Think you’ve got a tough job? If you lived in Columbia say, 12,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, your job would have probably involved coming up with a way to slaughter one of the elephant-like woolly mammoths that roamed the region using nothing more than a spear. You’d use the tusks as the framework for your hut, which you’d cover with the mammoth’s skin for warmth.
According to John Jameson, an Oxford-trained archaeologist currently working as the program coordinator at the River Alliance, mammoths weren’t the only prehistoric mammals who made their home in and around what became South Carolina.
“Native bison and horses, which are different from those brought over by the Spanish, are two other species that lived here during that period,” he said.
Those mammals may now be extinct but, Jameson noted, homo sapiens flourished, progressing from primitive hunter-gathers to full-scale farmers living in societies with customs, traditions and rituals. By the time the Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the Native Americans had created small farming villages and had developed a distinct culture.
Evidence of that culture, has been found throughout the 12,000 Year History Park, a swath of forest near the intersection of I-77 and I-26 in Cayce that’s also the home of Civil War battlements and colonial-era Fort Congaree.
Want to learn more about some of South Carolina’s earliest residents? On Saturday, National Park Service-trained guides will lead two tours of the more historically significant areas of the park: The Battle of Congaree Creek at 10 a.m. and, new for 2016, Native American Lifeways at 1 p.m.
The tours are free and leave from the Cayce Tennis Center. For more information, visit www.riveralliance.org.