by Marshal McGee
Ever since I was a young child watching History Channel documentaries, I have been enamored with the study and pursuit of archaeology. However, what they fail to disclose to the viewers of such programs are real, viable ways to practice every-day archaeology and what such a job really entails. So, in my senior year of college at Clemson University as an anthropology student, I was soon to be facing the very real challenge of how to apply my degree and obtain a job within my field (something increasingly harder these days). In this search, I came across an article similar to this one by my now co-worker Alyssa Jones, about her time spent as an intern on the SCDNR Archaeology team (the Cultural Heritage Trust). After reading about the interesting and varied work it offered, including taking pictures and practicing photogrammetry, attending a variety of workshops, and day-to-day lab work handling artifacts of extraordinary age and cultural importance, I decided I could not pass up the chance for such an opportunity at this internship.
One of the many reasons I came to love archaeology is that it intrinsically draws upon a wide range of disciplines and lends itself useful and relevant to many different fields of work and inquiry. As such, we were afforded many interesting trips to a variety of places around the state including: the University of South Carolina Herbarium, The Charleston Museum and the South Carolina State Museum, where we observed behind-the-scenes action and artifacts, as well as various archaeological sites such as Green’s Shell Enclosure Heritage Preserve and Sea Pines Shell Ring. We conducted archaeological surveys using shovel test pits to identify potential archaeological sites and took a crash course workshop in geographic information system (GIS). We even participated in a hands-on lecture and demonstration of primitive technology that involved, among other things, practicing with a very authentic replica of a Cherokee blowgun!
My fellow interns and I were also exposed to the astounding efforts involved in the conservation of sites at risk of erosion and various dangers due to impacts of climate, human activities and other such perils. Additionally, I was able to let my creative and artistic side show by photo documenting many of our excursions and subsequently editing the results, as well as learning more about practical aspects of museum/site displays, pamphlets and other such visual components.
The friendships and professional relationships that I have made during my time here are perhaps the best parts of my internship. Bringing together a diverse yet like-minded group of people, the men and women at the SCDNR Cultural Heritage Trust have helped inspire and motivate me with their tireless and carefully executed archaeological work to pursue a career of my own in this fascinating field.
Anthropology is a science of and for people. While there is objective good in the study of this discipline for its own aims, it also possesses an ability unique among other sciences to connect personally with the individual. The subfield of archaeology, as its subjects are primarily confined to the halls of history, relies even more so on the power of interpretation and presentation to make its material more relevant and potent to the public. This is not always an easy task; yet, with its dedicated and knowledgeable staff, public outreach, and conservation efforts, the folks of the Heritage Trust have done an astounding job and continue to enrich our appreciation of South Carolina’s unique history and culture.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.