Foodways and Archaeology of the Lowcountry
By Martha A. Zierden,The Charleston Museum
When European settlers arrived in Carolina in the late 17th century, they encountered a bountiful land, teeming with fish, game, and a variety of natural resources. Salt marshes, barrier islands, high land dominated by longleaf pine, and freshwater hardwood swamps characterized the lowcountry. Numerous rivers traverse the coastal plain, creating natural harbors and transportation routes.
Figure 1 - Dining wares recovered from the Heyward Washington house, late 18th century.
Lowcountry residents of all backgrounds took advantage of the bounty of the woods and waters of the coastal plain. A host of wild game, fish, and shellfish formed the basis of many lowcountry dishes. While they voiced preferences, documents and zooarchaeology suggest that lowcountry residents consumed a wide range of animals throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Domesticated meats included beef, pork, and poultry. A range of vegetables - peas, beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, peanuts - could be grown on the fertile sea islands. The environmental and economic success of rice made this grain the basis of lowcountry diet and cuisine. The wealth derived from plantation agriculture made accessible a variety of wines, spices, and delicacies through the trans-Atlantic trade.
Lowcountry cuisine is a combination of European, African, Native American, and West Indian influences and recepies with foods native to, or successfully cultivated in the lowcountry. Each group introduced elements, preferences, and preparations into the cuisine. West Africans, responsible for most of the cooking, were likely the main shapers of coastal foodways.
Figure 2 - A portion of the 1739 Roberts and Toms map, showing the location of the market at Meeting and Broad streets (N).
For residents of the growing port city of Charleston, the public market was one source for the desirable and the necessary foods. Charleston's market square was established in 1692, and was likely an open, informal area. The Charleston market was formalized, both legally and architecturally, by 1740. Twenty years later the market was again improved, and renamed the Beef Market.
By the early 18th century, street vendors competed with formal markets. In Charleston, this group was dominated by black women. Slaves from the countryside sold their own eggs, chickens, and garden produce, and worked for their own wages with permission of their owners. Enslaved men dominated the fishing industry.
Architectural evidence of the 1760 market included a continuous brick foundation. A hard-packed sand surface, surmounted by water-washed sand filled with small fragments of hacked bone, may be an original market surface. Associated post holes along the center of the market and outside the south wall may have supported a series of hooks and pegs for displaying meats and other produce.
The market evidently sold all types of meats and foodstuffs. A rich array of wild game and fish, as well as the range of domestic mammals, were recovered from market proveniences. Moreover, the meat available at the market became more diverse even as the market's designation was changed to suggest a narrower role.
Figure 3 - ASSC Board member Andrew Agha excavates a deposit of ash from the fire of 1796. The foundation of the Beef Market, and an associated drain system, are exposed in the foreground.
In order to better understand the source of meats for urban residence, The Charleston Museum tested the City market site in 1984, and returned for extensive excavations inside City Hall (as part of building renovation) in 2004. Despite the construction of City Hall in 1800, the 18th century site was well preserved. Seven superimposed zones, deposited from the 1690s to the 1790s, include soil layers that appear natural and midden layers that reflect construction and refuse accumulation. All contained refuse deposits associated with the market, including dense bone deposits.
Finally, the zooarchaeological data from the market, and from dozens of residential sites, suggest the market, despite its centrality, was not the only source of meat for urban residents. This is true for both wild and domestic meats, including beef. Wild resources could have come from a property owner's plantation, hunted or trapped by the owner or his resident slaves. The overarching result of the zooarchaeological analysis of Charleston sites - the market, the public establishments, and the homes - is that there was no simple, unidirectional flow of meats from countryside through commercial outlets to residential ones. Instead, meats were acquired, processed, and distributed through several channels.
Figure 4 - A 1770s provenience from the Beef Market, beneath City Hall. Animal bone dominates the assemblage.
Martha Zierden is Curator of Historical Archaeology at the Charleston Museum and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
George Washington, Barbados, and Archaeology: An American-Barbados ConnectionRead the Featured Article
By Michael J. Stoner and Karl Watson
Figure 1:The c. 1720's George Washington House as it looks today. (Photo courtesy of the Barbados National Trust),
Figure 2:UWI undergraduate Modupe Sodeyi (lower left) and Dr. Karl Watson (center) explain to Prime Minister Owen Arthur (right) the archaeology process. (Photo by Stoner),
Figure 3:UWI Students skillfully excavated each Test Unit. (Photo by Stoner),
Figure 4: Barbadian redware, like this chamber pot with a white-slipped interior, was excavated among other the eighteenth-century artifacts. (Drawing by Stoner),
Michael Stoner is Research Archaeologist at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and can be reached at email@example.com
Karl Watson is Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Barbados.
Archaeologically Testing a Tabby Ruin on Callawassee Island, South Carolina
by Stanley South
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Figure 1: Interior view of the Tabby Point ruin, with the Sullivan garage apartment in the background.,
Figure 2: The southeast corner of the landscaped tabby ruin owned by William and Shanna Sullivan on Callawassie Island, South Carolina.,
Dr. Stanley A. South is Research Professor at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured ArticleMount Dearborn Project (38CS307):
Initial Survey of an Early 19th Century Arsenal,Big Island, Great Falls, South Carolina
by Jonathan Leader
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Figure 1: Military Affairs Map.,
Figure 2: Mt Dearborn Map.,
Figure 3: Jon et al.,
Figure 4: Robert Mills Watercolor.,
Figure 5: Bricks.
Figure 6: 1809 Macomb map showing plans of public buildings at Mt. Dearborn.
Dr. Jonathan Leader is South Carolina State Archaeologist and can be reached at email@example.com
2006 at the Kolb Site
by Carl Steen and Chris Judge
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Figure 1: Two later features intruding on an earlier Thoms Creek pit that extends diagonally from the top left to the bottom right corners.,
Figure 2: Grinding / nutting stone and hammerstones. Point cahe was on the edge of the feature in the top left.,
Figure 3: Audrey Dawson found a Hardaway, and was pleased.,
Figure 4: Scott Jones talked all day.,
Figure 5: Foreground, Andrew Agha, background, Chris Judge being interviewed by print and TV media. The coverage was good this year.
Figure 6: Visitors from the community came out every day.
Carl Steen is Principal Investigator at Diachronic and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Judge is on the faculty at USC Lancaster and can be reached at email@example.com