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A Decade of PIT Projects

Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests, South Carolina, 1989-1999
by Robert Morgan, Heritage Program Manager

The Francis Marion and Sumter NFs have a tradition of using challenge cost-share partnerships with academic and other research institutions to conduct archaeological research. The results of three projects will be highlighted here: Chattooga, Mims Point, and Waterhorn Plantation.

The first project, archaeological research at the 18th-century Cherokee Indian town of Chattooga on the Sumter NF, was conducted by the University of Tennessee (UT) and the Francis Marion NF from 1989 through 1994. In 1991, this was the site of the first-ever PIT volunteer project in the FS Southern Region. PIT volunteers worked with UT archaeological field school students, returning again in 1992 and 1993. PIT members assisted in all of the major aspects of fieldwork, including site survey, controlled surface collection, excavation, and remote-sensing magnetometer work.

The focus of the Chattooga Archaeological Project was to define the nature of the historic Cherokee occupation at the site and compare this with what is known from excavations of other 18th-century Cherokee sites. The site was abandoned by the 1740s, but it retains evidence of early-18th-century Cherokee material culture patterns. This period is poorly represented or difficult to define on other excavated Cherokee sites.

Results of the project include the identification and partial excavation of five superimposed council houses and the excavation of two winter structures and one summer domestic structure. Surface collection, test pit excavation, and remote-sensing information have established the location of additional buildings and features with minimal disturbance to the site. Two UT anthropology students wrote their master’s theses based on surface-collection and remote-sensing data from this site. This is still an active research project, and publications reporting the findings are forthcoming.

The second challenge cost-share project involved archaeological research at the prehistoric Mims Point site on the Sumter NF, conducted by the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1992, 1993, and 1995. PIT volunteers joined FS archaeologists and institute personnel during the first field season.

During the 1992 investigations, more than two dozen features from the Middle Archaic, Late Archaic, and Late Woodland periods were found and recorded. Volunteers assisted in all aspects of the work, which included site mapping, small unit testing, and large block excavation.

The third project, archaeological and historical research at the site of Waterhorn Plantation on the Francis Marion NF, was conducted by Yale University. PIT volunteers worked side by side with FS personnel and student volunteers from Yale.

This study focused on the development of low-country South Carolina plantations and their connection to rice agriculture. Results of this research are published in a dissertation that examines the relationship between the rice industry and low-country society during the years 1760 through 1830.
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