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Surry County, Virginia, Research

The McCary Site (44Sy5p)
A Paleo-Indian Site near Claremont in Surry County, Virginia

Lithic Artifacts from The McCary Site

The McCary paleo-indian archaeological site was discovered 8 September 1990 by L. B. Gregory, Paul M. Peebles and Cindy Dauses while continuing a surface survey project on newly cleared lands near Claremont, Virginia. It is located about 90 feet above sea level in the Virginia Coastal Plain, on a knoll and North-South trending ridge, and has been disturbed by plowing to an approximate depth of six to eight inches.

Initial finds included small flakes of chalcedony, chert, crystal quartz, greenstone and jasper, all lithic materials exotic to Tidewater Virginia. By the end of the first day of survey, end scrapers, thumbnail scrapers, utilized flakes, and the base of one chalcedony fluted projectile point had been found. Since then, another part of this same point and parts of other Paleo-indian points have been found. Fluted points, also called Clovis or Folsom points after paleo-indian sites in the western United States, are positive proof of occupation by paleo-indians, the earliest known inhabitants of North America. Other artifacts found include end scrapers, thumbnail scrapers, choppers, pressure flakes, percussion flakes, and utilized flakes. Surface survey indicates that there are at least four exotic material hot spots in the site area.

Paleo-indian sites typically date from at least 12,000 years ago, and some are believed to have been occupied as early as 30,000 to 40,000 years ago. Exact dating of such sites is difficult, because carbon samples such as charcoal, which are used in radio carbon dating, usually do not survive for such a long time. Therefore the dates when most of these ancient sites were occupied are known only approximately. This is particularly true of sites in the eastern United States. Excavation of these rare sites, however, does sometimes produce carbon samples suitable for radio carbon dating.

The site was reported at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Society of Virginia in September 1990 and named in honor of Dr. Ben C. McCary, a pioneer in paleo-indian site investigation in Virginia. It has been assigned Virginia site number Sy5P. Excavation of the McCary Site is being conducted by The Virginia Foundation for Archaeological Research, Inc. in the hope of finding cultural materials in undisturbed contexts. Because of its rarity and great scientific value, access to the site is limited to VFAR staff and carefully screened volunteer workers accompanied by VFAR staff. The site is on private property and access control and security are provided by the property owner.

Volunteers who have helped with the work include Al Bak, George Ramsey, Cindy Dauses, Bill Ruppert, Taft Kiser, David Warren, and Richard Moss. Dr. Ben C. McCary, for whom the site was named, visited the site and was able to help with the survey at age 89!

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