A most overdue update

Hello all trusty followers of this blog! I have been extremely busy the last three years but they have all been spent mostly devoted to not just the Lord Ashley site but the entirety of St Giles Kussoe and its 12,000 acres.

I applied for graduate school to pursue a PhD in Anthropology to a few different universities and wound up going back to the University of South Carolina. I earned my Master’s degree there in 2004 and thanks to all of the new faculty (and even a new building for the Anthropology Department), it feels like a different department. My coursework started with the Fall 2015 semester and I’m happy to say that I just completed my two years of required classes and should be raised to Candidacy early this coming fall semester!

I went to USC to get much deeper into not just the Lord Ashley site but the First Earl of Shaftesbury and his relationship with John Locke. From this, the site is not the primary focus of my dissertation but just one important element of my research. I am exploring the ways enslaved Africans contributed to Carolina’s agricultural origins and I’m pursing this topic in ways no one has ever attempted before. From this, I hope to come to a better understanding of how plantations originated in Carolina. To address this research I am comparing the Lord Ashley site with three 1670s-era archaeological components at Charles Towne Landing. Rather than utilize just the artifacts we find, like ceramics, glass, nails, beads, etc., I am focusing on the archaeobotanical record at these sites.

IMG_8107I have not only been in school, I have been giving papers in many different places, conferences and venues. In July 2015 I attended the Shaftesbury Project in Dorset, England, where it was hosted by the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury at the Ashley Cooper ancestral home St Giles’s House in Wimborne. It was a very scholarly, very intense conference and I was lucky to present on our archaeology project! After the two-day scholars’s conference there was a Public Day on Saturday that featured two round table discussions and a fantastic landscape tour led by Suzannah Flemming.

Conference attendees stayed in Cranborne Chase, which was a large property the First Earl owned just outside of Wimborne in the 1670s (how fitting). We stayed in the town center of Cranborne in an inn that was built in, you guessed it, 1670! I couldn’t help but imagine the people during that long-ago decade traversing the streets I walked while there, all living under and working for Lord Shaftesbury. It was really cool knowing that I was sleeping in an inn that was serving its first patrons at literally the same time our first Carolinians landed at Albemarle Point and made it their home.

The conferenceIMG_8199 ended with myself and a few other presenters walking the mile from St Giles’s House to the fabled Philosopher’s Tower where the Third Earl of Shaftesbury spent much time philosophizing and gathering the ideas that produced one of the most important documents of the Enlightenment and for Philosophy in general: Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times. Although we did not get to go into this legendary tower, it was unreal standing below it and seeing the Shaftesbury family crest embossed on its outside wall.

Immediately following the three-day conference, I conducted archival research in Winchester and at St Giles’s House and its Muniment Room documents. I looked at many records and found some that no one had ever utilized in reference to Carolina before. A large amount of this information will be released in my dissertation and (hopefully) subsequent publications. The 2015 Shaftesbury Project conference is the basis of an edited volume that contains many of the presentations. My presentation paper was expanded greatly as a book chapter that will be published soon. My chapter focuses on Shaftesbury’s intent for the Indian trade that Henry Woodward ran out of St Giles Kussoe from early 1675 until he was banished from the plantation by summer 1680. Afterwards, Shaftesbury placed Andrew Percivall, St Giles Kussoe’s governor and manager, in charge of all Indian trade. We have only known some of the details about Shaftesbury’s, Woodward’s and Percivall’s roles in this trade here in Carolina and my chapter expands our knowledge considerably, especially in regards to the First Earl.

In Spring 2016 I presented on the Lord Ashley site and some of my research in England at the Archaeological Society for South Carolina’s annual conference, held in Columbia, South Carolina. In May, June and July I went back to the Lord Ashley site to excavate units around “Structure 3” to determine if it was a cabin for enslaved Africans. Our old friend Bob Welch helped me out almost every day and I managed to get three of my best undergraduate volunteers from USC down for a few days to help me out too. Nicole Isenbarger came in on my last few days to do some expert feature excavation. Analysis is still on going, but currently I think the Structure 3 area was a series of  buildings that were occupied and used during farm labor. This theory is being tested in my dissertation work so stay tuned to the blog for updates as I move forward!

Since then I have presented in the Charles Towne Landing Anthropology Lecture Series and gave a talk to the Summerville Historical Society. Lastly, I presented a paper coauthored by myself and team collaborator Jon Marcoux at the 50th annual Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Fort Worth, Texas in January 2017.

I just ran into the field to collect soil samples from 1670s components at Charles Towne Landing and the Lord Ashley site for phytolith analyses. Phytoliths are the fossilized remains of the cells that comprise things like the leaves of plants. These remains provide information on the locations of past plants. This information will allow me to interpret these sites in new and very important ways. Besides phytoliths, analysis is being conducted on the paleoethnobotanical remains from Structure 1 at Charles Towne Landing, which is a 1670s era building found in 2000. I worked for Stanley South and Michael Stoner on those excavations and while many artifacts were found and much was learned, the paleoethnobotanical samples were stabilized but never sent off for analyses. Seventeen years later I’m very excited to see the results and possibly learn even more about this early house!!

A whole lot is going on in the world of Lord Ashley site, St Giles Kussoe, and the First Earl of Shaftesbury. We’ll talk to you soon!


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300 Years Later – A Visit by the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury

Nick and Dinah Ashley- Cooper, the Earl and Countess of Shaftesbury toured the Lord Ashley archaeological site this spring  with historians and archaeologists from Historic Charleston Foundation, The Charleston Museum, and Charles Towne Landing. 2015-03-12 12.18.542015-03-12 13.00.49

This was the first visit to the site by a member of the Ashley-Cooper Family.  While Nick is the 12th earl, his ancestor Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, was the first Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683), and was the leader of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina. The first earl had intended to visit his 12,000 acre plantation on the upper reaches of the Ashley River, however, he never made it to the Carolina colony.

During this recent visit, the couple got an overview of the history of the site, inspected some of the artifacts that have come from the several archaeological field schools and toured the site itself.  They were very impressed by the story of the site and all the work that has gone into its investigation.  We hope they will return in the future to see even moe progress!

cropped field picThis was a wonderfully timed visit as lead archaeologist Andrew Agha  (pictured here) will be presenting a paper on the Lord Ashley Site archaeology this summer at a conference at the Shaftesbury Estate, St. Giles, Wimborne in East Dorset, England.  We will post more about that soon!

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A late update from the field

Hello everyone!

I want to first apologize for not updating the blog during June’s field season. A lot has been going on and life has taken up precious time of mine. However, I can give a brief synopsis of what we did and what we found.

This was an off year for the College of Charleston/The Charleston Museum’s joint field school venture, but that didn’t stop me from investigating the site! I was luckily joined by my colleague and collaborator on the site, Dr. Jon Marcoux, and seven great students of his from Salve Regina University.  We also had our most trusted and experienced volunteer back for another round of sweat and dirt, Robert Welch.  Having such a small group of people this time around was really a pleasant experience. I had lots of time to instruct the students along with Jon, and also much needed time to ponder the site and landscape and brainstorm ideas and interpretations. Although we take lots of notes and photos and keep up with every minute of every day, some field seasons can be so busy with so many people that by the time you’re out of the field you wonder how you got out there to start the season!


Dr. Marcoux setting up the Total Station

To start the first of three weeks this year, Jon brought GPR (ground penetrating radar) and electric resistivity for geophysical survey of the field. The instruments cooperated and the students were fast to catch on to techniques. After these surveys were complete, Jon was able to link them in the computer to the magnetometry he conducted previously and the results are great! A strong linear anomaly appeared south of the potential cellar feature  we explored last year, and a unit was planned for that area. Jon also brought a Total Station (laser-driven surveyor mapping tool) to map in the whole site and units from 2011, 2013 and 2014. But first, to the woods!

There are two main parts of the site: the field and the woods. We looked into the woods in 2011 with only three excavation units, but a high yield of data that provides information of the enslaved Africans we know were working and/or living on the site during the late 1670s up until the site’s demise in 1685.  Working in this wooded area again was a major step for me towards learning more about the enslaved African presence at the site. Along with this, we had the opportunity to also investigate the Native American interactions that we have evidence of as well, thanks to Jon’s expertise and recent research into late 17th century Indian Trade and effects of it to native populations around the southeast and Carolina Lowcountry.  Since we had found potential post holes and a wonderful trash pit in this locale in 2011, we figured it would be best to continue to explore this area once again to learn more about the disenfranchised inhabitants of St. Giles Plantation.


Our first two units

To begin fieldwork, we reestablished the grid from 2011 in the wooded area based on nails we left in the ground that were untouched and still “on grid.” From these, we pulled tapes and set in shovel tests at every 15′ feet, working south from the 2011 units down to the area adjacent to the corner of the moat (see previous posts for information on the moat). These shovel tests provided much needed information and actually helped us target the best locations for where past buildings may have once stood.

In all, we excavated four new 5×5′ foot units and a 2.5×5′ foot unit in the woods.  Two units were placed very close to the two from
2011 that revealed the posts and trash pit, and two were placed a little further away at shovel tests that produced good artifacts (European ceramics, nails, Colono Ware, pipe fragments, etc.).  While the features in the two units nearest the 2011 units may have been related to a building or structure, the other two units proved much more exciting for such evidence.


Excavating the 2.5×5′ foot extension (and, throwing dirt like a pro!)

The first of these two units revealed a feature that looked like a possible wall trench. A wall trench was dug by colonists to help aid their placement of posts that set the foundation for a wall.  To see if it really was a wall trench, we expanded the unit south and created a 5×10′ foot block of units. The trench did continue south and was well defined for a feature that was created in the 1670s 🙂 In fact, most of the nails we recovered came directly from the soil stain of this trench; furthering support for a wall.  Since the trench ran along the profile of the second unit, we dug a 2.5×5′ foot unit to expand the block to see the other side of the trench. After this, we spent most of the last week digging this trench carefully to look for post hole stains. Posts did appear!  Further excavations will search out a hopeful turn for this wall, which will help us determine what kind of structure it was. Based on the artifacts recovered to date, it has the potential to be housing for the enslaved Africans, but more excavation is needed to verify this theory.


Pit feature found thanks to geophysical survey!

During the third and last week of field work this year, Jon and a few students had a chance to dig a unit to test that linear anomaly I spoke of earlier.  The unit wound up falling just to the side of the signal, but the students discovered an interesting and shallow pit feature that had large artifacts in it, notably a few Colono Ware sherds and a large cow bone.  This part of the site is mostly unknown to us and the unit this year was the first major attempt to see what is going on in this part of the site. Apparently, there was something going on there based on the feature!

Jon took the artifacts back north to Rhode Island for his students to process as part of a new class he’s teaching. Once they are done, I will get the artifacts for further study, and Nicole is eager to study the Colono Wares further, too.  Even though it was a small crowd and few units were excavated, the amount of information is very high. As the fall rolls on, we’ll keep you posted about any new discoveries and findings!  Thanks again for reading!!

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Technology and Preservation

Site archaeologist Andrew Agha is presenting a paper at this year’s Historic Preservation Conference on how he has used technology at the Lord Ashley Site to help with preservation. The use of technology not only helps us further our research, but it can also help us focus our excavations to areas where we can better find data to answer our research questions. Archaeology is a destructive science and we only have one chance to collect our data properly. The use of geophysical technology, like magnetometer surveys, helped us determine areas where we would have a chance to study the moat feature. Focusing our efforts on areas where we have a better chance of answering our research questions helps ensure that we aren’t disturbing the site anymore than necessary, and we are able to maximize our efforts and research.

Technology was also used to help better identify and study the artifacts we recovered. Lipid analyses were conducted on the locally produced unglazed earthenwares, known as Colono Wares, to find chemical traces of the fatty acids, or lipids, from the foods these ceramics were used to cook, store, and eat. A scanning electron microscope was used to both find pollen and study the chemical signatures in the redwares. The identification of pollen helps us learn what types of plants were grown at Lord Ashley’s plantation. The study of the clays used to make the various redwares we found identified where they were made, thus helping us identify trade networks and the early economics of South Carolina. X-ray fluorescence, or XRF, was used on the glass beads we found to help us get a tighter date range for when they were made.

The use of technology helps us further advance our studies of the past. We have had great success with all of the studies we’ve done at the Lord Ashley Site so far and we are looking forward to what the next round of studies from the last field season will reveal!

Preservation Conference Flyer_Page_1Preservation Conference Flyer_Page_2

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17th century findings in New York City

Last week, Andrew Agha and Nicole Isenbarger were in New York City to present at a conference at The Brooklyn Museum, and while visiting the museum they noticed some useful information for our research of the 17th century and Lord Ashley.

Last summer we recovered a fragment of 17th c. tableglass that looked very similar to ones Lord Ashley 17th c. Tableglassmade by the British firm of Measley and Greene between 1665 and 1675, which we included in our blog:


The Brooklyn Museum has additional 17th century examples of tableglass on display that also have a similar stem shape. These examples further show the popularity of this vessel form during the 17th century.

British Tableglass c.1685 from the collections of The Brooklyn Museum

British Tableglass c.1685 from the collections of The Brooklyn Museum

British drinking vessel, c.1685 from the collections of The Brooklyn Museum

British drinking vessel, c.1685 from the collections of The Brooklyn Museum

Covered Goblet c.1685 from the collections at The Brooklyn Museum

Covered Goblet c.1685 from the collections at The Brooklyn Museum

c. 1675 Kitchen at the Jan Martense Schenck House, Brooklyn, NY at The Brooklyn Museum

c. 1675 Kitchen at the Jan Martense Schenck House, Brooklyn, NY at The Brooklyn Museum

We also saw their exhibits on early architecture and culture where they take the actual materials from historic structures and re-create entire rooms for you to see including floorboards, walls, ceilings, furniture, and the material culture. The exterior of the exhibit mimics the exterior of the houses and you get to peer in through windows and doorways to see what a home of that time period looked like. One of the homes on display was from the Jan Martense Schenck Home, a c.1675 Dutch home in Brooklyn, NY. Displays like this help place the material culture we recover in their historical setting. During the 17th century the North Room was used as both the best room and the master bedchamber. Notice that the bed is placed along the back wall near the fireplace to provide added warmth (photo below).

Great room exhibit from the Jan Martense Schenck House c.1675 Brooklyn, NY at The Brooklyn Museum

Great room exhibit from the Jan Martense Schenck House c.1675 Brooklyn, NY at The Brooklyn Museum

We had a wonderful visit to New York City and unexpectedly learned more about the seventeenth century! Information like this helps us enrich our understanding of the lives of the people who lived and worked at the Lord Ashley Site.

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Lord Ashley Archaeology At Charles Town Landing this Saturday!





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Sorry for the Confusion!

Folks — So sorry for the confusion!  We were trying to add some Spanish translations to an additional page on the Lord Ashley blog – but unfortunately – we added the translations on top of the English language posts on the Home page.  The English posts are still there– just buried a bit.  We will be re-orienting everything in the next couple of days! 

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