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Prehistoric North Carolina looked vastly different compared to the contemporary landscape. Mountains near Raleigh would have been much taller than western Carolina's peaks and the eastern portion of the state would have been completely submerged. Evidence of this comes from excavated whale skeletons found in Miocene sediments in Edgecombe, Halifax, and Northampton. Students from University of North Carolina's Geology Department dug whale remains from the Miocene strata near Tarboro in 1934.
During the Miocene Era much of Eastern North Carolina was covered by what is now called the Atlantic Ocean. Proof of this exists in such places as Tarboro and northeasterly through Edgecombe, Halifax, and Northampton counties. There in the marl beds are the remains of whales; one was estimated at fifty feet, based on the well-preserved jaw-bones of 13 and one-half feet. Oyster shells and other shells have also been found two hundred miles inland, more proof of the inundation.