Archive for the ‘conflict archaeology’ Category

Of cannonballs and grapeshot
July 11, 2018

Little Danny is currently engrossed in a study of the elemental content of cast iron cannonballs and grapeshot (or case shot) from Revolutionary War sites in Georgia and South Carolina. Thus far he has sampled (with a Bruker III-V) ray gun, examples from Camden, Charleston, Ebenezer, Fort Motte, Kettle Creek, Ninety-Xix, Purysburg, Savannah, Sunbury and Tar Bluff. The sample size is growing! The results of this study will be presented at the 2018 International Fields of Conflict Conference in Connecticut later this year. Hurrah for pXRF!

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Underground Savannah Awakens!
November 23, 2017

SavannahOriginal2016Mary Landers’ Savannah Morning News article:

 

Posted November 15, 2017 10:03 pm – Updated November 16, 2017 07:31 am
By Mary Landers
mary.landers@savannahnow.com

Georgia Trust: Savannah’s underground history in peril

No archaeological ordinance means artifacts can be lost when developments are built

Rita Elliott explains her findings at the Revolutionary War-era Spring Hill redoubt in 2005. Without Coastal Heritage Society’s archaeological efforts, the original earthen fort would not have been documented. (Photo courtesy Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

Walk around Savannah, Georgia’s oldest European-settled city, and you’re walking on history, much of it untold.

Sure, the rich and powerful are chronicled in books and government documents, said Rita Elliott, research associate and education coordinator at the nonprofit Lamar Institute in Savannah. But the stories of slaves, of women, of children and of other ordinary Savannahians, in Colonial times especially, exist mainly as artifacts buried in Savannah’s soil. And because Savannah doesn’t compel or incentivize developers to survey for artifacts before they build, it’s rarely done.

“We’re losing all those stories at an alarming rate because there’s no ordinance,” Elliott said.

To highlight this concern, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation included “Underground Savannah” on its 2018 list of “Places in Peril” released Wednesday and called on Savannah to incorporate archaeology into its regulations.

“Many of the more recently constructed buildings have deep architectural footprints that have obliterated any archaeological potential beneath them,” the “Places in Peril” report states. “Savannah has no archaeological ordinance that requires comprehensive archaeological study in advance of a site’s destruction. As a result, countless archaeological sites have been destroyed. Unmitigated development continues across Savannah, moving into areas where archaeological sites have managed to survive thus far. Savannah’s current public policy needs to incorporate archaeology into its regulations.”

The regulation doesn’t have to be an ordinance, it could come instead in the form of incentives to encourage archaeology, said Georgia Trust CEO and President Mark McDonald.

Dan Elliott, Rita’s husband and president and research archaeologist at the Lamar Institute, made the nomination and coined the term “Underground Savannah.” The Lamar Institute’s work at Ebenezer in Effingham County, Savannah’s colonial sister city, has revealed details of the spartan life of ordinary colonists, but comparable archaeological work hasn’t happened in Savannah, he said.

But the artifacts are there. A dig in Madison Square uncovered a trash-filled ditch from the time of the Revolutionary War.

“It probably extends for blocks,” Dan Elliott said. “It’s a resource that could be excavated for 100 years or more.”

The Coastal Heritage Society’s decision to do an archaeological survey on the site of Battlefield Park led to the discovery of the remains of the original Spring Hill redoubt, a earthen fort recreated on the eastern portion of the site to commemorate the major Revolutionary War battle that took place there.

“Archaeology is not just esoteric facts,” said Rita Elliott. “It can be a huge economic boon to the city.”

And though archaeology feeds the trend for heritage tourism it also adds to pride of place for locals. In Yamacraw Village there’s evidence of another Revolutionary War fort, the Carolina redoubt.

“For residents as well it can add to a community’s identity,” she said.

The costs of adding archaeology to a big development are small, especially compared to not doing it, advocates contend.

“What is the cost of not doing it?” Rita Elliott said. “It’s priceless history lost forever.”

About 130 cities and counties around the country have archaeological regulations or ordinances, including St. Augustine, New Orleans, Alexandria, Va., and Annapolis, Md. Charleston is considering one. If Savannah adopted one, it would be a first in Georgia.

Alderman Van Johnson said he’s open to the idea of a requiring or encouraging archaeology as long as it doesn’t “handcuff responsible developers.”

He pointed out as a successful compromise a slave cemetery discovered on the campus of Savannah State University. Officials proceeded with building a new science and technology center there, but only after archaeologists detailed their findings and relocated the remains.

“I’m not foolish enough to believe we’re all there was,” Johnson said. “We’re standing and walking on history every day.”

2018 PLACES IN PERIL

A.J. Gillen Department Store in Maxeys (Oglethorpe County)

Bibb City Elementary School in Columbus (Muscogee County)

Cuthbert Water Tower in Cuthbert (Randolph County)

Fire Station No. 2 in Rome (Floyd County)

Fort Valley Freight Depot in Fort Valley (Peach County)

Foster-Thomason-Miller House in Madison (Morgan County)

Kit Jones Vessel constructed on Sapelo Island (McIntosh County)

National Library Bindery Company in Atlanta (Fulton County)

Olmsted Linear Park Properties in Atlanta (DeKalb County)

Underground Savannah (Chatham County)

&&&&

Landers’ article was followed by this editorial in the Savannah Morning News:

Posted November 18, 2017 11:11 pm – Updated November 19, 2017 06:30 am

Editorial: Protect Underground Savannah

Last summer, Savannah State University officials broke ground on the construction of a $20.5 million science and technology building, but before they did they took the time to research whether they were building on the site of a former cemetery for slaves.

They also took time to honor the memories of those who may have toiled on that spot — part of the old Placentia Plantation — before going forward with the construction of the needed campus building. Archaeologists detailed their findings and respectfully relocated the remains of the dead.

The experience at SSU, and the due diligence that university officials did, showed proper respect for history and the past while not slowing down needed progress. It also helps illustrate why the city could benefit from having its own archaeology ordinance on the books to help save history and historic artifacts from earth-movers.

The lack of such an ordinance prompted the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to include “Underground Savannah” as one of 10 site on its 2018 list of “Places in Peril” released last Wednesday. The group called on Savannah to incorporate archaeology into its regulations.

“Many of the more recently constructed buildings have deep architectural footprints that have obliterated any archaeological potential beneath them,” the “Places in Peril” report states. “Savannah has no archaeological ordinance that requires comprehensive archaeological study in advance of a site’s destruction. As a result, countless archaeological sites have been destroyed. Unmitigated development continues across Savannah, moving into areas where archaeological sites have managed to survive thus far. Savannah’s current public policy needs to incorporate archaeology into its regulations.”

The regulation doesn’t have to be an ordinance, it could come instead in the form of incentives to encourage archaeology, said Georgia Trust CEO and President Mark McDonald. The Georgia Trust is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit preservation groups — its missions include reclaiming, restoring and revitalizing the state’s historic sites, from the obscure to the well-known. Mr. McDonald knows Savannah well, as he is a former president of the Historic Savannah Foundation.

The idea of an ordinance to help preserve historic treasures that may be underground here isn’t new. Indeed, only a year ago, Savannah archaeologist Philip Ashlock pushed the city to protect sites that may be historically significant. He urged Savannah to join other historic communities that have such protections, including St. Augustine, Fla., Beaufort County, S.C. and Alexandria, Va. Alexandria’s law has been on the books for about 24 years and is considered a model for the nation. During those 24 years, it has not been shown that the law imposed an unreasonable burden on developers or property owners — a typical objection to a new archaeological ordinance.

But last year’s push for a Savannah law failed to pick up traction, and the momentum for it slowed down, only to be renewed again by the Georgia Trust’s involvement.

Savannah City Council should give it a serious look. Indeed, federal law already requires an archaeological survey on land being developed with federal funds, and that law led to the discovery of ceramic shards and the possibility that Native Americans once had an encampment and brick wells at the site of the Chatham Area Transit’s Joe Murray Rivers Jr. Intermodal Transit Center on West Oglethorpe Ave. The shards had been hidden for about 1,500 years. That’s about 800 years before Gen. Oglethorpe landed here to found the Georgia colony.

The federal law helped reveal important evidence about this area’s past that otherwise would have been lost. Indeed, it’s highly likely that more evidence was destroyed in the 1960s during construction of the former Greyhound Bus depot on that site before surveys were required for projects involving federal funds.

As it stands now, developers are able to excavate sites for hotels and other private projects all over the city without regard to whatever history or artifacts their buildings will pave over. This is not the developers’ fault. They have no legal responsibility to search their properties for remnants of the past. It is the fault of previous generations of Savannah leaders who were unwilling to protect such relics.

It seems to be a glaring inconsistency on Savannah’s part. The city has an historic preservation law, but won’t touch archaeological protection. That needs to change.

About a year ago, the Metropolitan Planning Commission wrote a voluntary policy to address this concern. Under that proposal, developers with large-scale projects could get permission to exceed the height limitation in their area by one story in return for devoting 4 percent of the project cost — up to $500,000 — on an archaeological survey and, if any money as left over, dedicate it to outreach and education.

This plan wasn’t ideal, but it was better than nothing. As a voluntary measure it couldn’t promise protection against paving over Savannah’s past unless the developer agreed. Besides, how many big projects would opt for digging in the dirt to gain a bonus floor when they can already get one in several other ways, like using higher-grade building materials or sustainable technology or public art?

Alexandria’s archaeological protection code offers a better way. Developers there can find out ahead of time, with help from city staff, whether the site they want is likely to require an archaeological survey. Not every piece of property does. In that way, developers can factor a survey into their location decisions and into cost estimates, which is only fair.

The MPC staff liked the Alexandria model, too, but twice before, in the 1980s and again in 2012, attempts to preserve Savannah’s hidden archaeological treasures stalled for lack of mayoral and city council support, which is why the voluntary policy emerged to help protect Savannah’s past and prevent it from being paved over and lost forever.

These untold stories include how Native Americans, slaves and ordinary Savannahians once lived. The stories of the rich and powerful are already well-chronicled, but they paint an incomplete picture of Savannah’s past.

A potential treasure trove of historical information could exist. A dig in Madison Square uncovered a trash-filled ditch from the time of the Revolutionary War. In Yamacraw Village there’s evidence of a Revolutionary War-era fort.

But because the city doesn’t compel or incentive developers to survey for artifacts before they build, it’s rarely done. And as development increases, these stories are being permanently lost.

It’s time to reverse the momentum in a reasonable way that doesn’t punish thoughtful developers. City leaders should show that they care as much about the city’s hidden history that’s underground as they do with the visible history that’s above ground.

&&&&

Then on November 22nd, Connect Savannah published this editorial by Jim Morekis:

Editor’s Note: ‘Underground Savannah’ in peril
By Jim Morekis
jim@connectsavannah.com
@jimmorekis

THE ANNUAL “Places in Peril” list released each year by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is usually heavy on old mansions and firehouses and train depots and the like.

This year, one entry encompasses a whole city — but a city you can’t see.

“Underground Savannah” comes in at number 10 on the list. The effort to include Savannah’s as-yet-undiscovered archaeological record on the yearly tally was spearheaded by Dan Elliott, President and Research Archaeologist at the Lamar Institute.

“We came up with the name as sort of a play on Underground Atlanta,” Dan explains. “Very little of the history from Savannah’s colonial era has seen the light of day.”

As unbelievable as it may sound, Dan says there really have only been two major scholarly excavations of Savannah’s past as a British colony, one dig in the Madison Square area and another in Battlefield Park near the Visitor’s Center.
click to enlarge This dig in Madison Square was made possible by a National Park Service grant. It wasn’t required by any local or state ordinance.

This dig in Madison Square was made possible by a National Park Service grant. It wasn’t required by any local or state ordinance.

The latter excavation, begun in 2005, resulted in the long-anticipated find of the Spring Hill Redoubt, a fortification used in the 1779 Siege of Savannah.

“There is some wonderful material, and there’s a lot more to be found underneath surrounding blocks. It’s a shame more attention’s not being paid to it,” Dan says.

“Savannah is a great showcase for things aboveground, but not so much for what’s under the ground,” he says.

Dan and his wife Rita Elliott, who serves as Education Coordinator & Research Associate at the Lamar Institute, say the inclusion of Underground Savannah on the Places in Peril list is intended to call attention to the dire need for an archaeological protection ordinance for the City of Savannah.

Surprised there’s not one already? You’re not alone.

“Everyone assumes Savannah, of all cities, would have an archaeological ordinance. When they find out we don’t have one at all, they’re usually shocked and appalled,” says Rita Elliott.

Rita says there are only 134 such local ordinances in the U.S., none in Georgia.

“The whole idea is for Savannah to have a well-constructed ordinance. It actually would be less of a pain to developers, because they’ll know from the get-go what’s involved,” Rita says.

When I mention to Rita that some people might welcome such an ordinance as an easy way to halt development projects they don’t like, she just laughs.

“99.99 percent of the time archaeology never, ever stops development. Really what we try to do is gather as much as we can before it’s destroyed,” she explains.

Currently, Dan says “The only real local archaeological protection is when a federal permit is involved. Typically around here it will involve a Corps of Engineers permitting process.”

At a time when Savannah is mulling over what to do with its visible Confederate monuments, this is a step Savannah can take to shine light on a much more diverse and appealing chapter in local history.

“This isn’t about monumental history, but about the stories not told. It’s about the women, about the enslaved people, about the everyday person,” says Rita.

Such untold stories would include Native American history too, they say, as in the recent case of a prehistoric shell midden discovered near Emmet Park.

While every new patch of concrete that’s poured means more history hidden, maybe forever, the Elliotts say it’s not too late.

“Cities don’t really erase archaeology as they develop. A city tends to build up like a layer cake,” Dan explains.

If you’re interested in seeing Savannah pass a local archaeological protection ordinance, Rita says the best thing you can do is contact your local elected representatives, from the Mayor on down.

“If this is something people really want to see, that’s the most helpful thing they can do to get it done,” she says.

&&&&

Hopefully the underground world of Savannah has been awakened and those above ground can hear and feel the rumblings beneath their feet. Savannah, bring out your dead.

….AND Happy Holidays!

Below is a video by Michael Jordan that discusses the history of historic preservation in Savannah. Perhaps he can make a sequel that addresses the archaeological resources of Savannah??? Michael?

 

Do you want to help discover a Revolutionary War battlefield?
July 10, 2017

Here’s your chance!
The July 25th deadline for registering the 11th AMDA is fast approaching. This Advanced Metal Detecting for the Archaeologist (AMDA) class is being offered at Bennington Battlefield in New York on August 25-27, 2017. More information is available at:

http://amda.modernheritage.net/

Or click this link:

benningtonINFOpacket

Join me, Rita, Chris, Jo and others for really good time! Or not.