Lower Market

The dig at the east end of Tradd Street had a slightly larger audience today thanks to Robert Behre’s latest article, “Charleston Dig Reveals Tip of History,” in today’s edition of the Post and Courier. Later in the day the local ABC affiliate, WCIV News 4, arrived and interviewed your truly.

Meanwhile, back in the trenches, students continued to excavate the soil adjacent to the south face of the redan. That work is now moving at a slower pace, however, because we’re just above the water table and the soil is becoming increasingly damp. Simultaneously, a few feet to the west, students continued to remove the earth situated above the redan and opened a connection with a separate unit to the west  (see below left). The profiles in that area have now been studied and photographed, so tomorrow they’ll begin removing the remnants of the Lower Market floor and the soil blocking our view of the redan’s south face (see below center). By the end of this week we’ll be able to see a continuous redan wall measuring nearly twenty feet.


(click on the images above to enlarge)

The earth removed from the area adjacent to the redan continues to yield interesting artifacts. One of the most common sights in this soil is broken brick fragments (brick bats) that rained into the mud when the upper parts of the redan were demolished in the mid-1780s. The photograph below left shows a typical collection of this material after it has been removed from the excavation unit.


(click on the images above to enlarge)

Fragments of old ceramics continue to turn up everywhere. At center above is a portion of a brown salt-glazed stoneware vessel found today. Sherds of this distinctive ceramic type have been plentiful this month. Above right is the highlight of the day, and perhaps the oldest artifact yet found during the current excavation. The archaeologists tell me that this fragment, representing part of the base of a large vessel, is an example of North Devon gravel-tempered ware. On close inspection of the cross-section of the sherd, you can see tiny pieces of gravel in the composition of the clay. Manufacture of this type of ceramic began in North Devon, England, in the early seventeenth-century, so it’s possible that this vessel may have been brought to Charleston shortly after the town was settled in the late 1600s.

Work wrapped up at the east end of Tradd Street just minutes before the onset of yet another late afternoon thunderstorm. In spite of the lingering presence of ominous clouds, the student archaeologists working at the site made some significant headway today.

Continuing to excavate the soil on the south side of the colonial redan wall, the students revealed a surprising view of the condition of the “nose” of the redan. As you can see in the photos below, there are a couple of significant voids in the extreme tip of the redan, to the north and to the south of the apex. We don’t know the cause of these voids, but the archaeologists will have to exercise caution when working in the soil around the apex from now on.


(click on the images above to enlarge)

Just a few few to the west, other students were busy removing the soil of another excavation unit in order to reveal more of the 1786 floor of the Lower Market (see the photo above right). As that work continues southward tomorrow, we’ll also begin to see more of the westward continuation of the redan wall.

redan_fragmentOn Day 10 of the dig I mentioned a patch of “mystery” bricks located a few feet to the south of the redan apex. Further exploration of that area has revealed the outline of a large mass of bricks and something resembling concrete (see the photo at right). We suspect that this mass is a large fragment of the upper wall of the redan, similar to parts of the wall embrasure that we saw in 2008 during the South Adger’s Wharf dig. In the next few days, as the students continue to work downward along the south face of the redan, we’ll be dealing with this and other large chunks of the wall that tumbled into the mud when the upper parts of the redan were demolished in late 1784 or early 1785.

polychrome_bowlFinally, I’ll mention a few interesting artifacts unearthed today. While expanding a unit and removing the soil located above the level of the redan, students discovered several fragments of a hand-painted polychrome (multicolor) bowl. The archaeologists tell me that this material, seen in the photo to the left, dates from the era of approximately 1780 to 1820. bottle_and_marbleSimilarly, today’s sifting also revealed a beautiful fragment of an early-nineteenth century medicine bottle, as well as a small glass marble. These two items, pictured at right, represent a later occupation of this site than the colonial-era artifacts found next to the redan, but they are still beautiful reminders of life in earlier generations.

three_unitsThe College of Charleston archaeology students digging at the east end of Tradd Street (also known as South Adger’s Wharf) completed their second week of work today, and this dig is now half way to the finish line. In an effort to find the south wall of the redan, the archaeologists have so far opened the earth in three main areas as seen in the fore-, middle-, and background of the photo at the right. In the far left background of this image is the apex of the redan. The redan wall traverses diagonally through the open unit in the middle of this photo, and we had hoped to find its continuation in the open unit in the foreground. Because of the ca. 1805 brick foundation of Vanderhorst’s North Row, however, the redan has not yet been found in this western location. Perhaps next week we’ll have better luck.

Anthony_and_redanBack at our main point of interest, the area around the apex of the redan, the students removing the fill at the base of the colonial wall discovered a patch of bricks at a level that probably represent the 1760s. Those familiar with this project will know that when the redan was knocked down to street level at the end of the American Revolution, ca. 1784–85, the earth just east of the redan was strewn with bricks and brick fragments. mystery_bricksWe encountered plenty of that brick rubble at South Adger’s Wharf in 2008, and we’re finding plenty of it again this year. But the bricks unearthed today, just a foot or so southeast of the redan apex, appear to be large, intact bricks laid in a horizontal layer. Time did not permit a full investigation of this feature today, so it’s still a bit difficult to see this mystery brickwork clearly. Nevertheless, I’m including a photo of this feature at the right here for our curious readers.

small_bottleAnd of course the day’s work yielded some eyebrow-raising mid-eighteenth-century artifacts. For example, the students unearthed a small glass vial or bottle, perhaps once used to hold medicine or some other precious liquid. Compared to the quarter in the photo at left, you can see that it’s quite a diminutive piece. The students screening the dirt in front of the redan also found two small rectangular scale weights, which is a logical find considering that a market stood at this site as early as 1750. scale_weights_etcIn the photo to the right, you can see those weights in comparison to a recent U.S. quarter. At the top center of this photo is a fragment of a clay pipe stem, which in itself is not a rare find at all. Hundreds of pipe stem pieces have been found in this dirt, but this one has been stamped and colored with a brown geometric pattern. Finally, the small white “X” in this photo is a small fragment of a pierced ceramic serving dish dating from the middle of the eighteenth century. What was once a piece of fancy dinnerware became broken trash at some point, and made its way into the dirt in front of the waterfront fortifications of colonial Charleston.

If you compare today’s photos with those of previous days, you’ll see that the archaeologists are slowly and methodically moving downward nearly a foot each day. They’ve really hit a stride now, and the view of the old fortifications will continue to improve throughout the course of the dig. With that in mind, I’m posting below the latest photo of the profile of the south side of the apex of the redan. In the center below is a photo of Lisa Randle working in the “builder’s trench” of Vanderhorst’s North Row—that is, the trench excavated ca. 1805 to lay the brick foundation of that building. Since that trench represents a different time period from the soil just a few inches to the north, every effort is being made to separate the artifacts from each area. Below right is a photo of a new unit opened today in an effort to follow the south wall of the redan as it continues to the southwest toward East Bay Street. As you can see in the center of the image, it appears that the red bricks of the redan are beginning to peek through the surface—minus the brick floor of the Lower Market that was seen in the units to the east.


Eighteenth-century artifacts are spilling out of every shovelful of dirt removed from these units. Today I noticed a wheelbarrow full of dirt, ready for sifting, and was impressed by the range of materials just sitting on the surface. In the first photo below, notice the slip glazed redware in the center and top, surrounded by fragments of red brick, shell, and even a corroded iron fragment (on the left).


The last two photos depict a rare find—an intact clay pipe bowl. This one is more complete than that found last week, but it’s probably also of a different vintage. I did not find a maker’s mark on it, unfortunately. It was found in the builder’s trench next to the ca. 1805 wall of Vanderhorst’s North Row, so it was probably being used by a bricklayer employed in the construction of that early-nineteenth-century structure.

Now that the 1786 floor of the Lower Market has been almost entirely removed, the archaeologist are slowing digging into the layers of the the era of the American Revolution and the late colonial period. To our delight, they’re also finding a greater quantity of artifacts in this area than in the previous higher strata. Ron Anthony continued to carefully remove the floor of the excavated unit, passing the dirt on to Martha Zierden and the students at the screens. As a result of all their hard work, we have an slightly improved view of the apex of the redan. The complex angles of the redan brickwork are finally becoming visible, and over the next couple of weeks we’ll learn much more about the techniques of its construction.


(click on the images above to enlarge)

Many interesting artifacts turned up in today’s dirt, all dating from around the middle of the eighteenth century. I’ll just mention a few here. Around mid-day the students found an impressive fragment of a large German cooking vessel. As you can see in the photo below left, this piece represents part of the rim of the vessel, which, Martha tells me, would have looked like a large, shallow dutch oven with small feet. In the center photo below I’ve included two colorful examples of the bounty of ceramics found in today’s levels, along with two sizes of lead musket shot.


(click on the images above to enlarge)

My favorite artifact of the day, however, is the bottle fragment pictured to the right above. If you look carefully, you can see that the emblem on this hand-blown glass fragment reads “Laurens.” Since this material was found in a layer of dirt representing ca. 1750 to ca. 1780, this bottle may have been created for the wealthy Charleston merchant Henry Laurens (1724–1792). In addition to being a South Carolina legislator, President of the Continental Congress, and the highest ranking American prisoner of war during the Revolution, Laurens amassed a fortune in Charleston through his active import-export business, trading with partners in Europe, Africa, West Indies, and throughout the American colonies. What a find!

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