Map of NC counties in the Piedmont
Map of North Carolina counties showing the Piedmont and Foothills region. This area includes the following counties: Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Cabarrus, Caswell, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Forsyth, Franklin, Gaston, Granville, Guilford, Iredell, Lee, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Person, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Vance, Wake, Warren, and Yadkin. (Image by NC Office of State Archaeology, 2022)

The Piedmont encompasses the area in the center of the state defined as the foothills and holds many of North Carolina’s large cities. Piedmont archaeological sites range from plantations and homesteads to historic cemeteries to battlefields and pre-contact occupation sites.

Archaeological sites in this region face threats from changes in temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events. Being in the middle of the state, the impacts of these threats tend to mimic those in the mountains and Coastal Plain. Changes in temperature and precipitation lead to increased plant growth on archaeological sites. For example, both the Adam Spach House in Davidson County and sites at Falls Lake in the Raleigh/Durham area have seen increased plant growth over time. This growth can destabilize archaeological sites as roots push through walls and moss corrodes the structures.

The Adam Spach House, an 18th century colonial rock home in Davidson County.
The Adam Spach House, an 18th century colonial rock home in Davidson County. Today, the archaeological site shows visible evidence of a house through the rock walls. Temperature increases have allowed moss and other plant growth to overtake the visible structure at the site. (Image by NC Office of State Archaeology, 2021)

Heavy rains and extreme weather events including tornados and tropical cyclones contribute to pooling water, unstable grounds, and wind damage. The combination of these impacts lead to the overturning of trees and the disturbance of the ground. Tree roots can upheave buried archaeological sites and falling limbs may damage exposed and buried structures. For example, at cemetery sites, such as the one pictured from Warren County, this can disturb tombstones and burials through both root upheaval and tree collapse.

Downed trees and branches in a Warren County cemetery
Downed trees and branches in a Warren County cemetery. These trees came down due to high winds and heavy rains. When these trees fall, they can not only disturb archaeological sites and burial near the roots, but also sites and headstones upon which the trunk and branches collapse. (Image by NC Office of State Archaeology, 2019)


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This material was produced with assistance from the Emergency Supplemental Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.