archaeology


Ever wondered about the story behind that slab of tabby standing inside an iron fence in Marion Square? Well, you’re not alone. For Charlestonians and tourists alike, that curious mass of oyster-shell cement seems to defy explanation. A small iron plaque from the 1880s provides the only clue to its history: “Remnant of Horn Work. May 1780. Siege of Charleston.” Those few words provide but a paltry testimonial of the importance and scale of what was once a major part of Charleston’s fortification history. That slab of tabby, measuring approximately six feet high and nearly ten feet long, is just a very small part of what was once a five to seven acre fortification that served both as the town gate, straddling King Street, and the centerpiece of Charleston’s defenses during the British siege of 1780. It’s actually a textbook example of a Horn Work—a type of fortification characterized by a pair of half-bastions or “horns” connected by a central curtain line. The foundation of the entire eastern half of the Horn Work lies just below the grassy surface of Marion Square, while the other half is now covered by buildings on the west side of King Street.

Horn_Work_flyer_2013Care to learn more about the Horn Work? Please join Dr. Nic Butler, public historian at the Charleston County Public Library, for an illustrated history of this “tabby fortress” from its creation in 1757 to its demolition in 1784. Information drawn from colonial descriptions, period illustrations, and recent archaeology, provide sufficient information to re-imagine the Horn Work in an exciting new three-dimensional rendering. Please join the Walled City Task Force for an exploration of its history, and become an advocate for the improved interpretation and protection of this important city landmark.

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“The Horn Work: Charleston’s Tabby Fortress, 1757—1784”

Time: Wednesday, October  23rd at 6:00 p.m.

Place: Charleston County Public Library Auditorium, 68 Calhoun St., 29401.

Everyone interested in archaeology of colonial South Carolina will be pleased to know about the exciting work now under way at the “Lord Ashley Site” on the upper reaches of the Ashley River. This rural site contains the remnants of St. Giles Seigniory, a fortified plantation established by Andrew Percivall in 1675 on behalf of his employer, Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. Percivall maintained this frontier outpost for only a decade, and Sir Anthony never visited the site, but the recently rediscovered remains of the plantation house and moat provide an unparalleled opportunity to study the earliest interaction between English settlers and Native Americans in South Carolina. The dig is being conducted as part of a bi-annual College of Charleston field school in historical archaeology.

Want to learn more about this fascinating discovery? The rural dig site is not open to the public, but everyone is welcome to witness the progress over the next few weeks by pointing their browsers to the official Lord Ashley Site blog: http://lordashleysite.wordpress.com. Principal investigator Andrew Agha and others digging at the Lord Ashley Site will give you first-hand accounts (and photographs) of what they find each day.

Following the 2008 and 2009 excavations of the colonial-era redan at the east end of Tradd Street (now South Adger’s Wharf), the Mayor’s Walled City Task Force began planning with the City of Charleston to depict the outline of the redan’s foundation on the present landscape. After considering and dismissing several methods and materials for accomplishing this goal, Mayor Joseph P. Riley insisted that brick should be used in order to render the outline as visible and as durable as possible. Some months ago Charleston Museum’s archaeologist Martha Zierden used spray-paint to touch up the series of pink dots on the road surface that indicate the outline of the redan’s inner and outer faces. This morning workers used masonry saws to connect those dots, and removed the asphalt and cobblestones between the inscribed lines. In the coming days, we’ll see the finished effect–a handsome brick pathway that follows the precise outline of the redan’s walls, which remain standing just two feet below the modern surface. The public is invited to visit South Adger’s Wharf and view the new work. If you can’t make it down to the site, enjoy these photos taken by task force co-chair, Katherine Saunders Pemberton, earlier today.  480822_10151683727331264_1591341619_n943555_10151683729741264_2075123487_n

For those of you who were unable to attend the recent program discussing the graves found at the Gaillard Center, I’m pleased to announce that a video of the entire event is now available online. You can watch it at Youtube.com, or right here:

At the end of last week’s program, Dr. Eric Poplin, the leader of the team from Brockington and Associates that excavated the graves, agreed to return to the Charleston County Public Library after further laboratory research has been completed. Stay tuned–the follow-up event will probably take place towards the end of 2013.

We owe a special thanks to Dr. Eric Poplin for sharing his work with the Charleston community, and to CCPL’s own Kevin Crothers for creating and editing the video documentation.

Most of Charleston has been fascinated by the recent discovery of a previously unknown graveyard at the site of the Gaillard Center renovation project. In February and March of this year, a team led by Dr. Eric Poplin, senior archaeologist with Brockington and Associates, unearthed the remains of

Dr. Poplin and the Brockington team

Dr. Poplin and the Brockington team

37 individuals who were laid to rest at that site, on the east side of Anson Street, sometime between 1680 and 1740. Many among the community are curious to know more about these people: Who are they? How and when did they die? Why were they interred at this spot–well outside of the “walled city”? Wouldn’t we all like to know the answers to these questions?

Well, now’s your chance to hear the latest conclusions from the experts. The Charleston County Public Library invites the public to a free program on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013, at 6 p.m. CCPL’s public historian, Dr. Nic Butler, will provide a brief overview of this early history of the site on which the Gaillard Center now stands, and then introduce the featured guest, Dr. Eric Poplin, who will describe the discovery and excavation of the bodies. Using photographs and maps, Dr. Poplin will discuss the clues discovered in the graves that inform his conclusions about the dates of the burials and the status of the individuals interred there. We may not have all the answers at this early date in the research process, but we hope to give the public a better understanding of this fascinating discovery in Charleston’s own backyard. So please join us for

“Graves at the Gaillard Center: The Rediscovery of a Forgotten Resting Place”

Charleston County Public Library Auditorium

68 Calhoun Street

Wednesday, May 1st 2013

6:00 p.m.

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