University to Begin Pair of Archaeology Projects in Charleston Harbor and Hampton County

February 11, 2009

CHARLESTON, SC – February 11, 2009 – The University of South Carolina’s Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) is gearing up for two very different excavation projects that will take researchers to the bottom of the Charleston harbor and to remote areas along the Savannah River in Hampton County.

In March, underwater archaeologist James Spirek will comb the depths of the Charleston harbor to record Civil War shipwrecks and submerged coastal-defense features, such as batteries and obstructions or torpedoes. The project is funded by the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.

The strategic position of Charleston and the protracted naval warfare surrounding the blockade has led military historians to view the entire harbor as a naval battlefield. Spirek’s research will give archaeologists, historians and others a detailed understanding of the novel techniques and strategies developed by Confederate and Union forces for conducting naval warfare. One example will be the major Union ironclad assault in 1863, which was thwarted by innovative Confederate counter-measures. The research also will focus on studying the role of the coastal landscape in shaping the combatant’s actions and explaining the presence of the underwater cultural heritage on the battlefield.

In May, SCIAA director Dr. Charlie Cobb will head to a remote area near Garnett in Hampton County. There Cobb, along with archaeologists Drs. Chester DePratter and Christopher Gillam and a group of undergraduate students, will begin excavations in hopes of yielding a better understanding of trade relations in the late 1600s and 1700s between Native Americans and Charleston colonists along Carolina’s Southern frontier border.

Specifically, the archaeologists want to reveal new information on how trade led to a large-scale migration of Native Americans to the area, whether the Native Americans participated in the labor-intensive fur trade and how early trade led to the adoption of European material culture and foodways by Native Americans. They will study these topics at the site of Palachacolas Town, established by emigre Native Americans from Southern Georgia in 1707.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project will involve two years of excavation and study.

SCIAA, part of the College of Arts and Sciences, was established in 1963 as a University of South Carolina research institute and a cultural resource management agency for the state of South Carolina. To learn more about SCIAA, its research projects and outreach programs, visit the Web site: or call 803-777-8170.