Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October is Archaeology Month!

by Jodi Barnes, Editor SC Antiquities and State Historic Preservation Office Archaeologist

October is archaeology month! South Carolina has been celebrating the archaeology and history of the state for 21 years. The annual celebration is put together by the Archaeological Society of South Carolina (ASSC)., local museums and historical associations, state agencies, such as the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), and state parks, such as Charles Town Landing State Historic Site or Kings Mountain State Park as well as local governments.

Archaeology month events and programs have been developed by dedicated professionals, avocationalists, and organizations in order to bring our state’s prehistoric and historic past to life for all ages. Through such public outreach efforts, the archaeological community hopes to build regional and local public support for the preservation of our Native American, African, and European heritage.

By sponsoring an annual event like SC Archaeology Month, the archaeological community of South Carolina wants to: 1) Stimulate pride in our state’s archaeological heritage; 2) Increase understanding of why archaeological research is important; 3) Heighten awareness of how many archaeological resources are lost each year in South Carolina; 4) Educate people about what they can do to help protect and study the state’s archaeological resources; and 5) Get more people involved in archaeological activities and discourage the practice of pot-hunting and unsupervised digs.

Each year, archaeology month has a theme and a poster. This year’s theme is archaeology and technology. Archaeology is often thought of as digging. Yet archaeologists use a variety of technology in order to learn about the past. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Light Detection And Ranging (LiDAR), ethnobotany, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Petrographic Analysis and the sourcing of raw materials are just a few of the tools archaeologists use.

Another aspect of technology in archaeology is experimental archaeology or the study that attempts to replicate past processes to understand how the archaeological materials came about. Experimental archaeology can include flint knapping, pottery production or atlatl studies, past farming techniques, or the construction of ships and buildings. Archaeology month provides a number of opportunities to see first hand how archaeologists engage with technology to understand the past.

Events include lectures, reenactments, tours of historic sites, excavations, museum exhibits, and workshops. During archaeology month, you can learn about gravestone motifs and the movement to protect, preserve, and document cemetery history, primitive technology and experimental archaeology, or how to make a pine needle basket.

The main event, Archaeology Field Day: “Piecing Together the Past with Archaeology”, is hosted by the Archaeological Society of South Carolina (ASSC). This year Fall Field Day will be held between 10am and 4pm on October 9 at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston. Charles Towne Landing is the site of the first permanent settlement of the Carolina Colony. The park features an animal forest, hiking trails, a museum, an experimental garden, and living history.

Building upon the theme of "Archaeology and Technology", there will be array of demonstrations, exhibits, hands-on activities, and lectures that span the prehistoric and historic occupations of South Carolina. Lectures and exhibits will focus on archaeological work on Carolina Bays and Stone Quarries, Petrographic Analysis of Stone from the Great Pee Dee River, the use of Ground Penetrating Radar in archaeology, and the artifacts from the Hunley.

Meet archaeologists from Charles Towne Landing and around the state while you tour dig sites where Native American and colonial finds have been unearthed. Try your own archaeology skills in hands-on programs and learn how flint was used as a weapon, tool, and fire starter. Hear archaeologists and preservation specialists talk about their current research on topics such as plantation life in the French Caribbean, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper at St. Giles Kussoe House, Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, the archaeology of Gullah people and South Carolina's 'Separate but Equal' Schools.

Join us to discover the science of archaeology and the history revealed below the surface. Discover how archaeologists see beyond written records and learn about past cultures based on artifacts left behind.

ASSC is an association of professional and avocational archaeologists and concerned citizens uniting together in a cooperative effort to understand the prehistory and history of South Carolina. It is a Society of dedicated members exerting their combined efforts toward the interpretation and preservation of South Carolina's rich cultural heritage. The Society is assisted and supported by the Office of State Archaeology, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, and also works closely with the Council of South Carolina Professional Archaeologists. For more information about ASSC or to become a member (

For information about archaeology month, check out the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology ( or the South Carolina Department of Archives and History ( websites. For more information on Field Day go to

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