- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2006

MONETA, Va. (AP) — Archaeologists are seeking funding to learn more about the Saponi Indians, a little-known tribe that centuries ago lived at what is now the site of the Smith Mountain Dam.

Howard A. MacCord Sr., chairman of the research projects committee for the Archaeological Society of Virginia, said the society wants to complete the work of Carl F. Miller, the archaeologist who collected artifacts in 1963 and 1964 during the dam’s construction.

“It was the site of an Indian village, and it is all under water now,” Mr. MacCord said. “It is important that this be done someday. It has been over 40 years.”

Broken shards of pottery and other relics rescued from the site have been at the Smithsonian Institution since being unearthed.

Mr. MacCord said the excavation of the Smith Mountain Dam site began when Mr. Miller was sent by the Smithsonian to study the area before American Electric Power finished the dam.

While AEP funded the archaeological work at the site, it did not provide money to compile his research. Mr. Miller died before his work could be completed.

“We really don’t know a lot about the work that Carl Miller did,” Tom Klatka, a regional archaeologist with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, told the News & Advance of Lynchburg.

The lives of the Saponi Indians remain a mystery.

“We need to learn more about how they buried their dead and what they ate,” Mr. Klatka said. “This area is now under water at Smith Mountain Lake. There is a big gap in our history.”

The area around the lake was home to the Saponi Indians and a meeting spot for several tribes until the early 1700s because it was a rich hunting ground, according to the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Money is the main obstacle to beginning the project proposed by the society.

Mr. MacCord said it would cost about $75,000 to pay for the students’ work, living expenses and laboratory fees for carbon dating and botanical studies.

“So many of these sites have been destroyed or buried by water,” he said. “If we do not act, we will lose this opportunity.”

That is one of 22 projects across the state that the Archaeological Society of Virginia says need completion but lack the money.

The projects include surveying the Great Neck-Lynnhaven area for evidence of the Roanoke Lost Colony survivors, finding the sites of pre-1700 forts and creating a research lab to begin modern studies of Indian ceramics in Virginia.

Mr. MacCord hopes that the knowledge gained from these projects will shed some light on the lives of Virginia’s American Indian population before the founding of Jamestown in 1607.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide