking and even ghosts! « Shout About South Carolina Travel, Family Attractions and Free Things to Do Says:

      [...] The Indian Shell Ring inside the Sea Pines Forest Preserve is the site of a 4,000 years old nomadic Indians [...]

    5. » A virtual tour of Hilton Head’s best historic sites, fun, free and inspirational family things to do »South Carolina Family Attractions, Free, Affordable and Fun Things To Do Says:

      [...] is home to a 4,000 years old Indian Shell Ring, one of only 20 still remaining in the country, a national treasure listed on the National Register of Historic Places (free admission once inside Sea [...]

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