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Archeologist teaches students about Stallings Island

Stallings Island is rich in artifacts

Posted: December 28, 2011 - 1:01am  |  Updated: December 28, 2011 - 4:22am
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Archeologist Rowe Bowen shows an eighth-grade class a replica of the type of spear that the American Indians on Stallings Island might have used about 4,000 years ago.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Archeologist Rowe Bowen shows an eighth-grade class a replica of the type of spear that the American Indians on Stallings Island might have used about 4,000 years ago.

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American Indians first created pottery in what would, thousands of years later, become Columbia County.

Anthropologist Rowe Bowen presented many such facts about Stallings Island during a recent presentation to eighth-graders at Stallings Island Middle School.

The cooking pottery, created in the late Archaic period about 4,000 years ago, was formed with clay and vegetable fibers, Bowen said.

Stallings Island, located in the middle of the Savannah River just below the Steven Creeks Dam, is protected by the Archaeological Conservancy. No one may visit the island without the conservancy’s permission.

The middle school, named for the island, opened in 2008.

Bowen, an anthropologist specializing in archaeology, has studied the island for more than 40 years. He presented his lessons to Stallings Island pupils as part of a Georgia history class.

In addition to teaching the pupils more about the island, Bowen passed around several examples of the island’s artifacts.

Bowen showed the pupils authentic pottery shards, stone tools and axe heads, but spear pieces and atlatl weapons were replicas.

The presentation mainly focused on the Paleo and Archaic peoples and the “cultural ecology” of the island.

“(Cultural ecology) is the meshing of people and their culture with the environment,” Bowen said.

The Paleo American Indians, or “old Indians,” were believed to have travelled from Asia across the Bering Strait when a glacier connected the continents, Bowen said.

As the weather warmed, the resources changed, and the Paleo hunters became Archaic hunter-gatherers.

The new animals caused the weapons to change as well, Bowen explained. The newly invented atlatl allowed the natives to throw farther, quicker and more accurately than with spears.

Because resources remained consistent, the natives stayed in one area long enough to build houses. This led to the invention of the chip-stone axe, Bowen said.

In addition to discussing the invention of pottery, Bowen told pupils about how the Stallings Island area’s abundance of resources affected the residents.

The island is near the junction of the Piedmont, coastal plain and fault line areas, which expanded the number and variety of resources available to the area’s early residents, Bowen said.

“I am glad that the Columbia County school system is interested in knowing about its historical background,” Bowen said. “The questions and interest from students were very good.”

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