Of rock shelters and work at Fort Daniel

This year the GARS Archaeology Month event was a public archaeology day at the Creekside Rock shelter located on the historic Elisha Winn property in Dacula, on May 3 and 4. The site was first identified, recorded, and excavated by GARS in 2006. Although contending with intermittent showers and poor turnout on Saturday, two large slabs of roof fall were broken up and removed by GARS members. With clearing skies on Sunday, a number of families showed up with about 10 children aged 6-13. The aim was to involve them in the excavation of a 1 x 1-m x 10 cm level from the very back of the shelter where there was as little as 21 cm of ceiling clearance.

The munchkins were just the right size for the task. They each took a turn filling a bucket and then taking it to the screen. One young man was fortunate enough to come up with an Early to Middle Archaic (8000-5000 B.P.), Pine Tree projectile point base (Figure 1)! The point was recovered at about 15 cm below surface. Everyone gathered around as Jim D’Angelo explained how the broken point likely was tossed to the back of the shelter several thousand years ago when its owner sat by the creek hafting a new point to his atlatl dart.

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Figure 1. Michael holding projectile point he excavated at the Creekside Rock Shelter.

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Figure 2. 1776 Spanish 2 Reale coin recovered at the Fort Daniel site.

GARS had recovered Lamar pottery and a French trade bead from the shelter in 2006-2007. The finds suggest that occupation of the site may span as much as 7,500 years, bracketed by the Early Archaic and Contact periods. The answer, as we know, lies below.

Within the week, one of GARS’ members, Greg Beavers, was working at the Fort Daniel site (9GW623) and recovered a 1776 silver coin (Figure 2)! This was in the plow zone in an area where we are excavating a hearth feature that we think is located within the fort and another feature that is probably the south stockade wall trench adjacent to the hearth. Research suggests that the 2 Reale coin was minted in Mexico and, until the practice was made illegal by the Federal government in 1857, was used as tender in the colonies and then the states. The well-worn appearance of this coin indicates that it was in circulation from 1776 until the time that it was dropped at Fort Daniel, sometime, most likely, between 1795 and 1815.

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Figure 3. Scouts from Troop 594 raising “Star Spangled Banner” over Fort Daniel (photo courtesy Robert Coffey).

The land on which Fort Daniel is situated is for sale as are two tracts on the east and west sides (for a total of about 15 acres). In recent months, the Friends of Fort Daniel (FFD) committee has been organized to find ways to save the site from development. Members of the committee, including its chair, are descendents of Major General Allen Daniel or the militiamen who were stationed at the fort. The Georgia Piedmont Land Trust (formerly the Gwinnett Open Land Trust) has enthusiastically agreed to head up the effort to find a purchaser for the 15 acres, and the Archaeological Conservancy has also agreed to help where they can. Other members of the committee include representatives of GARS, the Gwinnett Historical Society, the National Society United States Daughters of 1812, the Gwinnett Preservation Board, and the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. Garrett Silliman, representing the Georgia Council of Professional Archaeologists, has also been sitting in.

The effort to save 9GW623 includes raising public awareness through public and executive presentations, developing a special use plan for the site, and working to purchase the tracts including and surrounding the site. To officially kick off the effort, GARS and FFD hosted a public archaeology day, BBQ, and flag raising ceremony on Flag Day, June 14. The event was by invitation only and approximately 60 persons attended. A local Boy Scout Troop, including some scouts who have been working on a merit badge at the site, led the flag ceremony. A replica of the 1794-1818 “Star Spangled Banner” was flown over the site, on a crafted pine flag pole, for the first time since it would have last been raised over the fort about 193 years ago (Figure 3).