Unna Yared continues our student series with a personal reflection and a newcomer’s view of Savannah and its historic and archaeological importance.
A Push for Local Archaeology
Our history tells the story of who we are and where we came from. It can help to shape our future through lessons from the past. One major way we gain information about the past is through artifacts found using archaeological methods. Savannah is an example of a city rich in history. That history contributes heavily to an ever growing tourist industry, in the form of multiple museums to year-round ghost tours. A sense of unique identity can be attributed to the city’s architecture and artifacts. Now, this cherished history is in danger due to the increasing demand for newer buildings without the proper archaeological ordinance in place to protect the very history that makes Savannah the city we all know and love.
An archaeology-specific ordinance would go beyond the protection of architecture and surface level landmarks. According to Citylab.com, a new archaeological ordinance in Savannah would allow for developers to continue building in Savannah, however now a “city-appointed archaeologist” could help oversee the project to ensure artifacts were being handled properly. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation actually listed the city as one of the 2018 “Places in Peril” due to the serious lack of local archaeological regulations (Savannahnow.com). A push to protect Savannah’s underground history is not new. For years, advocates, educators, and historians have tried to create positive change in favor of this ordinance to no avail. So if we know that this is an important issue that affects the city of Savannah as a whole, what can we do to convince lawmakers this is worthwhile?
The main concern, as it is in most other things, deals with money. Developers worry an ordinance while affect their construction projects with no real incentive on their end to care about the preservation of these subterranean artifacts. Since Savannah is a growing city that relies on corporations and businesses to continue building in the area, local government cares about their opinions and if an ordinance will affect construction. However, Savannah’s history is one of the biggest pushes for tourism, especially in the downtown area. More artifacts equal more history, which equals more potential tourism and money. The visible architecture and structures are not the only historical part of Savannah worth preserving. If archaeologists have the chance to find more artifacts that add to this history, tourists will come. Aside from the increased business and money this could bring to the city, incentives for the developers themselves may be a strong way to push for this ordinance. As much as archaeological research should be about the preservation of our history, unfortunately the reality is that money very much matters to the people who make these kinds of decisions.
I have only lived in Savannah for the past three years, but something about the city has stood out to me more than simply the good food, beautiful buildings, and even the history. It is the sense of pride held by those who get to call Savannah home. To those that are proud to be Savannah natives, I challenge you to do even further research on this ordinance. These artifacts are part of the reason why Savannah is the city you all love today. If you want to ensure that this city keeps growing to be as great as it always has been, then get involved with local government. Push for an ordinance to be included on the next ballot. Do whatever you can to highlight the rich history of the city so all of us may have better knowledge of the past instead of only narrow-minded concern for the future.
“Archaeologists Are Worried About Savannah’s Building Boom.” CityLab. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2018.
“Georgia Trust: Savannah’s Underground History in Peril.” savannahnow.com. N. p., 2018.
Web. 26 Feb. 2018.
“Is This Southern City the New Brooklyn?” Vogue. N. p., 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2018.