Lower Market

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!

I have three points to make about today’s progress at the east end of Tradd Street. First, the student archaeologist continued to carefully work their way down through the layers of sediment surrounding the remnants of the redan. As we found last year, there is an area of brick debris in the area immediately east of the remaining wall, representing the demolition of the upper levels of the wall ca. 1784–85. Amidst the area of rubble and earth just south of the redan the students also uncovered a large fragment of an eighteenth-century ceramic plate, probably royal creamware. I’m including two photos of the plate—one showing its physical context and a closer view.


Tuesday_artifactsThis object brings me to today’s second point, that large number of ceramic, glass, tile, shell, and bone artifacts found at this site all represent kitchen-related activities. This fact seems perfectly in keeping with the presence of the Lower Market at the east end of Tradd Street between 1750 and 1800. There may be some people that are disappointed that we’re not finding buttons, buckles, coins, and other metal objects, but the archaeologists are very pleased with the consistency of the found materials.

New_unitFinally, I’ll point out that the archaeologists opened a new unit at the western edge of the dig site. This was done for one principal reason—to determine whether or not the large foundation wall of the extinct building known as Vanderhorst’s North Row, which we located on the first day of this dig, extended westward through the rest of the site. Unfortunately for our purposes, the new unit revealed that the foundation does continue westward, and thus its construction ca. 1805 probably obliterated part of the southwestern wall of the old redan. At least now we know!

As Katherine Saunders reported on Friday, the archaeologists digging at the east end of Tradd Street have located what appears to be the apex or point of the old redan that once stood at this site. Today the College of Charleston archaeology students continued their careful excavation of the area around the old brickwork, making it a bit easier to view and understand what they’ve found.


(Click on the images above to enlarge)

Let me guide your through the images above. Clockwise from the top left is Ron Anthony, archaeologist with the Charleston Museum and the College of Charleston, resting on his shovel just behind the apex of the redan. In the center of the top row is a side view of the apex, looking north. Note that the tip of the redan appears to project a bit beyond the “no parking” sign in the background (a useful landmark for future interpretation). The top right photograph is a close up of the remnants of the tip of the redan, and illustrates the fact that some of the superficial bricks were disturbed many years ago. The bottom left image shows the southern face of the redan near the apex. Note that the brick pavers representing the floor of the Lower Market, ca. 1786, are still present on the top of the redan. The bottom center photograph offers a close-up view of a curious feature on that south face. It appears that part of the redan brickwork was carved out in a half-cylinder shape. We saw a nearly identical feature last year when digging the north wall of this redan. In both cases, I suspect this feature represents a post hole made ca. 1786 when the Lower Market was extended over the site of the old redan. The final photograph for today shows the crew spreading the tarps over the excavation site. We’ve had a lot of rain in the past few days, and we don’t want the site to be damaged by another late-afternoon downpour.

While the crew and the members of the Mayor’s Walled City Task Force are thrilled to have located the redan, we’re a little puzzled as well. The location of the apex is not as far east as we had anticipated, thus making the overall size of the redan a little smaller than we thought. No one is disappointed, however, but this new information is causing the archaeologists to rethink the plans for the rest of the dig. Suddenly we’re chasing the wall in a slightly different direction, which means that the modern utility conduits and nineteenth-century building foundations will curtail some of the anticipated digging. Regardless of these issues, the work will continue for a few more weeks, and we look forward to some very interesting discoveries.

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

Success!  Day five was noteworthy for our first glimpse of the redan!  This exciting discovery prompted camera crews from Channel 5 and Channel 4 to come to the site today—be sure to watch the evening news tonight!

The big news came this morning when archaeologists digging in a unit directly adjacent to South Adger’s Wharf came across a portion of angled brick wall.  We’ve identified this as the outer wall of the redan’s south face.

Rare ceramic find

Rare ceramic find

The redan was found directly underneath the brick market pavers that were put in place 1784 and 1786.  In 1784, the South Carolina Gazette reported on several recommendations for the city including a recommendation “that the market called the Lower Market, be immediately paved, as in its present situation, it is extremely offensive and disagreeable to the inhabitants, and others who resort there.”   After mapping and photographing the pavers yesterday and today, the archaeologists have carefully removed many of them.  This will continue on Monday as we continue to trace more of the redan’s south face.

The brick redan

The brick redan

The location of the south redan face in the area of the parking lot closest to S. Adger’s Wharf is good news.  It seems possible that the builders of Vanderhorst’s north tenement may have built that structure adjacent to the brick remains of the redan, rather than directly on top of it.  It’s also good news because we may be better able to interpret this feature to the public in the future without disrupting much of the city’s parking lot.  Depending on where the rest of the redan wall is located and how much remains, we may be able to explore the possibility of “glassing-over” the brickwork, or, at least, somehow marking the outline of the redan.

Walled City Co-Chair Peter McGee checks out the redan

Walled City Co-Chair Peter McGee checks out the redan

Monday’s digging should reveal more of the redan—be sure to stop by the site if you can and stay tuned!

The big goal for today was to get a complete record of the exposed portions of the brick floor of the Lower Market, laid ca. 1786, before the predicted rainstorm arrived. After giving the units a thorough sweeping, the College of Charleston archaeology students and their instructors began the meticulous process of measuring, sketching, and photographing the exposed features.


(click on the images to enlarge)

Just as this work was wrapping up, the first band of heavy rain blew in. A few minutes later, however, the rain dissipated and the work resumed. The second task was to carefully remove the brick pavers of the market floor. These thin bricks, which were originally laid in mortar, came out rather easily using shovels and small hammers. We are confident that the redan wall will be found just a few inches below the market floor, and are eager to get to it. By the time the brick pavers had been removed, however, the rain returned with a vengeance. The students quickly covered the dig site with large tarps to protect the excavation and packed up for the day.


(click on the images to enlarge)


Despite the inclement weather, the students did manage to locate a few interesting artifacts. One noteworthy item is a nearly intact clay pipe bowl. Fragments of these disposable smoking implements are commonly found at eighteenth-century sites like ours, but it is rare to find an intact bowl. The maker’s stamp, “T. D.”, is even visible on this one. whielden_wareAnother interesting find is a fragment of a piece of green Whieldon ware, a type of English ceramic dating from the era 1750–1775. It’s only a small fragment of a larger vessel, but it is a vivid reminder of the colorful utensils that were used in early Charleston. Both of these artifacts, by the way, were found in the thin layer of dirt immediately below the floor of the Lower Market, which was paved over ca. 1784–1786.

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