That's especially so given the work Richardson has done promoting feud tourism sites and history, which includes his own documentary, "Feud," and consulting with and promoting other documentaries and shows, such as last May's History channel series "The Hatfields and McCoys: An American Vendetta," starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.
"That's one of the reasons we have brought in an archeologist who has done digs on a number of different sites, who also has a professional reputation just like I do," Richardson said.
"You can never be 100 percent certain. It is a very, very high probability. I put it at 85 to 90 percent," he said of the provenance of the artifacts. "As you added all these pieces up, it basically comes to if it were a case you took to a jury, a jury would say this is where the McCoy cabin was."
You cannot carbon date wood that is less than 200 years old, he said. But the nails -- of the type used in the feud's day -- and the fact one was found in a piece of charred wood are other telling signs.
"One of the things we know, once that structure was burned, nobody used the land for a number of years," he said. "The McCoys then sold it. There was another structure built on the land, but not in the same place as the cabin. So, we know there wasn't another cabin on exactly that spot and there's been no other structure burned there that we can determine."
For her part, McBride is waiting to see the reaction to the "Diggers" episode and whether it might inspire National Geographic to follow up with a more concerted archaeological effort.
"To be honest, it's just the funding," said McBride, who happened to be reached by phone on New Year's Eve while doing work on Revolutionary-era forts with her husband in West Virginia's Greenbrier Valley.
"We can't come in and just excavate without funding in place, so I am not really sure what will happen."
She said the landowner of the feud site, Bob Scott, a member of the Hatfield line, has done the right thing in preserving the property and he has talked of exhibiting the new artifacts someday to the public. "It is important to preserve these sites that have connections to local history," she said.
A more complete and accurate history of the Hatfield and McCoy Feud, artifacts and all, will add depth and nuance to its history and dispel the usual cartoony caricatures of the conflict, she said.
There was not a sole causal event, but many factors in the feud that set two backcountry families at each other's throats for the better part of the 1880s, and led to the murder of an estimated dozen people and the wounding of 10 others.
Most of the Hatfields lived in West Virginia's Mingo County along the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River and fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Across the river, the McCoys called Pike County, Ky., home and had fought for the Union.
"[The feud] has national significance because it was representative of a time when there was a lot of transition going on," McBride said. "Lumbering is heating up and railroads are about to come in and the area is starting to industrialize. And that caused a lot of political and family tensions.
"The Hatfield and McCoy Feud was wrapped up in all of that," she said. "It's more complex than a couple families not getting along."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.