Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Trading Paths Give Insights

There’s an interesting organization called the Trading Path Association (TPA) based in Hillsborough, NC. It’s a preservation organization focused on the Piedmont of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Eventually it will encompass Tennessee.

The group studies and preserves the artifacts of ancient roads from Native American trading paths to horse trails, wagon roads and river crossings. It had never occurred to me that these elements are obviously important landmarks to understanding pre-modern and pre-historic cultures, societies, communities and economies.

They often give clues as to why communities sprung up where they are, and communities are crucial to our sense of unique place and identity. Communities transcend the organization of states and nations because they are organic vs. contrived.

Ancient roadways mark the organic evolution of communities or settlements, but they also mark the connections between cultures and cultural and racial blending. We’re fortunate in Durham that what we term the Old Indian Trading Path runs through the northern part of the community, as it once made its way between Petersburg, VA, and Athens, GA, with a spine roughly tracing what is today I-85. In Durham, the Old Indian Trading Path passes right through the Historic Stagville State Historic Site, goes through Treyburn and roughly along Mason and Saint Marys roads.

One of the major services the TPA provides to cities and counties is the identification and mapping of these paths and river crossings so they can be preserved and interpreted, not only for visitors but also for residents. Even private developers are using the information to provide new residents the history of the land and a connection to place.

No comments: