The first innovation and development of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery in America occurred in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in the early 1800s. It remains an enduring mystery as to how these new ceramic methods were developed in that place and time, and how the techniques of clay choice, temper, and glaze developed over the following century. These potteries employed enslaved and free African-American laborers in the 19th century, and the stoneware forms also show evidence of likely African cultural influence on stylistic designs. Edgefield potteries thus present fascinating research questions of understanding technological innovations and investigating the impacts of African cultural knowledge and racial ideologies on a craft specialization during the historic period in America. This project entails an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and archaeological study of the first development in America of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery forms, the development of that South Carolina industry over time, and the impacts of racism and African cultural influences on those processes.
This project seeks to undertake detailed archaeological investigations of principal sites in Edgefield, conduct archival research, and start a multi-year community engagement and education program related to these subjects. Archaeological field schools and research teams at such pottery sites can explore both the production facility remains and the residential sectors for the enslaved and free African-American laborers. Primary research questions include: (1) examining the distribution of work areas and residential locations in each pottery site and analyze the degree of spatial segregation due to the impacts of slavery and racism; (2) understanding differential uses and development of those work and residential spaces, as reflected in archaeological features and artifact distributions, and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; (3) analyzing faunal and botanical remains to explore and contrast dietary and health patterns between residential sites and the degree to which variations correlate with different racial categories associated with the occupants; and (4) understanding the development and changes over time in the technologies of pottery production at these three manufacturing sites.
Join us at the Pottersville site for archaeology in the summer of 2016! We return for another season of field research on the amazing heritage and history of Edgefield pottery production.
Students and volunteers will work in supervised teams, learning to uncover the archaeological record as members of an investigative team, with skills employed by professional archaeologists. You receive training in the techniques of excavation, mapping, artifact classification, and contextual interpretation. Laboratory processing and analysis will also be ongoing during the field season. Evening talks by project staff, visiting archaeologists, and historians will focus on providing background on how field data are used to answer archaeological and historical research questions. Lodging will be provided at the beautiful Edgefield Inn. Mr. Bettis Rainsford, the owner of the Inn, has been incredibly supportive of our archaeology projects and provides rooms at a fraction of the usual rates for this elegant hotel. Download an application form here.