Submerged evidence of rice cultivation and slavery found in North Carolina

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) are using side-scan sonar and positioning systems to find evidence of rice cultivation and slavery beneath the depths of North Carolina’s lower Cape Fear and Brunswick rivers.

The region was an agricultural centre worked by enslaved West Africans, whose isolation resulted in a distinct language, religion, and lifestyle traits that emerged to create the Gullah Geechee culture.

- Advertisement -

“While the rice was the cash crop of the coastal Southeast, along with Sea Island cotton and indigo, Gullah Geechee ancestors provided both the brain trust and physical labour needed to change the landscapes into spaces that created commercial yields of the crop,” said Sean Palmer, director of UNCW’s Upperman African American Cultural Centre and a board member of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission.

“The children of West Africa, who came to be known as Gullah Geechee, were agricultural engineers who, like the rice, were harvested for their vast knowledge,” added Palmer.

The UNCW team conducted a study of the riverbanks along the northern end of Eagles Island, a 2,100-acre expanse located in Brunswick and New Hanover counties.

The study found a network of floodgates, bulkheads, landings, and complex canal systems, in addition to large areas of canals used to irrigate the rice fields.

- Advertisement -

“We’re able to see things like structures, features, different kinds of sediment types; we can identify sand and mud. We can also get accurate GPS positions to know exactly where artefacts are and what they look like,” said Mark Wilde-Ramsing, underwater archaeologist and former director of the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.

The archaeologists plan to share their findings with Eagles Island preservation groups in their effort to conserve and manage the natural and cultural assets of Eagles Island, as well as with the Town of Navassa, a community within the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.

Header Image Credit : University of North Carolina Wilmington

Sources : University of North Carolina Wilmington – Excavating Evidence of Early Agricultural Engineering

- Advertisement -
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.

Mobile Application


Related Articles

Bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great found on Danish Island

Archaeologists have discovered a bronze fitting depicting Alexander the Great on the Danish island of Zealand.

Archaeologists uncover exquisite Roman glassware in Nîmes

An exquisite collection of glassware dating from the Roman period has been uncovered by INRAP archaeologists in the French city of Nîmes.

Frescos discovery among the finest uncovered at Roman Pompeii

A collection of frescos recently discovered at the Roman city of Pompeii have been described as among the finest found by archaeologists.

Study suggests that Egyptian sky-goddess symbolises the Milky Way

In Ancient Egyptian religion, Nut was the celestial goddess of the sky, stars, the cosmos, astronomy, and the universe in its whole.

Traces of Kettering’s wartime history rediscovered

Researchers from the Sywell Aviation Museum have announced the rediscovery of a preserved WW2 air raid shelter in Kettering, England.

Earthen pot containing 3,730 lead coins found at Phanigiri

Archaeologists from the Department of Archaeology have discovered an earthen pot containing a hoard of 3,730 lead coins at the Buddhist site of Phanigiri, located in Suryapet district, India.

Bronze lamp revealed as cult object associated with Dionysus

A study of a bronze lamp found near the town of Cortona, Italy, has revealed that it was an object associated with the mystery cult of Dionysus.

Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change

A study of the submerged site of Habonim North indicates that Neolithic coastal settlements were resilient in the face of climate change.