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):
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.
• 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.
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.
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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Filed Under: Biking, Boating and Fishing, Free Things to Do, Fun Carolina Outdoor Recreation, Hilton Head, Hilton Head - Savannah, Historic Carolina Sites, Mysterious, Funny & Weird, Sea Pines Plantation, Walking and Jogging
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