Week 3, Day 5 — Jess Hendrix

Today was our last day working at Brookgreen Gardens.  We had a guest speaker join us today, Mr. Robert Sollott.

Bricks might seem a little dull, but looking at them in the right way tells a lot about how a house was built.

He reconstructs historic homes and buildings, so he has a great deal of knowledge about old brick foundations and the type of materials used to construct the houses and other buildings our team is encountering on the site.

Around 8:30 a.m. we arrived at the “street” of houses for the enslaved Africans at The Oaks where we have been working for the past two days. Shortly after we unloaded our gear out of Black Beauty, and a quick briefing of the day’s events our team split into two groups. Allison, Meghan, Lindsay, and Chris worked on the excavation unit we opened yesterday in House 2.

After fallen bricks were moved out of the unit, the excavators found bits of clamshell-based mortar and many nails.

Julia, Andrew, and I began to dig a series of shovel test pits every ten feet along the dirt parking area, which was in the middle of the old slave village.

A shovel test is a hole about the size of a dinner plate, which is dug 65cm or 100cm down from the surface of the ground.

The shovel test is designed to reveal stratigraphy and document artifact chronology and density.

Screening the dirt from a shovel test captures artifacts for inspection.

All of the earth removed from the hole is sifted through screens so that any artifacts that may be dug up can be collected. The purpose of the shovel tests was to gain an understanding of what archaeological resources might be under to parking area.

Around 10 o’clock about 12 Brookgreen Gardens staff members arrived at the site to see what kinds of things our team was doing. After showing the guests our work, our team took a break to join the guests in listening to Mr. Sollott tell us about the many brick piles on the site. He told us how the brick pile might have come to be there and why the piles looked the way they did.

Recycled bricks connected by mortar help define house characteristics.

He also told us how the brick piers present on the site could allow us to gain a mental image of the basic layout of some of the houses and various buildings. That in turn would allow us to picture how the village may have looked during its occupancy. After Mr. Sollott‘s talk our team split back into the same two groups and continued our work while Dr. Ward guided our guests to see some previously unreported houses in the southern part of the site.

Thanks to all the Brookgreen staff for their help and interest!

We had a good lunch at the site around 12. After about an hour of resting, eating, and rehydrating, it was back to work. The excavators at House 2 were able to recover several broken bottles, brick, shell mortar, discarded clamshells and oyster shells, a few rusty nails, and several pig teeth. The shovel tests proved to be very beneficial in helping to establish the importance of the parking area as an archaeological resource. Many things were found in the sifted sandy soil of the shovel tests including broken glass, pieces of ceramics, shell, and even a broken piece of a clay pipe stem.

Right at 2 p.m. the Brookgreen bus pulled up to take us back to our cars. We quickly filled in the excavation unit and many shovel tests and with much haste we loaded up Black Beauty with all of our gear and collected artifacts. We piled onto the bus, relieved to be out of the heat and humidity. The air-conditioned bus drove us back to our cars where we reluctantly stepped off the bus and back into the heat, but only long enough to walk the short distance to our cars. Once we were safely back in our air-conditioned cars we headed back to camp, looking forward to building a raft for a race in Conway on Saturday.

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