Archaeological Field School Underway

The College of Charleston’s Archaeological Field School, done in conjunction with The Charleston Museum, is again in session with students excavating at three sites in Charleston County. During the intensive seven-week course, students learn the skills and techniques that will prepare them for work after graduation as archaeological technicians in the contract archaeology field and/or graduate school in archaeology, historic preservation, or other related fields.

This season, 16 students have spent two weeks excavating at the Dill Wildlife Sanctuary on James Island, followed by three weeks at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. From June 13th through June 24, 2011, they will be working along the Ashley River revealing the remains of what is believed to be one of the oldest brick buildings built by the English in South Carolina.

The students, who have already worked on late 17th century components at the Dill Sanctuary and at Charles Towne Landing, will excavate the late 17th century settlement associated with Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, one of the original eight Lords Proprietors of the Carolina settlement. Working in conjunction with the Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF), this project is expected to add significantly to the understanding of some of Charleston’s earliest inhabitants, in a frontier site in which Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans regularly interacted.  Study of the cattle supposedly raised at this site is also of particular interest to zooarchaeologists.

During previous investigations, HCF staff and archaeologists from Brockington and Associates have recovered a number of artifacts including rare Indian trade beads, Native American ceramics and arrowheads, European ceramics, smoking pipes, a lead shot, and other military objects.

This project is funded through a $26,000 grant from MeadWestvaco (MWV) that specifically supports the students and related educational components such as the start up of the field work, management and teaching of the field school, laboratory and other analyses.

The team-taught eight-credit field school meets the Register of Professional Archaeologists’ standards, providing students with systematic in-depth training in all phases of basic archaeological field research including surface survey, shovel testing, excavation, mapping, photography, data interpretation, and artifact processing and analysis. In addition to putting in 7 hour days in the field, students complete a strong academic component consisting of hands-on identification of ceramics, a selection of readings and professional journal articles, a final project, and a final exam. Upon completion of the Field School, students often participate in one or more archaeological internships with the Charleston Museum, Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, and/or the H.L. Hunley Project.

Watch a video from the 2009 Field School in downtown Charleston.

Watch a video from the 2010 Field School at the College’s Dixie Plantation.