South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

Little Barnwell Island, Beaufort County (Address Restricted)
S1081770701401 S1081770701402
View of Mound View of Mound
from Whale Branch

The mound on Little Barnwell Island has produced one of the most unique architectural features ever excavated from a prehistoric site in the Southeastern United States. The site consists of two shell and earth mounds located on the eastern side of Little Barnwell Island overlooking Whale Branch. The large of the two mounds is elliptical in outline. Excavations conducted in the late nineteenth century have demonstrated that this mound once served as the base for a temple or ceremonial building. In the lower levels of the mound the remains of a very well preserved building were uncovered. The practice of purposely destroying a temple, adding a fresh cap of clay or earth, and then constructing a new building on the mound summit was widespread in the Southeast. Usually the old buildings were burned or torn down. Little Barnwell Island is the only known situation where the structure was covered with earth while still standing. What is exceptional about the site is the state or preservation of the building walls and indication of such perishable architectural features as roof and wall supports. The smaller mound was constructed of various alternating lenses of sand, clay, and oyster shell and is being slowly eroded by the waters of Whale Branch. Based on a comparative analysis of pottery from the site the mounds and building were probably constructed during the late Savannah II Period ca. A.D. 1500. Listed in the National Register August 14, 1973.

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