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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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