The Exploring Joara Foundation will once again open the Berry archaeological site in Morganton to visitors during its 19th annual Field Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the site at 1700 Henderson Mill Road in Morganton.

The Berry site is where archaeologists have discovered the 16th century Spanish settlement of Fort San Juan, believed to be the first inland European settlement in the U.S., dating back to 1567, according to a previous News Herald article. The site also is the location of the ancient Native American town of Joara.

The Field Day will feature tours of the site, presentations by site archaeologists, living history demonstrations, crafts, children’s activities and artifact displays.

“We are proud to present our 19th annual Field Day at the Berry site,” said Dr. David Moore, lead archaeologist for the project. “I will not be there, but my wonderful colleagues will: Dr. Robin Beck, University of Michigan; Dr. Chris Rodning, Tulane University; and Dr. Rachel Briggs, UNC-Chapel Hill.”

Tina Matthews, chair of the board of directors of EJF, said the archaeologists have unearthed new finds in the past year that they are eager to share with visitors.

“The field school has been very busy with the discovery of a new dwelling,” Matthews said.“With every new discovery comes even more questions.”

EJF also will debut a work of art based on the site.

“We will be unveiling a new artist's rendering created at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology at the University of Michigan, ‘Building Fort San Juan de Joara,’” Matthews said. “There will be artifacts discovered from the actual site on display. Also, there will be demonstrations of flint-knapping and representatives from the Schiele Museum of Natural History, the North Carolina Archaeological Society, and a native plant forager. There will be food and beverages onsite as well.”

The organization continually needs help from the community to maintain the site and keep the discoveries coming.

“Aside from our mission to engage the public in archaeology, we will be kicking off a campaign to help raise funds to address much-needed repairs at our Living History Village and the Wall Center,” Matthews said. “We are looking forward to seeing our members, volunteers and any new faces interested in learning more about opportunities to get involved.”

The Field Day is free to attend, but there is a suggested $5 donation per car for parking.

Moore encouraged people to take advantage of this once a year celebration.

“It is an unusual and rewarding opportunity to view an archaeological excavation in person,” Moore said. “The Berry site represents one of the most significant periods of our nation's history; the earliest colonial days when the future of our country was being determined. The events that took place at the Berry site from 1566-68 literally changed American history and in doing so, changed world history. The significance of this site cannot be overstated and we need to understand more about it in order to understand our own history.”

For more information, visit

Staff writer Tammie Gercken can be reached at

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