Sunday, February 3, 2008

National Science Foundation Grant Yields Pay Dirt

By Janet Crain

Warren Wilson College professor David Moore and fellow archaeologists Robin Beck and Christopher Rodning began planning a research project and field school at the Berry site in 2001. They were awarded a National Science Foundation grant of $167,012 for two summers of excavations at the Berry site near Morganton.

The Berry site along Upper Creek is the location of an ancestral Catawba Indian town named Joara, at which the Spanish captain Juan Pardo built Fort San Juan in 1567. The garrison was the earliest European settlement in the interior of what is now the United States, predating the earliest English settlement at Roanoke “The Lost Colony” by 17 years. The early Spanish attempts at settlement were partially responsible for spurring on the English efforts, which though not successful initially, culminating with the Jamestown settlement, did permanently establish the English in North America.

Professors Beck, of the University of Oklahoma, and Rodning, of Tulane University, have been working with Moore to help write this early story of European exploration and settlement in eastern North America.

Under the Upper Catawba Archeology Project, the archaeologists are researching the long-forgotten episode of Fort San Juan's founding and its fiery destruction in the spring of 1568.

When awarded this grant in 2006, Moore stated; “When we began planning our research project and field school in 2001, it was our goal to work systematically to have a legitimate chance to receive a major award such as this, Chris and Rob and I are really excited to receive this grant, and appreciate the support we have received. We're now actively engaged in planning for next summer.”

Now this long planned archaeological dig is paying off in a big way.