A New Twist on Summer School

BY MEREDITH MASON
Report From Newport: Fall, 2013

Cultural and historic preservation field school integrates the past with the present.

When students “study away,” most do so in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home. Although Charleston, S.C. may not be a faraway place, five Salve Regina students chose to “study away” by participating in a four-week summer archaeological field school led by Dr. Jon Marcoux, assistant professor of cultural and historic preservation.

Open to all majors, the program allowed students to earn credit for cultural and historical preservation, sociology and anthropology, or American studies curriculum requirements.

According to Marcoux, the field school had three primary goals: To train students in fundamental archaeological field methods and excavation techniques, to have students work closely with experts to tackle a real-world research project and to show students how the past is related to the modern cultural experience of the Lowcountry region through historic preservation.

“The last goal was accomplished by housing students on the College of Charleston in the heart of the city,” Marcoux says. “Students were encouraged to see, hear and taste the uniqueness of Charleston and the Lowcounty through excursions to important historical and cultural sites, attractions and restaurants.”

Melissa Andrade ’14, Alison Cutter ’14, Jillian Diffendaffer ’14, Sigourney Faul ’15 and Shannon Salome ’15 began their field work on May 28. On a typical day, Marcoux and his students left for the site at 7:30 a.m.

“There are several procedures that need to be followed to conduct an official archeological dig, including mapping, retrieving various sample of soil and taking notes of your specific excavation, just to name a few,” Faul explains.

The first phase of the field school took place at a 30-acre grass field that was likely an Indian village occupied sometime around 1700. As a part of a collaborative project with the College of Charleston, the Charleston Museum, the Historic Charleston Foundation and the Archaeological Research Collective, Inc., the second phase of the field school, where students spent the majority of their time, was located at the site of the New World plantation St. Giles Kussoe.

Salome, a cultural and historic preservation major, decided to participate in the field school after taking Introduction to Historical Archaeology with Marcoux. “I did not expect to fall in love with archaeology as I did during this program,” she says. “Working at the Lord Ashley plantation was amazing, and it opened my eyes to the incredible possibilities and opportunities that could be in store for me in the future.

Marcoux said there were three very important discoveries made during this field season. “First, we found a lot of broken pieces of pottery made by Native Americans who were trading at the plantation or were perhaps enslaved laborers,” he says. “This style of the pottery is most commonly found in Georgia and East Tennessee. To me, this means that Native American groups from hundreds of miles away came to this plantation – by choice or by force.

“Second, we found the mostly intact remains of a brick building foundation along with the base of a chimney,” Marcoux continues. “Build around 1674, this may be the oldest evidence for a brick foundation in the Carolinas. Lastly, and perhaps most satisfying, we were able to confirm the existence of a defensive moat surrounding the core of the site.”

“I had no idea what to expect entering this field school, and it has turned out to be one of the most important things I’ve done with my life thus far,” Salome says. “I grew a great deal as an individual, made a great group of new friends, experienced a different culture and began to see my future more clearly.”

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