Traveling exhibit 'N.C. Digs!' comes to the Swannanoa Valley

Anne Chesky Smith
Special to The Black Mountain News

The traveling exhibit “NC Digs!,” which highlights five different types of archaeological sites found across North Carolina - Native American, Battlefield, Plantation, Trash Pit, and Industrial - will be on display at the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center every Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from now until Saturday, Aug. 4.

Each interpretive panel in the exhibit highlights different tools and techniques used by archaeologists as they piece together the past. There are artifacts on display as well as various tools used by archaeologists.

The exhibit also includes a self-guided, hands-on activity station where children (and adults) can hone their archaeological skills by excavating and identifying pot sherds, projectile points, and other Native American artifacts. The activity station is available during opening hours.

An exhibit looking at five types of archaeological sites found in the state has made a stop at the Swannanoa Valley Museum & Historical Center. "N.C. Digs!" will be on display until Aug. 4.

On Saturday, July 28 at 10:30 a.m., the public is invited to a guided activity session,
“Be an Archaeologist,” which allows participants a chance to become archaeologist by searching for reproduction artifacts, and then studying, measuring, and cataloging them to try to determine what life was like in the past. The free event is appropriate for elementary-aged students and up. It will be held in the alleyway between the Museum and the Dripolator.

Also on display are artifacts from sites across North Carolina. The Berry Site located in Burke County has helped archaeologists confirm that the site was the location of the Native American town of Joara and the Spanish Fort San Juan, established by Juan Pardo in 1567.

Fort San Juan was the first European settlement established in the interior of what is now the U.S., predating the Roanoke and Jamestown colonies.

At plantation sites in North Carolina, archaeological artifacts provide clues about the everyday lives of enslaved laborers that are often not available in written records. Similarly, the buttons, bullets, and broken tools that soldiers left behind on battlefields help scholars learn more about past conflicts.

Artifacts from trash pits – where past people disposed of their garbage – help archaeologists learn about the products people used, trade patterns, diets, and more. In these pits the newest layers are on top, helping researchers to date their finds.

All these sites help piece together the lives of those who lived before us and provide information not often available in written records. For more information, visit