Occaneechi Village

Occaneechi Village, or Fredericks site, (excavated entirely by the University of North Carolina from 1983-1986) consists of a single, small, fortified town covering just over one quarter of an acre. The population of the village was most likely between fifty to seventy-five individuals, and the site contains eleven houses positioned in a large circle surrounding a plaza and sweat lodge. A palisade, or a fence which is often defensive in nature, borders the entire village, and just outside of this defensive barrier are two cemeteries containing eighteen graves. The settlement is thought to have lasted no more than thirty years (1680-1710); its downfall due to disease, slavery, massive depopulation, social and political fragmentation, and heightened hostilities all brought by European colonists.


Trading Path and the Occaneechi as "Middlemen"

  The site is located in an advantageous position along the Trading Path. The village sat on the edge of the colonial frontier, and so the Occaneechi were able to assert their power and influence over much of the trade that went from the eastern colonies to the Native American tribes further west. Furthermore, as the Occaneechi accumulated more weaponry, they simultaneously prevented rival tribes from obtaining the arms necessary to challenge the Occaneechi. This era of prosperity and safety brought about by a control over the flow of European trade goods was eventually put to an end with increased colonial presence. In 1701, John Lawson, an English colonialist, came to the area and recorded seeing this village.

Although Occaneechi Village did not have a lengthy lifespan, its short duration saw much wealth and prosperity. The success of the Occaneechi was due largely to their role as “middlemen” in the booming trade economy between European colonists and various other Native American groups that inhabited the region. Based on the archaeological evidence gathered by UNC, the Occaneechi filtered European trade goods through their village, and decided which ones to keep, and which ones to further trade. In general, the Occaneechi kept most utilitarian goods for themselves such as weapons, metal and glass tools, and containers. Ornamental items such as bells, buttons, beads, and buckles were typically traded out of the village to the neighboring Cherokee and Siouan tribes. 

Objects on Display at the Museum!

A collection of Occaneechi artifacts on loan at the Orange County Historical Museum from The Research Laboratories of Archaeology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill speaks to the greater position of the tribe as trade controllers. A lead shot and gunflint come from the largest category of trade goods: weapons. Roughly sixty percent of all trade artifacts unearthed at the Fredericks site are related to firearms. These objects include a lead shot, gunflint, gun springs, and one musket. The museum’s kaolin pipe fragments were imported from Europe and traded to the Occaneechi, as were the glass beads and brass tinkler.