New Savannah Bluff

In 2013, Brockington conducted a Phase I cultural resources survey and Phase II deep testing of the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam tract on the Savannah River in Aiken County, South Carolina. We completed these investigations for Tetra Tech, Inc. and the Blair Remy Corporation. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, reviewed the investigations as planning for a fish passage structure: this mitigation feature of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project will allow Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeon a migration path to spawn upstream on rocky shoals near the City of Augusta.

The cultural resources investigation consisted of background research, terrestrial archaeological survey, underwater archaeological survey, architectural evaluation, and a viewshed impact analysis. Our background research indicated that that the Mason’s Plantation site, a Mississippian mound complex, could extend into the project area. Pioneer archaeologist Charles C. Jones first reported the Mason’s Plantation site in 1838 as containing six mounds, with some then eroding into the river. The site was later described as the largest prehistoric mound complex in the Savannah River valley. GIS overlays of an 1853 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers map showed two remaining mounds were once very close to the project area. Since villages often surrounded ceremonial mounds in the Mississippian Period (AD 1100 to 1450), we suggested the fish passage study area could contain significant deeply buried archaeological deposits.

Our archaeological survey identified no above-ground evidence for the mounds, though geomorphological data indicated they could be deeply buried under flood alluvium. Cotton agriculture caused widespread and rapid erosion during the nineteenth century, with many feet of silt and sediment dumped along the river floodplain from Augusta to Savannah. We recommended a geomorphological investigation, and we excavated two deep trenches using a mechanical excavator as part of a Phase II investigation. We dug these trenches to a depth of four to five meters. Since they were much deeper than usual archaeological excavations, we brought in purpose designed steel trench boxes to protect the crew from collapsing trenches. The excavation was supervised by a Tetra Tech safety technician specializing in deep trenching operations. We identified nineteenth-century artifacts deeply buried on a historic surface at 170-180 cm, indicating the extreme depth of silt which built up during the last 150 years. No deeply buried prehistoric artifacts or remains were identified below the historic surface, though construction would not affect deposits below this depth.

SEARCH, Inc. assisted us on this project by conducting a submerged cultural resources investigation in the Savannah River, though they did not identify potentially significant submerged cultural resources. The New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam is recorded as the only historic structure within the study area. The historic lock and dam was completed in 1937, and is considered eligible for the National Register of Historical Places. A Viewshed Impact Analysis indicated construction of the fish passage would cause adverse visual effects. We recommended mitigation options, including on-site interpretive signage and historical documentation through the Historic American Engineering Record.

Employee Profile: CAROL POPLIN

Exhibit Planner at Brockington’s Charleston Office

Carol Poplin installing an exhibit.

Q: What is your role at Brockington, and how long have you worked for the company?

A: I have been part of the Brockington team since 1988 – 25 years this past February. Over the years I have had the opportunity to participate in just about every aspect of the company. These days I am having fun developing and writing exhibits with the History Workshop.

Q: How did you become interested in cultural resources management?

A: It all started with Egyptian mummies at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. As a kid I used to ride the Go Train into the city and spend hours wandering around the museum. That translated into a degree in archaeology at the University of Calgary. One of my professors ran a CRM firm which meant we always had a summer job. From the start, archaeology as a business was not a strange idea to me.

Q: Do you have a particular specialty or research interest?

A: Working in the Lowcountry for 23 years means you can’t help but be interested in plantation archaeology. While I ran the Charleston lab I got very interested in understanding European ceramics and how they reflected choice and status. I was particularly interested in the power of archaeology to reveal the lives of enslaved people.

Carol working on Wilson mansion bottle dump project.

Q: What do you think is a common misconception about cultural resources management or historic preservation?

A: I think there are a lot of misconceptions about archaeology, historic preservation, and CRM. There are the standard public misconceptions that archaeologists find gold, dig up dinosaurs, and look like Indiana Jones; that having your property placed on the NRHP means you can’t “do” anything with it. Then there is the professional misconception that “science” is only done by university-based archaeologists not in CRM. It seems like we have been complaining about these myths for years. Maybe efforts like the History Workshop and organizations like ACRA can start to make a difference.

Q: What is your favorite project that you have worked on while at Brockington?

A: There have been several projects that I have felt privileged to work on, but for sheer fun in the field and cool stuff, the Wilson mansion bottle dump will always be my favourite project. How can you beat digging up the garbage of people who spent $32,000.00 in 1920s money on flowers for a dinner party!

Q: Are you involved in preservation outside work?

A: Eric and I moved to Mount Pleasant in 1990 and have seen development eat up green space along the coast. While we certainly appreciate the comfortable living that development provided to us, these days we are trying to give back a little by participating in the East Cooper Land Trust, a community organization devoted to conserving natural spaces.

Carol and Teddy kayaking.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: I live in Charleston –it’s a vacation every day! A fun day for me is to pack a cooler, throw Teddy (our pup) and Eric in the car, and head to the beach. I also love spending time with our girls, kayaking, and enjoying all of the restaurants, theaters, and cultural events that the city has to offer.

Phyllis Rigney demonstrating lithic size grading and microware analysis.

Living Archaeology Weekend

On the weekend of September 21-22 Brockington helped celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Living Archaeology Weekend (LAW) in the Daniel Boone National Forest. Living Archaeology Weekend is an award-winning and nationally recognized public archaeology event. The free, two-day program offers high-quality educational experiences for school children and the general public. Demonstrations focus on American Indian and pioneer technology and lifeways, archaeology, and site preservation. LAW is held every September at the Gladie Learning Center in the Red River Gorge of eastern Kentucky, in the heart of a National Register of Historic Places district. Christy Pritchard sits on the steering committee and helps to coordinate materials and logistics for the event that serves 1000 5th graders and 1000+ members of the public every year. Phyllis Rigney captivated students this year with a demonstration on lithic size grading and microware analysis. The students were truly engaged in sifting, sorting, and learning about stone tool technology.

Historic Oakland Cemetery: Spirit of Oakland Tours

Historic Oakland Cemetery: Spirit of Oakland Tours

Members of the Brockington Atlanta office volunteered at Historic Oakland Cemetery on October 26. Oakland was established in 1850 as a rural garden cemetery and functions today as a City of Atlanta park. They feature Spirit of Oakland Tours every October, and this year Brockington was able to help out! Brockington volunteers were outfitted in period costumes and assisted with the guided tours featuring stories told by Oakland’s long time residents. A great time was had in one of the loveliest and most historic places in Atlanta.

Kad Henderson Presents Research on the Spanish Shipwreck, Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santiago Apostol

Over the past quarter Kad Henderson in Brockington’s Pensacola, Florida office has presented his thesis research on the Spanish shipwreck, Nuestra Señora del Rosario y Santiago Apostol, (Rosario), to various organizations across west Florida including the Emerald Coast Archaeological Society, the Bay County Public Library, and the Pensacola Sail and Power Squadron.

Rosario was a large frigate of the Armada de Barlovento which protected the interests of the Spanish Empire in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The ship had a brief, but active career that lasted until its loss in 1705 during a hurricane in Pensacola Bay, Florida. After a brief salvage operation, the ship was abandoned by the Spanish until rediscovered by a local sport diver in the 1980s.

Kad’s research focuses on ship’s design as a reflection of Spain’s growing New World empire. Specifically designed as an escort vessel for the large numbers of cargo ships crossing Spain’s overseas empire, the ship’s hull incorporates several design features enabling it to support extensive armaments. As the third largest ship in the Armada de Barlovento, Rosario was also one of the most powerful warships in the Caribbean at the time.

Kad will be presenting his research again in November at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference annual meeting in Tampa.

The History Workshop
City of Smyrna Civil War Exhibit

City of Smyrna Civil War Exhibit

In Mid-October, the History Workshop completed an exhibit for the City of Smyrna. Spread across three locations, the Smyrna Civil War exhibit explores the beginnings of this railroad town, the Civil War’s march through Smyrna, and its aftermath. Gerald Cox asked Mayor Max Bacon to find a home for these artifacts when he was gone. The Cox/Armstrong display will serve as a foundation for future donations of objects. Each location uses the Gerald Cox Collection of Civil War artifacts given to the city to tell the story. From rifles to artillery worms, a pocket watch to a Tiffany’s sword, the objects add tangible meaning and depth to the history of Smyrna and the Civil War. Panels detail the delaying action of the Battle of Smyrna right before the Battle of Atlanta. Delving deeper, the panels explain weaponry and the daily life that soldiers would have seen in the Atlanta Campaign. The lice comb on display that each soldier carried underscores the incredibly harsh life soldiers from the North and South faced. In the library, visitors can view a pocket watch dropped by one of the Union soldiers, and a panel telling the story of its owner – Thomas Ping from Kentucky. See the exhibits at City Hall, the Smyrna Library, and Brawner Hall – all on the second floor.

Featured Service:
Collections Management

Cannon ball being lowered into bath.

Civil War-era cannonball being lowered into an electrolysis tank.

Much of our shared heritage resides in the artifacts, field notes, historical documents, photographs, and other materials that historians, archaeologists, and other heritage researchers compile during individual research projects. Even the day-to-day documentation of the operation of a company or corporation describes the history of that agency, and should be maintained to ensure that we and our descendants can understand how we did things in the past, why we did certain things in the past, and how our actions of today are based on these past actions. Collections management attempts to preserve those materials that capture the information associated with our past or that reflect specific aspects of past, and permit its continued use today and in the future.

Collections Management involves the many activities associated with the laboratory processing of archaeological artifacts; the stabilization and conservation of archaeological and historical materials; the documentation/inventory of collections of artifacts, documents, or other materials; the development of policies and procedures that will help with the continued use and preservation of collections (whether, artifacts, documents, or whatever) of materials. As an outgrowth of laboratory services associated with archaeological projects and in concert with our archival services program, we offer complete collections management services to our clients. We can assist in:

  • Developing inventories of materials
  • Assessing the condition and needs of collection elements
  • Developing appropriate procedures and protocols for preserving and maintaining materials
  • Identifying staff and facility needs for housing collection
  • Conserving specific kinds of artifacts or materials
  • Developing procedures and protocols for the transfer of materials (to other collections or curation repositories) or for loaning materials from a collection to interested researchers
  • Preparing collections for long-term preservation within our client’s facilities or within one of the many repositories that accept materials located throughout the United States
  • Preparing inventories of materials within collections that may be funerary items or associated with particular Native American groups and subject to management under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Our collections management personnel are familiar with numerous families of databases. We have built project specific and client specific databases to assist our clients with their collections needs. These databases permit the rapid manipulation of artifacts, documents, other materials, and ensure that the locations and conditions of specific items can be monitored with ease.

Recent notable collections management projects:

  • Inventory and preparation of a catalog/database of previously unanalyzed collections of artifacts from Independence National Park , Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Organization and inventory of a collection of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia for the City of Smyrna, Georgia. This collection was the basis for the museum exhibit described above.
  • Management of the Veterans Curation Program laboratories

Current projects:

  • Helping the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park update their Collections Management Plan
  • Conserving a Civil War-era 10-inch solid shot obtained by the City of Isle of Palms, South Carolina, for future display in the City offices (shown in photo)
  • Assisting the Dupont Company’s Cooper River Plant in Berkeley County, South Carolina with the development of protocols for the maintenance and storage of the fabulous collection of artifacts, particularly slave-made colonowares, from recent archaeological excavation of the Dean Hall Plantation slave settlement.