Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Coastal Carolina University Dig Unearths Shipbuilding History

Coastal Carolina University Dig Unearths Shipbuilding History
Boat fire marked end of an era
By Steve Jones - sjones@thesunnews.com

CONWAY -- Work at Government Shipyard of Conwayborough stopped when the steam-driven vessel Maggie burned up at a dock on the Waccamaw River during an early May night in 1897.

The ship fire, which started around midnight, spread to some of the nearby warehouses as well as the shipyard. Reports from the time record the end of the Maggie, a Waccamaw Line ship that hauled cargo and passengers. Archaeologists at Coastal Carolina University can tell it was the end of the shipyard because the layering of the soil at a site near Kingston Presbyterian Church showed only fill material and then parking lot material above the layer of charred soil.

"We see this all over the world," said Cheryl Ward, director of the Center for Archaeology and Anthropology at CCU.

After evidence of a fire is found at an archaeological site anywhere on the globe, there typically is evidence in the soil layer above the charred layer that the destruction has been cleaned up and those using it have converted its use to something different.

Ward's hiring by the university last year and the subsequent hiring of two more archaeologists will open up a field of study for students and give the area a new resource for readily and literally digging into its past.

Ward, for instance, said she has been asked to join the board of the Horry County Museum and is planning a dig on the grounds of the Burroughs School, where the museum is relocating.

Ben Burroughs, president of the Horry County Historical Society, said the things Ward and the other archaeologists uncover could alter historical misimpressions and give more detail to the county's history.

"Horry County history has not been thoroughly researched, in my opinion," said Burroughs.

He said CCU hired an earlier archaeologist around 1990 who uncovered the site of Richmond Hill Plantation in the Wachesaw area of Horry County. Historical evidence of the plantation existed, but the archaeological dig gave proof of the size of the plantation house and the life its owners lived.

Ward also does maritime archaeology and speaks with pride of the reconstruction of an Egyptian vessel discovered at a site she has worked in Egypt for decades. The Waccamaw, she said, contains what's left of any number of vessels that sank in the county's early English history.

She and the other archaeologists at CCU were lured there from other universities by the opportunity to create an archaeology program from the ground up. They are writing the documents that will allow archaeology to be a program minor at the school. Eventually, it will evolve into a major study program of its own and then undertake a graduate program.

One of the things that excites Ward about starting the CCU program is that she will be able to involve undergraduates in the investigation that is archaeology.

The hole that opened up near the Conway waterfront in June was dug by crews who were burying utility lines, Ward said.

"We realized it was a phenomenal opportunity," Ward said.

Not only was it a small trench into the city's past, but it came at a time that it could be incorporated into her program's archaeological field school. Students at the time participated in the recovery of artifacts and will help in their specific identification as part of this year's classwork.

The hoped-for dig at Burroughs School will show students and others that the artifacts found underground are often a piece of a puzzle, the full picture of which doesn't come without researching historical records and the memories of those with direct experience of things found underground.

In the pit near Kingston Presbyterian, which measured between 12 feet and 20 feet wide by about 12 feet deep, there was enough resin to immediately determine that the site was likely used for shipbuilding. The resin came from the sap of pine trees, which yielded materials such as tar, pitch and turpentine, essential to keep commercial, wooden ships afloat.

The site also yielded things such as metal hoops used on wooden barrels, factory and handmade nails and other items that would further substantiate the industrial use of the area.

Additionally, two dime-size pieces of pottery were found. The patterns on them will lead to dating when and where they were made as well as how they might have been used.

The artifacts from that dig were already above ground when CCU's archaeologists and students got to the site. The crews who dug them up recognized there could be historical value in them and called the school.

"All over the surface were huge lumps of things from naval stores and bits of pottery from the 18th century. The deepest level of the hole was dated to about 1820.

It wasn't the ideal situation for an archaeologist, who wants to be the first one to disturb a site for study. But it helped to reinforce Ward's conviction that she made the right decision to relocate to Conway.

It showed her that people there are tuned into history as something important and are willing to act on it, she said.

"I've never been in a place," Ward said, "where you can call up on Wednesday and, by Friday, everybody says 'yes.'"

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Experts call discovery a 'most unusual find'

David Bertrand of Georgetown didn’t know what he had found when he discovered a rock-like object in the dirt near his home. Archaeologists are puzzled over the object, but say it could have been used by early Native Americans.

Georgetown, S.C. — David Bertrand, a volunteer at the Georgetown County Museum, was planting jasmine in his garden when his shovel hit what he thought was a rock.

He put the object aside, wondering why a rock would be in the shallow soil near his driveway.

The object, after he washed away the mud, appeared to have a tiny, human face.

There are crosshatch marks on the object, which appear to have been made with a thin, sharp edged object.

“I only went down about six inches, and when I turned the dirt over, I saw this thing that looked like a rock in the dirt,” Bertrand said. “I continued with the rest of the jasmine and went back to it. I wanted to find out what kind of rock it was. It wasn’t a rock.”

On Tuesday, archaeologists speculated that it could be anything from a net weight to a rare “boat stone,” which some say they have never encountered in Georgetown County.

The object could date back to the earliest settlements of Native Americans in Georgetown County.

A boat stone, according to archaeology Web sites, is a weight attached to a throwing stick. The weight improves the distance the stick can be thrown and improves the accuracy.

Rare find

The search for the true nature of the object has taken Bertrand, a history buff, to archaeologists in Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

Many other archaeologists also weighed in Tuesday on the question of what the object could be.

“I've been in archaeology in South Carolina for nearly 30 years and have never seen one before, if that means anything,’’ said researcher Carl Steen.

The object has a hole in the top and bottom and appears to fit on a necklace, stick or a fishing net.

It is about the size of an egg and has a hollowed out back.

It appears to be made of unglazed clay, Bertrand said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,’’ said Ron Anthony, an archaeologist at the Charleston County Museum. “I don’t know what to tell you. Usually when we get something really odd like this, I suspect it’s something genuine. In all the publications, I haven’t seen anything like this.”

He said it closely resembles artifacts that come from the Deptford period, but he isn’t sure.

According to Internet sources, the Deptford culture was from 2500 BCE to 100 BCE.

“It was characterized by the appearance of elaborate ceremonial complexes, increasing social and political complexity, mound burial, permanent settlements, population growth, and an increasing reliance on cultigens.”

Steen said the piece appears to be Native American in origin.

“It’s a pretty curious object,’’ he said. “I would say it’s an important find because of how interesting it is. It will stimulate conversation, if nothing else.”

Bertrand said he has been told by some experts that the object could be about 3,000 years old.

“We didn’t know anything about it and we still don’t,’’ said Martha Zierden, curator of the Charleston County Museum.

“It wasn’t anything we recognized. From time to time, people bring us odd things we don’t have an answer for.”

For now, the piece is housed at the Georgetown County Museum, along with other Native American objects.

Bertrand hopes one day he can find out more about the object and make a display featuring the piece at the museum.

Visitors to the museum are surprised at the appearance of the strange object.

Bertrand said, so far, he hasn’t found any other unusual pieces in his yard.

He doesn’t know if his house rests on other unique historical objects.

“People are astounded that it was found in the area,” he said.

By Kelly Marshall Fuller


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waccamaw Chapter of Archaeological Society of South Carolina: Field Excursion

Waccamaw Chapter of Archaeological Society of South Carolina: Field Excursion

Hot off the planning table—we are having a field excursion on Friday and Saturday August 20 and 21. Chapter members have a special opportunity to participate as full team members in the investigation of a small historic residence at the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center property. The Refuge is located just south of the Georgetown county line on Hwy 701, and we will be opening excavation units at the wooded site and also working in the laboratory during the day.

Chapter members will begin at 8.30 am and we hope you’ll be able to stay until 3 pm. Lunch is on us, and you may also camp with the core crew from Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Archaeology and Anthropology on Friday evening and get an early start at setting things up plus enjoying good camp cooking. For more information on camping, please contact me at cward@coastal.edu.

Everyone is welcome to observe the activities, and the Refuge is planning more fun from kayaking to birdwatching for the day (please see the attached flyer, and share it), but only full chapter members may participate in excavation and recording finds.

If you would like to join us, please send me an email with your contact information, your member status (paid or will pay at the site), and whether you will camp with us. We need to hear from you by Thursday the 19th at noon, please!

Please share this with friends and others who might be interested in visiting the refuge or joining us at the dig.

With best wishes for this first week of school across the state and all levels,

Friday, August 13, 2010

Archaeology Field Day - Save The Date!

Archaeology Field Day is just around the corner, and we hope you will make plans now to join us on October 9 from 10 to 4 at Charles Town Landing!

This year's theme is the Science of Archaeology, and the event has the makings of the best Field Day ever, and you won't want to miss it!
In addition to the exhibits you have come to know and love, Charleston Museum will be holding their annual fall archaeology event with us this year. And the park itself has archaeologists and will be giving site and lab tours. The park also has an American Indian ceremonial center, original settlement, plantation complex, the trading ship Adventure, African American cemetery, indentured servants house, animal forest and more.

Camping is allowed at Charles Town Landing, but campsites must be broken down by the time the park opens at 9 am. Watch this space for local hotel information for non-camping out of towners.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beaufort District Collection Connection Plans for Archaeology Month

Found this over at Beaufort District Collection Connection:

Progress Report on Archaeology Month Programs

Under normal circumstances, October is a very busy time for the BDC. But October 2010 is extra busy. (There's that matter of opening a new Research Room and all attendent orientations and tours pursuant therefrom to consider, you know.) Ian Hill (Beaufort County's Historic Preservationist and the Library's stalwart partner in Archaeology Month programming) and I are scaling back a little for 2010.

As a refresher, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) organizes an annual celebration of our state's archaeology and archaeological sites. Ian Hill and I began offering a formal series of Archaeology Month programs in 2004.

The goals of Archaeology Month are to:

1) stimulate public pride in our state’s archaeological heritage,

2) increase public understanding of why archaeological research is important,

3) heighten public awareness of how many archaeological resources are lost each year in South Carolina,

4) educate the public about what they can do to help protect and study the state’s archaeological resources, and

5) get more people involved in legitimate archaeological activities.

We are very fortunate to have fellow Beaufort County employee, Ian deNeeve, on our AM Team 2010. Ian deNeeve, an archaeologist who works with Beaufort County's Geographic Information Systems department, is using his considerable skills with technology to supplement Ian H.'s and my more traditional approach of lectures and demonstrations. Given that the 2010 theme for Archaeology Month is "Archaeological Science," we are happy indeed to have Ian deNeeve on our team!

Please start making notes on your calendars. Here is the outline of what AM Team 2010 has planned to celebrate Archaeology Month this year:

Ian Hill has arranged for Archaeologist Carl Steen of Diachronic Research Foundation to come to County Council Chambers on Tues., October 26th at 5:30pm to share his deep knowledge of "Gullah Archaeology."

Ian d.'s skills are already apparent in the self-guided tour map of tabby structures that he created which I've posted as a component of the Library's Local History and Nature page "Tabby: Concrete of the Lowcountry" authored by Dennis Adams.

Mary Socci, Palmetto Bluff's resident archaeologist, will speak on "18th Century Science and Architecture at a Lowcountry Plantation" TBD.

Ian d. is also working on a multi-poster exhibit highlighting how Beaufort County uses archaeological science to interpret its own archaeological sites and resources. Beaufort County Library system will display the posters throughout the county during October.

As you can see, without Ian d., Ian H. and I would have a considerably abbreviated program schedule for 2010. Schedules and activities to celebrate Archaeology Month 2010 will announced as they are finalized.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Digging into time with 'Archaeology at Colonial Brunswick'

Digging into time with 'Archaeology at Colonial Brunswick'"

By Ben Steelman

Published: Saturday, August 7, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

From 1958 to 1968, Stanley A. South was an archaeologist at the Brunswick Town State Historic Site in Brunswick County, uncovering most of the artifacts that can now be seen at the visitors' center.

He would move on to a distinguished career at the University of South Carolina, virtually inventing the field of historical archaeology – unearthing sites for which we have written records, rather than, say, prehistoric remains – in the United States.

In many ways, however, South never left Brunswick Town behind. Now, after many years, his old employer, the state Office of Archives and History, has published South's account of his busy, fruitful decade on the west bank of the Cape Fear River.

In “Archaeology at Colonial Brunswick,” South updates and expands an unpublished account he wrote back in 1961 with the benefits of a half-century of hindsight.

He carefully credits the late E. Lawrence Lee Jr., the Wilmington native and longtime history professor at The Citadel in Charleston. In the early 1950s, Lee agitated with state officials to have the Brunswick Town site preserved at a time when it was threatened by encroachment from the adjoining Sunny Point military terminal then under construction.

During a series of summers, Lee saw to it that decades of undergrowth were mowed from parts of the site, identifying ruins where they peeked from the soil. He also did the library spadework, combing colonial records for clues to Brunswick Town's appearance.

Armed with Lee's homework, and his approximate reconstruction of the town's original plan, South grabbed the ball and ran. Surveying the site, he quickly lined up lots with Lee's maps, identifying historic local buildings (including Brunswick County's original courthouse) and starting to dig.

With just a few named streets and slightly more than 100 known structures, Brunswick Town was never very big. In 1769, when it was fast losing ground to Wilmington up the river, its population was only about 250. In its heyday, it was not much bigger.

“The town is very poor – a few scattered houses on the edge of the woods, without streets or regularity,” wrote Janet Schaw, a Scottish visitor, in 1775, just as the Revolution was breaking out.

Less than a year later, a British raiding party would burn Brunswick, effectively killing the settlement barely a half-century after its founding in 1725. South would find traces of inhabitants trailing into the 1800s – some U.S. coins, some U.S. Army buttons – but by 1830, Brunswick had all but vanished.

While it lasted, though, Brunswick was important out of all proportion to its size. For a while, it was the center of the British empire's trade in naval stores – tar and pitch from the pine forests, essential ingredients for a navy and merchant marine built of wood.

As South demonstrated, it was also the nexus of a global economy. Almost every house excavated at Brunswick contained porcelain from China. At the “Public House,” South and his assistants found a Malay pocket knife with Arabic lettering, possibly brought to the port by a sailor from the British East India Company.

South's account gives a neat summary of Brunswick's brief history, including the Spanish privateer raid of 1748 (which supposedly yielded the famous “Ecco Homo” painting, now at St. James Episcopal Church in Wilmington), the hurricane of 1769 which blew down the courthouse and nearly wiped out the town and the erection of the Confederate Fort Anderson on the site during the Civil War.

He also gives a non-archaeological taste of the town's raucous lifestyle. Cornelius Harnett Jr., the father of the Patriot leader, who bought Brunswick Town's first lots, headed to the Lower Cape Fear ahead of the law – accused of helping his friend, ex-Gov. George Burrington, assault the new governor, Richard Everard.

Then there was the “extraordinary” 1765 duel between Royal Navy officers Alex Simpson and Thomas Whitehurst of the HMS Viper, which ended with Simpson beating his foe to death with his pistol butt. (He later surrendered to local authorities, was tried and sentenced to have the letter “M,” for manslaughter, branded on his left thumb.)

South's patient, non-technical account makes archaeological fieldwork seem enthralling, even without any Indiana Jones exploits. Moreover, his contention that much of Brunswick Town has yet to be properly explored ought to spur some new research.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


The Arkansas Archeological Society will be celebrating its 50th anniversary at its Annual Meeting, to be held in Hot Springs, Arkansas, September 24-26. In addition to the the usual presentation of papers on Saturday, many of which will focus on historical themes, there also will be a number of special activities at this year's meeting. At the Friday night reception will be a showing of the 1972 film Preserving the Past for the Future, as well as a DVD of 50 Years of the Society in Photos. The keynote speaker, following Saturday's banquet dinner, will be Dr. Brian Fagan, who will discuss the art of storytelling about the past. Sunday tours include visits to a novaculite whetstone company and a historic estate in Hot Springs. Additional information about the meeting can be found on the Arkansas Archeological Society web site at http://www.arkarch.org/, or by calling 479-575-3557.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Scientists to rotate historic Confederate submarine for first time since it sank off SC coast

Scientists to rotate historic Confederate submarine for first time since it sank off SC coast

Associated Press

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — A decade after the raising of the Confederate submarine Hunley off the South Carolina coast, the cause of the sinking of the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship remains a mystery. But scientists are edging closer.

On Friday, scientists announced one of the final steps that should help explain what happened after the hand-cranked sub and its eight-man crew rammed a spar with a powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston in February, 1864.

Early next year the 23-ton sub will be delicately rotated to an upright position, exposing sections of hull not examined in almost 150 years.

When the Hunley sank, it was buried in sand listing 45 degrees to starboard. It was kept that way as slings were put beneath it and it was raised and brought to a conservation lab in North Charleston a decade ago.

Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the raising of the Hunley, discovered five years earlier by shipwreck hunter Clive Cussler.

As thousands watched from boats and the shoreline, the Hunley was brought from the depths and back to the lab by barge. Thousands turned out again in April 2004 when the crew was buried in what has been called the last Confederate funeral.

During the past 15 years, about $22 million has been spent excavating and conserving the Hunley, according to Friends of Hunley, the nonprofit group that raises money for the project.

About $10.8 million came from the state and federal government, with the rest raised through donations and tour ticket and merchandise sales. About a half million people have seen the sub that sits in a tank of water at the conservation lab.

An economic analysis earlier this year estimated the project has returned its investment many times over.

The study found that publicity from hundreds of news stories, a half dozen documentaries and a made-for-TV movie has generated at least $30 million in a state where tourism is an $18 billion industry.

"I have absolutely no misgivings," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission. "The state is spending millions of dollars to get its message out to get people to visit here and the Hunley, in just one new historic revelation, makes history and makes news all over the world."

U-Haul also has the picture of the Hunley on the side of 1,200 of its rental trucks that travel throughout the country, essentially free advertising that the company says would otherwise be worth $117 million.

Rotating the sub will allow scientists to, for the first time, completely examine the Hunley's hull.

It's a delicate operation, involving replacing the existing slings before the sub is turned upright. The pressure on the straps will be monitored electronically and a laser will monitor to make sure the surface doesn't get warped.

The Hunley is "a ghost of an iron object," said senior conservator Paul Mardikian, adding it has "hundreds of different parts and everything has to move together."

Putting it upright should provide clues to the sinking.

Was it damaged by fire from the Houstonic or perhaps struck by a second Union ship coming to the aid of the blockade vessel? Were the Hunley sailors knocked out by the concussion of the explosion that sank the Housatonic?

The clues indicate the crew died of anoxia, a lack of oxygen which can overtake a person very quickly, and didn't drown. The remains showed they were at their crank stations and there was no rush for an escape hatch.

McConnell concedes he didn't expect the project to take so long and thought it would have been in a museum by now.

"The Hunley is a very complex artifact and we decided we had only one chance to do it and that was to do it right," he said.

He estimates the Hunley could now be displayed in a museum by 2015.

Conservation of such artifacts often takes years, underwater archeologists say.

It was almost 30 years before the Swedish royal warship Vasa, which sank in 1628 in Stockholm Harbor and was raised in 1961, went on display in a permanent museum.

Scientific reports on the Vasa are just coming out, said Lawrence Babits, director of the Program in Maritime Studies at East Carolina University.

"The Hunley is iron and the iron isn't very thick and iron that has been in salt water is in a very nebulous state," he said. Putting it in shape where it can be displayed "does take time."

Frederick Hanselmann, a field archaeologist at the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M said the most painstaking part of conserving iron objects is removing the salts from years in sea water.

Conserving a ship cannon alone can take three to four years, he said.

"For conservation it's not an unusually long time, especially considering they are conserving an entire submarine," said Mark Gordon, the president and chief executive officer of Odyssey Marine Exploration.

The company salvaged more than 50,000 coins and other artifacts from the wreck of the SS Republic off Savannah, Ga., in 2003 and while many of those coins are being displayed, some of the artifacts are still being conserved seven years later, Gordon said.

Hunley archaeologist Maria Jacobsen isn't surprised the cause of the sinking hasn't been found and expects a new series of questions and answers when the Hunley is rotated.

"I do think with persistence and patience and a good deal of luck we will get there," she said.

In this Aug. 3, 2010 photo, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, with some of the hull panels removed to allow excavation, rests in a conservation tank at a lab in North Charleston, S.C. Aug. 8 marks the 10th anniversary of the raising of the sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)

Read more at the Washington Examiner

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

USC produces award winning documentaries with ETV: ‘Finding Clovis’ from ‘Carolina Stories’ wins 2010 Telly

From The Daily Gamecock:

USC produces award winning documentaries with ETV

‘Finding Clovis’ from ‘Carolina Stories’ wins 2010 Telly; ‘Take on the South’ takes regional Emmy

Three ETV documentaries produced with the University of South Carolina have won awards.

“Finding Clovis,” a special featured as part of ETV’s weekly documentary series “Carolina Stories,” won a 2010 bronze Telly Award in the documentary category.
The episode featured USC archaeologist Al Goodyear (pictured right holding the Telly Award with “Finding Clovis” producer Steve Folks, photo courtesy of sc.edu) and focused on his research on the sudden disappearance of the Clovis people, a tribe of hunters and toolmakers who dwelled in South Carolina more than 13,000 years ago.

The episode was filmed at USC’s Topper excavation site in Allendale, which is considered to be one of the most important Clovis sites in the United States.

Goodyear’s research and findings suggest that a pre-Clovis people occupied the area who date back about 50,000 years, which has sparked scientific debate and interest. Dennis Stanford from the Smithsonian Institution and geophysicist Allen West from Arizona accompanied Goodyear on his excavation.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Deadline Extended for "Notes from the Field"!

What Did You Do This Year?

Let folks know! Submit an article or “Notes from the Field” for South Carolina Antiquities 2010! The deadline has been extended to August 15!

South Carolina Antiquities seeks articles about archaeology in South Carolina and adjacent areas. Professional and avocational archaeologists should send papers you have been working on for review. In addition, this year Antiquities will include a “Notes from the Field” section for you to update colleagues on current projects and recent finds. This is a great way to contribute to a larger discussion of archaeology in South Carolina.

Manuscripts submitted for review should conform to the American Antiquity style guide (see the ASSC website for a pdf copy). The deadline for submission for 2010 is June 30.

Please send submissions to the Journal Editor, Jodi Barnes at jodib9@gmail.com.