About Era

Centuries of colonial expansion, wars, and politics pushed most native peoples of South Carolina to other areas. The Marine Corps maintains formal relations with several Indian peoples who trace their ancestry to thosewho once lived in this area. When an activitytakes place that has potential to effect an archaeological site whichmay contain data having potential to advance knowledge of the past, the Depot consults with Tribal leaders to ensurethe site is cared for in a professional and respectful way. Cultural Resource Management is headed by the staff at the ParrisIsland Museum. Among the consulting tribes are the following present-day nations:

  • United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma
  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Cherokee Nation
  • Shawnee Tribe
  • Poarch Band of Creek Indians
  • Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town
  • Kialagee Tribal Town
  • Chickasaw Nation
  • Muscogee Creek Nation
  • Catawba Tribe
  • Seminole Tribe of Florida
  • Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Tuscarora Nation
  • Thlopthlocco Tribal Town

1500s to 1700s

The Historic era for Native Americans began when the first Europeans madecontact. The exact date of this for the area around Parris Island isunknown, but it may have been Spanish explorers about 1515. In the1520s, Spanish ships sailed into Port Royal Sound, calling it SantaElena. They recorded the area as being called “Chicora” by the natives.In the 1560s, France and then Spain colonized Parris Island, and bothhad frequent contact with nearby Indians, notably the Escama├žu and Orista (Edisto). In the mid 1600s, Parris Island was occupied by Indians calling themselves the “St Ellens,” who were apparently Cusabo Indians,and greatly influenced by Spanish Catholic missionaries. Their large village was on the tip of the island in what is now the Charlesfort-Santa Elena National Historic Landmark near Legends Golf Course.

In the 1680s, Yamasee Indians began moving into the sea islands,establishing several large towns which carried on trade with Scottish and English colonists around Beaufort and Charleston. After the Yamasee War, most native groups moved farther inland, leaving the area around Port Royal.

Jean Ribault, leader of the 1562 expedition, erected stone pillars toclaim the region for France. He also tried to establish trade withlocal Indians. This engraving was drawn in the late 1580s.

3,000 to 1,200 years ago

Early in the Woodland period life went on with little change from the Late Archaic. Subsistence focusedon hunting, fishing, and gathering of plants and shellfish. By about 400 BC, villages became more sedentary. Trade flourished, horticulture became more common, and populations again grew. Shellmiddens from this period can be very deep, suggesting either very longterm occupation, or repeated occupation of the same site, ususally a cluster of five or ten houses. Technology also developed, including different ways of making pottery,such as using sand or shell instead of Spanish moss for temper.

Decorations on the pottery include stamped or incised patterns. Pipes,ornaments, and other personal items are more common now. About the year 600, a new tool appeared which changed much of life: the bow and arrow. Hunting small game became much easier. At the same time, growing plants for food also grew in popularity.

By about the year 1000, maize (corn),beans, and squash were important parts of the diet along with smallgame and seafood. The abundant foods allowed for more permanent settlements, but perhaps because of this, and the use of the bow andarrow in war, in some areas villages begin to build palisades around the houses for protection. This may have been related to growing competition with other villages for resources in overlapping territory. Parris Island was frequently occupied during the Woodland period.

AD 1200 to early 1500s

The Mississippian in South Carolina is called the “South Appalachian Mississippian” and is a regional variant of the culture which lived along the Mississippi River drainage area. The South Appalachian Mississippian includes cultures in South Carolina, Georgia, and portions of Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Duringthis period, cultures developed what anthropologists call achiefdom-level society; one with a defined ruling class and ranked lower classes under them.

Villages became permanent and territorialboundaries were better defined and defended. Walled villages were common. Some larger sites enclosed earthen platform mounds and werecenters of an elite ruling class. In coastal South Carolina, villages were often located along inland river valleys and had a strong dependence on coastal resources. Subsistence included hunting, fishing, plant and shellfish gathering, and agriculture.

Objects found in some settlements suggest there may have been an influence from the Mississippian centers further inland, perhaps even stretching into Mesoamerica. Late in this period there was social instability. Walls todefend villages became more common, and by the mid 1300s, some larger settlements were abandoned. Smaller villages took their place. This period of cultural decline began as much as a century before Europeans first made contact.

10,000 to 3,000 years ago

As the climate warmed, the environment began to shift. The megafauna ofthe Paleo period were replaced by smaller animals such as deer. “Archaic” people adapted by diversifying their tools as they made greater use of the different foods now available.

The”atlatl” was introduced, a throwing deviceallowing a spear to be thrown much further than by hand along. Ground stone tools, such as mortars and pestles, show plants and nuts also became important.