GEOARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS OF STRATIFIED HOLOCENE AEOLIAN DEPOSITS ALONG THE TAR RIVER IN NORTH CAROLINA
Geophysical, archaeostratigraphic and sedimentological analysis along with chronometric dating (OSL) of source-bordering aeolian sediments along the Tar River in North Carolina indicate dune drapes (> 1 meter) accreted episodically throughout much of the Holocene. Combined radiocarbon and OSL ages from Barber Creek (31Pt259) and Squires Ridge (31Ed365) indicate initiation of dune deposition during the Younger Dryas stadial (ca. 12,900 CALYBP). At these sites, aeolian sediments directly overlie relict fluvial braid-bar deposits making up the lower paleo-braidplain of the Tar River. Thus far, Early Archaic (ca. 11,450-8900 CALYBP) occupations mark the earliest known cultural horizon within lower paleo-braidplain sites and appear at the base of aeolian deposits determined through sedimentology. Prior to the Younger Dryas, lower paleo-braidplain sites appear to have been dominated by fluvial deposition of braided river sediments. Evidence from Barber Creek and Squires Ridge suggests braided river conditions ceased just prior to the Younger Dryas with fluvial incision of the Tar River into the lower paleo-braidplain. Exposed sand-bar and floodplain sediments provided a source for aeolian deposition on relict braid-bars bordering the incised modern river channel. If confirmed, this could explain the apparent absence of early Paleoindian occupations along the lower paleo-braidplain of the Tar River. Alternatively, Pleistocene-age archaeological sites may have been scoured from the lower paleo-braidplain by high magnitude floods during or just prior to incision of the Tar River and initiation of dune deposits during the Younger Dryas. This research has demonstrated the potential for identifying stratified early Holocene sites that provide linkages between climate and cultural change and provide a framework for illuminating prehistoric hunter-gatherer settlement along the Tar River.