Southern United States

Planning a New Project

Archaeological Research Collective is a non-profit organization based in South Carolina that is dedicated to the preservation of South Carolina’s history and culture through historical archaeology, research, public outreach, and education. We do archaeology on historic period sites which involves everything from consulting clients as to how to manage their cultural resources, research of the historic documents related to sites and projects, archaeological excavations, analyzing artifacts, presentations on our research, and public education programs. So what we do each day changes quite a bit depending on which part of a project we are currently working on.

For Day of Archaeology we actually spent the day working on the very beginning of a new project, which will give you an idea of how we start our research. We had an out-of-town meeting with a potential client. We drove a couple of hours out-of-town to a property where they have a known historic plantation from the 18th to 19th centuries. We toured the property while we talked with the client about the history and different parts of the plantation including the houses, work areas, and cemeteries. The client needs to build some new buildings in areas where we know people once lived. We discussed where these buildings would be going and their construction techniques so we can better understand how much they plan on disturbing the site. We also met with students who are doing non-archaeological scientific research there who we are going to be able to work with to get a better understanding of the original landscape of the plantation.

From these discussions we can now design a research plan for the site. Anytime you build something or dig into the ground you have the potential to destroy any archaeological record that there may be. So we have to make sure that we have an understanding of how the site was used in the past before they do any construction. We look to see where buildings were, the size of the buildings and how they were built, who may have lived in them, when did they live in them, and what did they do inside and outside of these buildings. Once we have an understanding of these basic questions, and if we don’t find anything that is really important that would require us to do more excavations and research – then it would be safe for them to build the new buildings.

We had a great day and look forward to working on this project. Even though we didn’t dig in the ground or find any artifacts we did archaeology all day. We talked about and planned future work, which may be the most important part of archaeology. Without a good plan and questions we would be digging for no reason, which should never be done. Great work starts with great planning!

Transitions in slavery in the Virginia Piedmont

Excavations a Wingos

Six graduate, one undergraduate, and two recent graduates in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee are working, with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to study transitions in slavery in the Virginia Piedmont during the 18th century. We’re comparing three sites, all associated with members of a single enslaved community that were relocated from the eastern to western piedmont in the 1770s. The North Hill site at Poplar Forest in Bedford County, Virginia, was excavated in the 1990s, and the collection is being compared to artifacts from two sites currently under investigation: Wingos, also a quarter farm at Poplar Forest, and Indian Camp plantation in Powhatan County, about 85 miles to the east. Enslaved members of the community lived there from the 1730s-1770s before being moved west.

One part of our team came close to wrapping up work at Wingo’s quarter today. In 2009, we found two subfloor pits associated with one of the houses at the quarter; this summer we’ve been looking for additional structures and samping the yard, seeking evidence of how enslaved residents shaped the spaces surrounding their houses. Today started with backfilling and a run to the local farm supply store to buy straw. We backfilled completed units and planted grass seed on them, and finished troweling, photographing and mapping what were supposed to be our last two units. At about mid-day, as the temperatures soared to nearly 100º F, we discovered a large feature running into the south wall of one of the last units. We spent the remainder of the afternoon opening a new unit in an attempt to expose its edges. We’ll have to return Monday to continue working to define it. Luckily, we have the resources to extend our excavations for a few more days. (more…)