Written by Phoebe Anagnos, 2023 SCDNR Archaeology Intern
This summer, I was privileged enough to work with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Archaeology team as an intern at the Parker Annex Archaeology Center. Each day, we had different lecturers who presented on a variety of fields related to archaeology. Each lecture, whether in person or virtual, was enlightening. However, a couple in particular stood out to me. We heard about climatology from Melissa Griffin, climate change archaeology from Dr. David G. Anderson, and how to communicate climate change from Julie Binz.
During the fall semester of this school year, I took an elective offered by Dr. Karl Rohr called “Ethics, Beauty, and the Environment”. In this small class, we explored the legal and moral aspects of conservation through field trips, videos, guest speakers, and readings. This class was one of the reasons I was inspired to work with SCDNR this summer. The presenters I previously mentioned educated us on the many factors of climate change, and then how they put heritage at risk. After we learned all the facts, we were taught how to effectively educate others on climate change. The purpose is to not only help people understand what is happening, but to also invoke a desire to help combat climate change and protect our lands.
Though many effects of climate change put SCDNR archaeological sites at risk, rising sea-levels is the most urgent. Sea-level rise is caused by a combination of two main factors: melting ice and seawater expansion. Global warming causes the melting of ice sheets and glaciers, which adds more water to oceans. Seawater expansion occurs when oceans absorb heat, thus increasing the volume of seawater. These two effects are contributing to the alarming rates of sea level rise.
Pockoy Island Shell Ring Complex (Pockoy) is a cultural site on Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve / Wildlife Management Area located on Edisto Island, SC. The site was comprised of two shell rings and dates to around 4,300 years ago. These ring-shaped structures were constructed by Native Americans from mainly shells such as oyster, whelk, periwinkle, and clam. Coastal erosion has taken an entire shell ring and the valuable information it held. Excavation plans for the surviving shell ring are being considered.
Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve, in Port Royal, SC is another SCDNR site that has been impacted by rising sea-levels. Fort Frederick is a British-made structure built in 1733. This poorly constructed fort was a joke to the forces, who quickly abandoned it. However, this site is significant for a couple of reasons. It is the oldest tabby surviving tabby fort in South Carolina. Tabby is a material unique to the coastal southeast, and is made from lime, sand, oyster, and other local materials. Fort Frederick is also where the Emancipation Proclamation was first read in the southern states. The intern cohort this summer has interacted with Fort Frederick artifacts and have thus learned much about the history and threatened future of the site. Rising sea-levels are increasing the already concerning rate of erosion at Fort Frederick. These intensifying effects are putting the future of this historical site and the story it tells at risk.
This summer I have learned how significant the work of archaeologists is. They give a voice to those who were never able to tell their story. Archaeologists are working against an environmental clock, while these people’s legacies rest in their hands. Uncovering and preserving the artifacts found at these sites answers questions about the past and can connect modern civilians to their ancestors.
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.