Avocational Archaeology in Action: Drew Ruddy, the Avocational Underwater Archaeologist

In our latest Avocational Archaeology in Action post, State Underwater Archaeologist Jim Spirek talks about the significant contributions avocational archaeologist Drew Ruddy has had on underwater archaeology in South Carolina over the years.

Drew photographing a SCIAA underwater archaeological site collection (SCIAA image).

Since the late 1960s, Drew Ruddy has been instrumental in discovering, reporting, and recording important underwater archaeological sites in state waters.  In 1970, Drew along with his dive buddies discovered the Mepkin Abbey Shipwreck in the Cooper River, a well-preserved small wooden sailing vessel from the late 18th or early 19th century.  SCIAA underwater archaeologists later documented the wreck site which has since formed part of the Cooper River Underwater Heritage Trail.  Numerous finds along colonial townsite and plantation waterfronts, particularly at Willtown Bluff and Dorchester, were likewise reported to SCIAA and entered in the State Archaeological Site Files.  Drew also donated artifacts and his time assisting SCIAA underwater archaeologists document sites including at Wadboo Creek and Bluff Plantation.  Eventually becoming a commercial diver, he later applied those talents as part of the dive team that in 2000 recovered the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley off Charleston Harbor.  Since that time, Drew and his partners created Divers Dedicated to Historic Preservation, a project to record the memories and finds of early sport divers through video interviews and photographing artifacts and collections to preserve these early collecting activities in state waters. 

Drew recovering a loose ship’s timber to document (Ruddy).None

Another aspect of this endeavor, Drew and his associates have revisited SCIAA collections to bridge early collecting at a site with subsequent SCIAA underwater archaeological investigations to create a broader record of the archaeological sites.  Pressing onwards, current efforts are directed towards documenting several locks from the Santee Canal, ca. early 1800s, now submerged under Lake Marion, as well as assisting in the development of museum exhibits at the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center, and the South Carolina Maritime Museum.  Drew has and continues to contribute much to our understanding and preservation of the underwater archaeological legacy in South Carolina waters.

Drew with Steve Howard presenting Ashley Chapman with Dorchester Waterfront report (Drew Ruddy).

Behind the Scenes: Warren Lasch Conservation Center on Excavating Block Lifts

Content courtesy of Warren Lasch Conservation Center. Visit their Facebook page and website for more info!

In recent months, the conservation and archaeological teams from the Warren Lasch Conservation Center (WLCC) have been excavating block lifts removed from H.L. Hunley. The block-lifting technique consisted of probing the sediment and dividing the areas along major bone groups and sensitive artifacts. Steel plates were then slid under each block to separate the section from the rest of the sediment. The purpose of using block lifts was to safely retrieve the extremely fragile textiles that archaeologists were unable to excavate using traditional archaeological methods. The block lift would be removed intact and later x-rayed, documented, and excavated for small or fragile artifacts. In total, 48 block lifts were taken from the interior of Hunley and placed within the labs cooler for future excavation and documentation. While the vast majority of block lifts have been examined, a few still need to be worked on in order to finish the excavation and ensure that no artifact is left undocumented. Over the last couple of months, WLCC scientists have been able to recover two buttons, a pack of matches, and a section of a twill vest worn by one of the crewmembers. The WLCC team plans to continue their efforts in hopes of uncovering more artifacts that will help them better understand the Hunley crew and what happened on the night the historic submarine was lost. 

Avocational Archaeology in Action: Meet Juliana Falk, the Accidental Preservationist

Juliana Faulk at work.

Blog entry by Charleston Museum Archaeologist, Martha Zierden

Many folks know Juliana Falk as the Accidental Preservationist, with an active social media account.  But Juliana is also an avocational archaeologist, and regular volunteer in the archaeology lab at The Charleston Museum.  Juliana became interested in archaeology  during renovations of the Chancognie house in downtown Charleston, where she discovered 19th century artifacts glinting on the surface in the rear corner of the property.  Consultation with local archaeologists led to a small exploratory dig by The Charleston Museum in the spring of 2016.  From the very beginning, we worked with Juliana, not for Juliana.  She jumped into the pit and was a quick learner,  mastering field techniques and artifact identification in record time.

Juliana then joined us in the lab to process and analyze artifacts from the dig.  When that was complete, she continued to volunteer in the lab, analyzing artifacts from a variety of projects.  She presented, and co-authored, conference papers.  Most recently, she’s assisted with re-analysis of colono wares and European ceramics from the Heyward-Washington house.

Chancognie Artifacts

Our testing in the rear yard of the Chancognie house revealed a privy pit – one that had been dug by relic collectors in the 1970s.  While we don’t know what they took with them, they left behind plenty of artifacts.  After our short dig, Juliana and her mother continued to carefully excavate the privy pit, screening all the soil, and recovering a remarkable assemblage of 19th century materials.  Among the many ceramic fragments were pieces of Catawba pottery.  Juliana commissioned reproduction vessels from Catawba potters, bringing her contributions to South Carolina archaeology full circle.

Excavation at Chancognie

Avocational Archaeology in Action: Charleston Museum’s Work at Dill Sanctuary, and Recognizing Volunteer Bill Turner

Charleston Museum Archaeologist Ron Anthony shares some insight on the museum’s work at Dill Sanctuary on James Island along with a key contributor to their volunteer program. Learn more about the Charleston Museum and their archaeology program at https://www.charlestonmuseum.org/.

Besides owning and managing two historic houses in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, The Charleston Museum owns and operates the Dill Sanctuary.  Located on James Island the sanctuary has been the locus of intensive and extensive cultural and natural investigations which contribute significantly to area education and research. Containing almost 600 acres, Dill Sanctuary is the location of over 16 archaeological sites.  Deemed eligible to become a National Register District, this sanctuary contains a diversity of both prehistoric and historic cultural properties – Woodland Period sites, colonial plantation sites, Civil War earthworks, tenant farmsteads, and two historic cemeteries, among others. 

Many people have positively contributed to the archaeology of the Dill Sanctuary through the years.  These individuals, from professional archaeologists and historians to students to volunteers of all sorts, have helped to add, in their unique ways, to our knowledge of the past through their involvement in the archaeology of Dill Sanctuary. The effort of Charleston Museum volunteers surely merits a special notation because these individuals participate simply to help and enjoy the activity normally working with no other “agenda” operative. They often volunteer for tasks that are the least “glamorous” requiring repetition and, at times, hard physical work.  Most Museum staff, I feel, would acknowledge and laud the service that these special individuals provide.  

Longtime Charleston Museum Volunteer, Dr. Bill Turner

One such individual deserves special recognition as well as The Charleston Museum’s gratitude for nearly 15 years of volunteering in the museum’s Archaeology Lab.  Dr. Bill Turner, a retired surgeon and former Charleston Museum Board Member has furnished outstanding help with the metal artifact conservation of objects from Dill Sanctuary as well as from other local sites. Over the years Bill has generally helped once a week with the conservation of thousands of artifacts.  His dedication and interest is reflected in his invention of several simple but effective hand tools used to remove stubborn tarnish – present particularly on oddly shaped copper alloy objects and artifact fragments.  Knowing that in reality most objects that he works with will mostly likely receive only a single effort or a single set of sessions of conservation work, his relentless attention to the conservation of often very fragile items is truly impressive. Bill truly enjoys his conservation work and visits to the Museum’s archaeology lab.  Via his conversation, quick wit, and the general camaraderie, his visits, without fail, brighten up The Charleston Museum archaeology lab. We in the lab always look forward to his visits. 

Launching the Avocational Archaeology StoryMap, a Living Archaeology Month Poster Project

We are happy to announce the release of the Archaeology Month 2020 StoryMap!

The StoryMap is our take on a living poster featuring information on the important contributions avocational archaeologists have made to research in South Carolina.

This is an active project that we’ll be updating with new features throughout the month as we explore the role avocational archaeology has had in South Carolina, from biographies and interviews with influential avocational archaeologists to sites where avocational archaeology has played a critical role in the community. Stayed tuned to our website and Facebook for all the latest updates!

Visit the StoryMap here.

Virtual Edition of Arkhaios Film Festival Now Live – Free!

Featuring 25 films from around the world, the Arkhaios Film Festival launches it’s virtual edition today. This year’s festival is completely free and online for the next seven days at https://watch.eventive.org/arkhaiosfilmfestival2020. Which film are you excited to see this year?

Thanks to The Arkhaios Cultural Heritage and Archaeology Film Festival for all the hard work in making this year’s festival possible.

Fall Field Day Goes Virtual for 2020

Dear Members and Facebook Followers,

Due to the continuing danger posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Archaeological Society of South Carolina has decided not to hold an in-person event for Fall Field Day. Instead, we will be hosting a virtual event here on our Facebook page during October to celebrate Archaeology Month. So stay tuned to this page for lots of fun and exciting content!

-ASSC Executive Board