Cosette Scott | SCDNR Heritage Trust Program | Archaeology Intern
Structures of all kinds have been built by people throughout history. It is one of the three basic human needs to ideally survive, aside from food and water. Along Southeastern coastal areas such as Beaufort, South Carolina there are remains of tabby structures. This type of structure is believed to have been used during the 16th Century in Florida by Spanish explorers and by the British in Georgia and South Carolina in later years. The tabby mixture is made from lime, shell, sand, and water, which form a concrete-like material (Ivey 2022).
This summer I had the opportunity to work as an intern for the SCDNR Heritage Trust Program as an Archeology intern. Over the course of the internship, I worked on an educational subsistence garden that centers around a replica of a footprint of a tabby enslaved dwelling. The construction of this replica was built by master craftsman Rick Wightman in September of 2019, though due to the COVID-19 pandemic the next phases of the project like the planting of the garden were put on hold.
Until I began my internship, I had never heard the word tabby, let alone seen a structure made from it. Soon into my internship I quickly became acquainted with the tabby structure. The first and hardest part of my project was to clear the surrounding area of the structure. After a few days of weeding, sweating, and with the help of Gabe Donofrio from the SCDNR Archaeology team, the ground was clear.
The next step was to draw a plan view and profile views of the structure. I did this by measuring the inner and outer walls of the structure. Then, I drew a model of the structure on graph paper and drew a model digitally. These drawings allowed me to go back to the structure to locate the artifacts that are found embedded in the walls. This helped give me an idea of where it will be best to grow plants so as to not block the view of any of the artifacts.
Another portion of this project included the production of a 3D photogrammetric model of the structure. Photogrammetry is used by archeologists to look at features and stratigraphy, create 3D models of artifacts, and so much more. For my project, photogrammetry was used to expand the garden’s education and outreach potential in the future. On one overcast day this summer, Gabe Donofrio and I went out to take multiple photos of the structure. The reason overcast or cloudy days are the best for photogrammetry is that the sun is not out which would put part of the garden in shade and the other in harsh light. This lighting difference would interfere with the computer program’s ability to link photos together to create a 3D photogrammetric model.
The final parts of this project consisted of research on the plants that would be planted by an enslaved individual within a subsistence garden. I began this research by reading The Cooking Gene by Micheal W. Twitty, along with many other articles. Eventually, I compiled a long list of plants which I sorted by their use either edible or medicinal. I then drew up a detailed garden plan of where and what plants would be best to include.
Overall, this internship has taught me many valuable skills that I am excited to use in my future career. I also cannot wait to see how this tabby garden will be used by students and others when it is complete. Here are some links for more information about the tabby structure.
Fort Frederick Tabby Restoration film – https://vimeo.com/330071417
Tabby Garden – Enslaved Dwelling Footprint – 3D model by SCDNR-HTP (@SCDNR-HTP) – https://skfb.ly/owpFp
Ivey, Page. Tabby Architecture, Known as Coastal Concrete, Still Stands Strong After 300 Years.
https://discoversouthcarolina.com/articles/tabby-architecture-known-as-coastal-concrete-still-stands-strong-after-300-years. Accessed on 15 July 2022.
Twitty, Michael. The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African American Culinary History in the Old South. New York, HarperCollins Publisher, 2017.
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