The Baucom Hardaway Site (Peck and Painter)

Firepits or ceremonial features?

The most unique feature found at the Baucom Hardaway Site was the discovery of a series of firepits or ceremonial features in the Palmer Corner-Notched, Hardaway Side-Notched and the Hardaway-Dalton levels. A total of seven of these features were excavated within the vertical and horizontal space of one square (square B-6, figure 16, map 4). Two of these features were encountered in the Palmer level, two in the Hardaway Side-Notch level and three in the Hardaway-Dalton level. Six of these "firepits" (two in each level) were almost identical in size, configuration and construction (figure 16). These six "firepits" were approximately 18" in diameter and consisted of one large stone and several small stones forming a circle. In the center of the "firepit" circle was a number of small white quartz pebbles. The other "firepit", located in the Hardaway-Dalton level, consisted of several medium-sized stoned stacked two stones high, with no pebbles in the center (figure 16). These features were all found by Jerry Dixon of Charlotte, NC in 1981.

These "firepits" contained firecracked stones, heat reddened in color, and seemingly light in weight. Two samples of what was believed to be charcoal was recovered from one of these features in the Hardaway Side-Notched level. Dr. Vance Haynes, however, describes one of the samples as "firm lump" (8 x 5 x 5 cm) of pale brown silty fine sand with dark brownish-gray stains. No distinct charcoal". The other sample is still in storage.

What is the meaning of these features? Why were identical "firepits" built in three related cultural periods that must have spanned hundreds of years of time? Why were they all built in exactly the same spot when the previous "firepits" were covered over by many inches of sediment? Why were no other features found at the site? Do they represent a ceremonial spot or center for these related groups? Does other Hardaway Tradition campsites contain one or more of these features?


Carbon-14 dates


Small flecks of charcoal and charcoal stained soil were noted from the start of the excavation, and this occurred at all levels. Small fragments of bone and turtle shell also occurred, both bone and charcoal were deemed too small for positive dating by C-14 method. Soon, however, a sample that was hoped to be large enough for dating was found in Square A-8 at the 8’6" level of the Hardaway Side-Notched level was sent to Dr. C. Vance Haynes at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The shipping date was April 25, 1980 and Dr. Haynes reply at that time was:

The amount of charcoal is too small for a radio carbon date by conventional methods. When the new accelerator technology is perfected it could be dated by this method, but it will probably be a couple of years yet before anyone is doing this on a routine basis. I am returning your sample herewith so you can save it till then.

The association of Paleo-Indian material and charcoal in good stratigraphic context in the eastern U.S. is so rare that your site is considered important to American Archaeology....

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