Researchers Dig Up 4,000-Year-Old Indian Shell Ring In Sea Pines Forest Preserve

Students and researchers from Binghamton University collect data which may explain the intended use behind shell rings.

Archaeologist sifts through dirt
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Students and researchers from Binghamton University collect data which may explain the intended use behind shell rings.

Native Americans formed circular masses out of shellfish shells some 4,000 years ago that have stumped researchers since the first finding. Archaeologists and anthropologists from Binghamton University in New York are currently working on their third excavation in Sea Pines Forest Reserve that may very well provide answers.

Reporters from the Island Packet claim the discovery would be the “first of it’s kind.” On August 16, 2017, these same researchers were measuring lines in a dirt pit amid the forest floor. What they found is a potentially huge clue. A thick group of lines shaped in what appears to be a rectangle with curved edges, form what leading professor, Matt Sanger, believes to be previous house walls. This information and more can be found insides the State’s story on the initial dig.

Students digging at an excavation
Jesse Pagels, left, and Edgar Alarcon, of the Public Archaeology Facility at Binghamton University, start a new dig on another excavation site at the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair, in Bethel, N.Y. June 14th 2018. Richard Drew / AP Images

Matt Sanger is currently directing the group of students as they search for more data. Sanger is an assistant professor of anthropology and director of the public archaeology program at the university. He believes, if correct, these findings may be evidence that Native Americans lived in the shell rings. During one of the previous digs at that site, the team found numerous other artifacts leading them to the same possible conclusion. One such significant revelation was a broken pot. Remnants of food were still inside.

“We’re getting pretty close to getting all the data we need. Once you’ve gotten the answers you need, it’s ethically important to stop digging.”

Located between Lake Thomas and Lake Joe on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, this particular shell ring is smaller than some others, coming in at only 120 feet in diameter and three feet in height. On July 12, this crew plans to give a tour of the excavation site. The shell ring found on Hilton Head happens to be one of the most primitive examples in the United States, boasts Discover South Carolina. Journalists on that site state that visitors of the Forest Preserve can walk right past the area, completely unaware that they are passing a fascinating and ancient archaeological site. Certainly those able to join the actual tour of the researchers’ dig area, indeed of the shell ring itself, will be intrigued.