Tradd Street Redan


Today the archaeology students working at the east end of Tradd Street spent a lot of time sketching and recording the profiles at the western end of the exposed redan. After that careful work was completed, they began digging out more soil and removing the paving bricks from the floor of the Lower Market. Those thin paving bricks (see the photo below left, were laid in mortar in 1786 over the remnants of the redan, but after more than two hundred years the low-fired clay of the bricks is now softer than the mortar. Within a few hours of this messy, tedious work, however, they had removed nearly all of the market floor from the redan, providing a much better view of the colonial fortifications (see images below).

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(click on the images above to enlarge)

cow_horn_coreFragments of eighteenth century ceramics, glass, and clay pipes continue to appear in the soil excavated from the redan area, but today Martha showed me something different—a couple of interesting bone fragments. The first is the core of a horn of a short-horned cow. At just over three inches in length, this small item (see photo at left) is an important reminder that the flesh of calves and cattle were routinely brought to the Lower Market at this site during the second half of the eighteenth century. knife_handle

A related cultural artifact was also found today: a small mid-eighteenth-century knife handle carved from a piece of cow bone. As you can see in the photo at right, the bone handle itself has darkened considerably with age and exposure to the elements, and the remnants of the steel blade have corroded and rusted away. These are wonderful reminders of cultural activity on the waterfront of early Charleston.

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.

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(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.

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(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.

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(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.

For the most part, today’s work focused on cleaning up the existing excavation units and taking formal photographs of the profiles of the earthen walls. The archaeologists spent a lot of time troweling and brushing the vertical faces of the units—from the surface to a depth of about five feet in the main unit—in order to clearly distinguish the many layers of sediment and fill. This kind of detail work is important for preserving a reliable record of the downward progression of the dig, which enables the archaeologists to establish reference points for dating the artifacts recovered from the soil.

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(click on the images of to enlarge)

Speaking of artifacts, the students screened less dirt today than usual, and the sort of artifacts they found were essentially more of the same—mid-eighteenth-century ceramics, glass, and pipe stems. Nothing especially photogenic came to light, so I have no interesting photographs to share today.

middle_unit_redanAs mentioned last week, the archaeologists have located another portion of the redan wall in a unit just a few feet southwest of that pictured above. We won’t be able to explore much of this portion, however, because it’s bounded on the north by utility conduits and to the south by the brick foundation of Vanderhorst’s North Row (see the photo to the left). Nevertheless, today brought new hope for finding further parts of the wall. Students digging in the westernmost unit, closest to East Bay Street, finally located part of the redan wall in that unit. west_unit_redanSince this unit is located on the south side of the brick foundation of the building known as Vanderhorst’s North Row, it appears that a significant portion of the upper parts of the redan wall were obliterated when that building was constructed ca. 1805. As a result, the student archaeologists had to dig to depth of about five feet just to locate the red-orange bricks signalling the top of the redan (see the photo at right). Thanks to their perseverance, we are now able to trace the line of the redan about twenty-odd feet southwestward from its apex. In the coming days, this westernmost unit will probably be expanded to allow a better view of this part of the wall. Better images yet to come!

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.

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