Anyone interested in taking part in an archaeological excavation of what is suspected to be a small encampment used by American Indians as long ago as 12,000 years may do so starting Sunday near Caldwell, in a project sponsored by the Greenbrier River Trail Association.
The site to be excavated is part of a 5.5-acre parcel that will eventually be developed into a new trailhead parking and picnic area at the heavily used southern terminus of the 77-mile Greenbrier River Trail.
The team leading the excavation consists of Stephen McBride, his wife, Kim Arbogast McBride, and his brother, David McBride, all Greenbrier County natives and all professional archaeologists now working in Lexington, Kentucky. Stephen and Kim McBride have led excavations at dozens of frontier forts across the Greenbrier Valley and West Virginia.
Excavation work at the Caldwell site is scheduled to take place Sunday through Sept. 20 and Sept. 23-26, possibly extending into Sept. 27, Kim McBride said.
The archaeological excavation of the new trailhead site was required by the State Historic Preservation Office and by federal law after a preliminary survey by an archaeological consultant hired by the West Virginia Division of Highways turned up evidence that prehistoric stone tools had been made at the site.
In addition to uncovering numerous small flakes of worked stone, personnel taking part in the initial survey found fragments of small tools and a complete spear point of a type that dates back to the early Archaic culture, which occupied the area from roughly 6,000 to 8,000 B.C.
The finds, which suggest the presence of a small encampment site of American Indians, mandate a more complete Phase II archaeological study under the terms of a federal grant to pay for the trailhead complex.
After cultural resources firms on the Division of Highways’ list of approved consultants for Phase II work failed to submit proposals deemed satisfactory by the DOH, the Greenbrier River Trail Association was allowed to seek bids from other registered professional archeologists. The top bid received had to be approved by the SHPO, with the GRTA paying 100 percent of the Phase II survey’s cost.
A bid by McBride Preservation Services LLC, of Lexington, was approved by SHPO in June.
The GRTA has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise $23,250 to pay for the Phase II survey. The association also seeks volunteers to help the archaeologists excavate the site, sift excavated soil for artifacts and clean artifacts during any portion of the three-week survey. Those interested should contact Nancy Harris by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those interested in making tax-deductible donations may do through the GRTA’s GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/f/greenbrier-river-trail-archeology-dig, or by mailing contributions to the GRTA, at P.O. Box 203, Marlinton, WV 24954.
Artifacts found at the site will be analyzed for a report and then curated at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex, in Moundsville.
The new trailhead facility is bordered in part by Stonehouse Road and Camp Allegheny Road, adjacent to the Greenbrier River Trail and the Greenbrier River at Caldwell, about 3 miles east of Lewisburg. In addition to parking space, the trailhead complex will include a restroom, bike racks, picnic shelters and an informational gazebo.