Monday, March 3rd, 2008
Shell middens and rings are the greatest structures that remain from the state’s earliest inhabitants and date back between two to four millennia.
They contain mostly oyster and clam shells but also pottery fragments and animal bones. No one is quite sure whether they began life as temples or mere trash heaps or something in between.
Spanish Mount, a shell midden in South Carolina thousands of years old, is eroding at a precipitous rate. It has lost 8 feet in height in as many years, and has moved back 14 feet in the center and 7 feet on each end over the past 5 years.
They’ve built a wall and walkway to slow the erosion and give people a chance to see the mound up close, and although it has done its job admirably, it’s only postponing the inevitable.
The mound will disappear and soon.
So the question state park archaeologists have to face is do they excavate the midden while it’s still a large depository of valuable information about the pre-history of the area, knowing that by the time they’re through with the dig there will be nothing left, or do they try to preserve it as long as possible, knowing that eventually it will erode into nothingness and much precious knowledge will disappear with it?
For now the question is on hold because they don’t have the budget for an excavation, but sooner rather than later the decision will have to made.