How can I help?

I occasionally get emails asking how non-students can help or volunteer with Digging Savannah. Most are eager to help with hands-on work like excavation or washing artifacts. But when these opportunities arise, we give them to the students. Unfortunately, at this point we are not a big enough organization to have enough work for any volunteers of this kind. But there are many projects we could be doing!

Archaeology does need more support at many different levels. Here is how you can help (in rough order of importance):

  1. Contact your local officials including the mayor, city council, county commissioners, and Metropolitan Planning Commission staff. Emails are ok, but calling and setting up in person meetings are the way to be remembered and really make your concerns known. Speak up at a city council meeting or county commissioners meeting. Tell them we need a city ordinance requiring archaeology before development, and we need a city archaeologist like St. Augustine, Fl and Alexandria, Va.
  2. Sign the petition for an archaeological ordinance.
  3. Give to the Meredith Avery Memorial Anthropology Fund. Part of Armstrong State University’s giving program, this fund is used for unique, out-of-the-classroom experiences for our students, such as excavations sponsored by Digging Savannah and other field trips.
  4. Join preservation groups like Historic Savannah Foundation and let them know that you care about more than just buildings and structures.
  5. Vote. Local elections are a great way to have your voice heard.
  6. Contact Armstrong State University officials and tell them Digging Savannah is a great program that deserves continued support.
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Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School

I posted some pictures on Instagram and Facebook about our project at the Benedictine Monastery and Freedmen’s School, but I have not had a chance to share more about the project.

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Students digging on site.

First a bit of history

After the Civil War, Savannah’s Catholic diocese invited Benedictines from Europe to start schools for African-American children.  In 1874, St. Benedict’s Parish was created and the monks built a successful school on Perry Street in Savannah. In 1876, they expanded to a school on Isle of Hope. Unfortunately, most of the monks and students succumbed to a yellow fever outbreak.

So the Benedictines turned to Hampton Place, a plantation on Skidaway Island originally purchased by the Catholic diocese to start an orphanage. Those plans were halted when the plantation’s main house was lost to fire. The property was turned over to the Benedictines for a manual labor school, meaning the students would spend part of their day in school and the rest working in the fields. The students wouldn’t pay tuition, but instead the crops produced would be sold to support the school. In September 1878 when classes begin, there are 500 people, mostly African-American, living on Skidaway Island, none Catholic.

There were many challenges facing the monks. First, the concept of a manual school was incompatible with many ex-slaves desires for their children. They wanted students to get an education so they could leave the fields for better jobs and opportunities. Also, all of the families were Protestant, and the Protestant preachers were not supportive of the Catholic school. Lobbying from white Protestants on the mainland encouraged Chatham County to open a public school soon after ,and many students attended the public school. The Benedictines’ school also never made enough money from agriculture and relied on support from the local diocese. In 1881 there were 8 teachers and 12 students. By 1883 there were still only 20 students. An 1889 tidal wave ruined Skidaway Island’s fresh water sources and ended the school.

Methodology: Phase I

The project began with historical and archaeological research into Benedictine monasteries and freedmen schools. In the literature search conducted so far, we have found no other similar sites that have been investigated, which makes this site even more important.

The Spring 2016 semester is devoted to Phase I research, or survey. We need to learn what is still present on the site and how well preserved the site is. Our research questions include:

  • Is this definitely the site of the Benedictine monastery and freedman school?
  • How much of the site is preserved? Which portions of the site have been preserved?
  • Is there evidence of earlier or later occupations on the site?
  • What is the layout of the buildings and other living spaces?
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Laying out the grid and shovel test locations.

Students taking Introduction to Archaeology were the field crew for this project. The fieldwork was shovel test pits, which are one-foot diameter holes dug in a grid pattern over the site. We added judgmental locations as necessary to investigate architectural ruins present. Each shovel test was described and mapped. Shovel testing gives us a small sample of the artifacts and soil layers still present. Soil is equally, if not more, informative as artifacts. Different colors of soil and how the soil is layered can tell us much more than the artifacts. For example, when digging a privy, we can test for parasites and other diseases in the soil. We can see where postholes were dug and later wooden posts decayed by examining soil stains. Where we find artifacts within the site and the soil layers are important clues to history.

Lab work and analysis is being conducted in the Armstrong State University Anthropology Lab. Introduction to Archaeology students washed artifacts. After the artifacts dried, they were placed in archival plastic bags. Artifacts are currently undergoing analysis, and the technical report is being written.

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Students wash artifacts in the anthropology lab.

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“Dave the Potter” documentary this Thursday

Read more about the documentary, including an interview with Archaeologist George Wingard, in Jessica Leigh Lebos’ article in the Connect Savannah.

WHAT: Digging Savannah is hosting a screening of the documentary “Discovering Dave– Spirit Captured in Clay” about the literate slave potter Dave who worked in South Carolina’s Edgefield District. A Q&A with the filmmaker and archaeologist George Wingard will follow the film.

WHERE: Armstrong State University, Student Union Ballrooms

WHEN: January 22, 2015 at 6pm (this Thursday)

Parking on the Armstrong campus

Parking on the Armstrong campus

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Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay

We are excited to announce the documentary, Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay, is coming to Armstrong on January 22 at 6pm. Scrapbook Video Productions and the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program produced this historical documentary film about Dave, a literate slave potter from the Edgefield District of South Carolina. Dave’s pots and jars give us a unique and rare opportunity to learn more about Dave as an individual as well as South Carolina’s Edgefield District potteries. The film has been snapping up awards left and right. Don’t miss it! Our screening will be January 22 at 6pm on the second floor of Armstrong’s Student Union Center. Click here for more detailed information in our press release.

San Diego Film Festival 3

Parking on the Armstrong campus

Parking on the Armstrong campus

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Dr. David Hurst Thomas Archaeology Lecture this Thursday!

November 6
Distinguished archaeologist Dr. David Hurst Thomas will be speaking about his work on St. Catherines Island. Encompassing nearly 40 years of work, Dr. Thomas has excavated Native American sites 5,000 years old through to the 16th century Spanish mission, Santa Catalina de Guale. Bishop Hartmayer will introduce Dr. Thomas and speak about the importance of archaeology and the Spanish mission site. The lecture will take place at Benedictine Military School at 6pm. Many thanks to our co-sponsor, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah.

Dig Sav poster Fall2014_DHT_ad-page001

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Archaeology Guided Hike this Saturday!

November 1 at Skidaway Island State Park
Skidaway Island Guided Hike: Spanning more than 5,000 years of history and prehistory, the park’s archaeology sites give us the opportunity to trace Skidaway Island’s past from Late Archaic Native Americans to the 20th centuryThe hike starts at the Big Ferry Trail head at 3pm and is $10 per person (this includes your park pass) or free for Friends of Georgia State Parks members. Buy tickets or RSVP at Eventbrite.com.

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Digging Savannah Events for Fall 2014

Upcoming Digging Savannah Events for the Fall of 2014:

October 25
Walking Tour of Downtown Savannah: Savannah is famous for its beautiful historic downtown, but the ground beneath your feet is just as historic. Learn about the unseen and forgotten archaeology sites. The tour starts at the flagpole at Battlefield Park (next the railroad museum) at 3pm. Tickets available at Eventbrite.com.

November 1
Skidaway Island Guided Hike: Spanning more than 5,000 years of history and prehistory, the park’s archaeology sites give us the opportunity to trace Skidaway Island’s past from Late Archaic Native Americans to the 20th centuryThe hike starts at the Big Ferry Trail head at 3pm and is $10 per person (this includes your park pass) or free for Friends of Georgia State Parks members. Buy tickets or RSVP at Eventbrite.com.

November 6
Distinguished archaeologist Dr. David Hurst Thomas will be speaking about his work on St. Catherines Island. Encompassing nearly 40 years of work, Dr. Thomas has excavated Native American sites 5,000 years old through to the 16th century Spanish mission, Santa Catalina de Guale. Bishop Hartmayer will introduce Dr. Thomas and speak about the importance of archaeology and the Spanish mission site. The lecture will take place at Benedictine Military School at 6pm.
Many thanks to our co-sponsor, the Catholic Diocese of Savannah.

Fall 2014 Digging Savannah Poster

Fall 2014 Digging Savannah Poster

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Digging Savannah @ PastForward

Digging Savannah @ PastForward

We’ll be offering a field study at PastForward, the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference this November. 

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Questions about archaeology?

Have you ever found an artifact on your property? Did you wonder what to do with it? Perhaps you know of an archaeology site on your property but aren’t sure how to protect it. Digging Savannah has a new resource for you. Download our brochure to find the answer to these questions and other practical tips for landowners and developers.

Learn about:

  • protecting archaeology sites on your property
  • developing your property without destroying archaeology sites
  • private property laws and archaeology sites
  • how the National Historic Preservation Act might affect your business
  • when and where it is legal to dig for artifacts
  • when you should not dig for artifacts
  • how to report archaeological finds

 

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Spring 2014 public programs

Digging Savannah will be offering three public walking tours, and the ArchaeoBus will be returning for two days.  More detailed information is available in Upcoming Programs.

February 22 and April  5- Skidaway Island Guided Hike

Spanning more than 5,000 years of history and prehistory, the park’s archaeology sites give us the opportunity to trace Skidaway Island’s past from Native Americans to moonshiners. AASU archaeologist Laura Seifert will lead the hike, which starts at the Big Ferry Trail head. The hike is $10 per person (this includes your park pass) or free for Friends of Georgia State Parks members. Buy tickets here.

March 15- Walking Tour of Downtown Savannah

Savannah is famous for its beautiful historic downtown, but the ground beneath your feet is just as historic. Learn about the unseen and forgotten archaeology sites. AASU archaeologist Laura Seifert will lead the tour, which starts at the flagpole at Battlefield Park (next the railroad museum) at 2pm. The tour is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to diggingsavannah@gmail.com or via the Facebook event site.

The ArchaeoBus

The ArchaeoBus will be returning to Savannah! On February 28, Abby the ArchaeoBus will be on  the Armstrong campus (10am-4pm). Armstrong students and home school students are particularly encouraged to attend. Then on March 1, the ArchaeoBus will be in the Savannah Mall, free and open to the public from 10am to 5pm.

Abby the Archaeobus, a creation of the Society for Georgia Archaeology, is a former bookmobile retrofitted with archaeology hands-on activities. Abby travels throughout the state, visiting school groups, giving presentations, and even touring the State Fair!

Archaeobus

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