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Ancient North Carolinians website screenshot

The new virtual museum of North Carolina archaeology offers resources for students and schoolteachers.

Steve Davis, associate director of Research Laboratories of Archaeology looks Ayers Town pottery

UNC archaeologist R.P. Stephen Davis Jr. examines an artifact.

A virtual museum of ancient N.C. history

Ancient North Carolinians is a new virtual museum that raises awareness of the 15,000-year history of North Carolina’s indigenous populations and provides educational resources for the state’s teachers and students.

The new interactive website involves decades of work by Carolina archaeologists. It showcases lesson plans, travel guides and a gallery of 3D artifact images.

“This is just one more way that we’re bringing the fruits of all the research done here over the many decades out to the general public so that they can get a better perspective on who we are and how we got here,” said Vin Steponaitis, professor of archaeology and anthropology. 

The project relies on the resources of Carolina’s Research Laboratories of Archaeology. The RLA curates more than 8 million artifacts and 60,000 photographs and slides. 

This history is especially relevant to North Carolina, home to 80,000 American Indians, the largest population east of the Mississippi River.

Through a comprehensive database, visitors can search topics throughout North Carolina pre-colonial and colonial history. They can view 3D images of bones, pottery shards, arrowheads and other artifacts in the RLA collection. With the click of a mouse, they can turn the image 360 degrees and zoom in to see, for example, the details of an American Indian spearhead from 1000 B.C.

For K-12 teachers and their students, lesson plans and activity guides incorporate archaeology into language arts, math and science classes.

Another purpose of the site is to boost the state’s tourism economy with travel guides to historical sites across the state. Users can click on each spot on the map to get directions and more information about archaeological sites, Indian tribes and other relevant cultural attractions.

Graduate and undergraduate students worked with Steponaitis and RLA associate director R. P. Stephen Davis Jr. to organize the research and make it accessible for public audiences.