Exploring South Carolina’s Past: My Archaeology Internship

by Alyssa Jones

Over the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Cultural Heritage Trust team at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR). The team is comprised of archaeologists and natural resource technicians.  This was a dream come true because when I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be an archaeologist.  And yes, I knew how to spell it back then.  Being a Cultural Heritage Trust intern also sounded like a fantastic opportunity because it would allow me to experience different work environments and work projects.

The first two weeks of the internship were a whirlwind of experiences for the interns; we went on field trips to some of the heritage preserves around the state, we sorted shells and washed artifacts from Pockoy Island Shell Ring, a 4,400 year old archaeological site on Botany Bay Heritage Preserve, and we helped with shovel testing on Wateree River Heritage Preserve so that archaeological sites could be identified. It was exciting, crazy, and exhausting (in a good way). I loved it, but I learned that I don’t like digging. I also learned that chiggers and mosquitoes are basically everywhere, and you should always partner with someone whose Thermacell is already on. The first month of the internship was all about experiencing different facets of the work done by the SCDNR’s Cultural Heritage Trust team around the state and at the Parker Annex Archaeology Center, but that wasn’t the end of the fun.

 

The Guignard Clay Quarry Trail Loop on the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve property

In July, I started my assigned Cultural Heritage Trust projects, which included some things I knew about mixed with some things that were completely new. For the last several weeks, I have been updating the Cultural Heritage Preserves kiosks, which takes much longer than I ever thought it would. For this project, I’ve been practicing newly learned skills with ArcGIS and InDesign, but also refreshing my researching skills. Recently, I have been working on a handout for an upcoming exhibit opening for the Parker Annex Archaeology Center. Although it is not a Cultural Heritage Preserve, Parker Annex is home to SCDNR’s Cultural Heritage Trust team.  I had no idea I would be chasing answers and only finding more questions along the way. Researching Parker Annex has led me from internet searches, cemetery surveys and maps, the library, and the Department of Archives and History. My favorite part of this internship has been updating the kiosks and creating a handout for Parker Annex. I get to do some of my favorite things for one assignment:  researching, writing and being creative.

 
Looking at photograph transparencies, photographs and negatives at the Department of Archives and History.

Another interesting aspect of being part of this team is getting the chance to interact with the public, which is always fun. I’ve gone to internship, camp and volunteer fairs before, but I will never forget the Heathwood Hall Internship/Learning Service Fair.  Unlike any of the other fairs that I’ve been to, I was representing an organization that was very new to me.  That day, I represented the SCDNR Aquatic Education program alongside the SCDNR Diversity Outreach and Cultural Heritage Trust.  I talked with the public who visited my table about the activities and teaching opportunities available at the SCDNR, and sent them to the South Carolina Wild website so they could search for the internship opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and read blogs to learn more about what interns do.

Presenting information about the SCDNR aquatic education program at the Heathwood Hall Internship Fair

Not only have I tried shovel testing and design, but I’ve also tried my hand at photography! Below are two of my favorite photos taken on the Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve.

Being an intern at the SCDNR has been a great learning opportunity. The Cultural Heritage Trust team is amazing; always knowledgeable and willing to help the interns when we have no idea what we’re doing.  I’ve had an amazing supervisor, Meg Gaillard, who taught me how to use InDesign, take better photographs, and introduced me to a plethora of other learning opportunities.  The whole team is amazing, and I can only hope to work with people half as interesting in the future.  I never thought I would learn so much and have such a great time during an internship.  Thank you for the opportunity!

For more information about the SCDNR Heritage Trust Archaeology Program and the Parker Annex Archaeology Center, visit heritagetrust.dnr.sc.gov.