Plans for a new trailhead parking and picnic area being developed in Caldwell hit a little hiccup when a required Phase I archaeological study uncovered artifacts dating to the Early Archaic period at the site, triggering a Phase II study.

A more extensive archaeological dig is now scheduled for the 5.5-acre parcel containing the future parking and picnic site next to the Greenbrier River Trail, three miles east of Lewisburg. Slated to begin Saturday, the three-week study was commissioned by the board of Greenbrier River Trail Association (GRTA), a nonprofit group that advocates for the 77-mile rail trail in Greenbrier and Pocahontas counties.

Three professional archaeologists who are quite familiar with the local area will lead the dig: brothers Stephen and David McBride, along with Kim Arbogast McBride (Stephen’s wife), who are based in Lexington, Ky. All three are Greenbrier County natives who graduated from Greenbrier East High School in the early 1970s. Their previous projects in West Virginia include investigations of frontier forts in the Greenbrier and New River valleys, according to a GRTA press release.

Dr. Kim McBride explained the need for this Phase II study, noting that the archaeological site was found by a survey team from the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH). The parking lot project falls under federal archaeological study requirements because of the use of federal funds in developing the trailhead site.

“The artifacts found during the initial survey are mostly small pieces of chert (often called flakes) which are the leftovers from the production of stone tools by Native Americans,” McBride said. “Two of these flakes have been worked on to give them a sharper edge, suggesting some sort of cutting or sharpening activity. Two fragments of bifacial tools were found.

“The only complete artifact from the prehistoric occupation, and the only one which provides a clue of the timeframe of the occupation, is a hafted biface (spear point) of a type called Kirk, which dates from the Early Archaic archaeological culture, roughly 6,000 to 8,000 B.C. These artifacts suggest a small encampment site by Native Americans.”

Those artifacts, and any further artifacts discovered in the course of the Phase II study, will be analyzed for a report, McBride said. They will then be curated at the state curation facility, the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex in Moundsville.

Volunteers are still needed to help the archaeologists excavate and clean artifacts during the upcoming dig. To join this effort, contact Nancy Harris at nancy.harris.wv@gmail.com.

In addition, the GRTA has begun a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the study, with a goal of $23,250. To donate, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/greenbrier-river-trail-archeology-dig or mail a tax-deductible contribution to Greenbrier River Trail Association, P.O. Box 203, Marlinton, WV 24954.

Additional information about the Greenbrier River Trail and the GRTA can be found at www.greenbrierrivertrail.com.

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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