Liz Simpson | SCDNR Heritage Trust Program | Archaeology Intern
For the past six weeks I have worked as an intern with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Archaeology team washing and sorting a collection of artifacts that were recovered from an old house site located on Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve (Port Royal, S.C.).As a high school student getting to work with such an amazing group on this project was awesome, but more than that were the 24 beads that I and the other interns on this project have found. To you that might not sound like a lot. I mean if you only opened up a jewelry box, it would be perfectly normal for you to find a lot more than just 24 beads. Beads are on clothing and jewelry. I mean one necklace might contain a hundred beads, and are used for a ton of different arts and crafts programs. So they aren’t that rare, until you jump into the field of archaeology and the beads you find are from a house that is no longer standing – an archaeological house site – dating to somewhere between the 1780s and the 1830s.This is exactly what I was dealing with this summer.
The SCDNR Archaeology team has systematically excavated a ton of material from this site, and I have spent the last six weeks going through it and sorting it into what will be useful to keep for more detailed analysis. This house site has not been found on any of the maps in the area, so anything we can find archaeologically will be useful in telling the story of this place and the people who lived there. We found all kinds of things: sherds of pottery, smoking pipe stems and pipe bowls, clay marbles, glass stoppers, etc. We found so many interesting things, but my interest was caught by the beads. Finding 24 beads is in and of itself rare, but what was found was more than that. We have both glass beads – which is a little more common – and wooden beads. We also found beads of many colors. Dark blue beads are fairly common for this time period and area, but we also found pink and yellow and green and clear beads which are far rarer. These beads will help us tell the story of the people who lived in this home.
As of now, the people who lived in this house have lost their voice to history. The only things recorded about these people are what is written in their material culture. So, through analysis of the beads: looking into where they would have been made around this time, who would have had access to buy these beads, and even how they were made – we will learn so much more about these individuals, their community, and start to give them their voice in history. Learning who lived in this house will also tell us about the culture these individuals belonged to. History, as we know, is a story that we all rely on to know about the past. And as our information about the past grows so does the validity in the story of history. So, I am going to keep looking into the beads that were found on this site. I am going to keep looking for more facts so that our history is as true a story as we can make it.
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