Frequently Asked Questions

What are the plans for this public/community archaeology project?

The Search for Stuarts Town is a public/community archaeology project. This means that its success depends on public support, ranging from offering access to your property for the search, to funding through tax deductible donations, to sharing your interest and excitement with others.

The first phase of the project was completed the in August, 2022, involving 5 days of exploratory field work. The initial search area covered roughly 50 acres in Beaufort’s neighborhood of The Point, bounded by Carteret Street, Prince Street, and the Beaufort River. It included primarily residential lots whose owners had given written permission, as well as City Parks and Open Land Trust parcels.

Once any finds are cleaned, examined and cataloged, a decision will be made as to whether a second exploratory week will be undertaken. A free locally held public symposium, to present the search and results, is being planned for February 4, 2023.

How big are the holes and what is the digging process?

The technique used is called ‘shovel testing’ and involves digging rectangular holes (~1 x 2 ft), hand dug to the depth of the subsoil (generally 1-2 ft). If more than one hole is dug in the same area, they will be at least 20-30 feet apart. All areas dug are returned to their original condition. Before digging, we arrange for Dig Safe (SC-811) to mark nearby utilities (gas, water, electrical), and care is taken by the crew to detect and avoid other obstructions, such as irrigation systems. The plan is to excavate between 200 and 300 individual shovel test pits, scattered throughout the search area, using a specialized and insured crew of archaeologists who regularly do this type of work. Factors such as weather and property owner agreements to dig will determine the final work schedule.

First the sod is carefully removed and put aside, then the soil scraped using a flat blade shovel, removed from the hole, and placed onto a screening device with plastic sheet laid underneath. When shaken, the soil falls through, and all remaining items are removed to labeled bags for later cleaning and analysis. The exact location of each shovel test ‘pit’ is recorded by GPS, so maps can be created. Once the subsoil layer is reached, digging stops and the soil is replaced in the hole with the sod laid back in place.

Prior to any actual excavation, Dr. Chester DePratter will make the final determination as to which properties and locations will be actually dug, and mark all selected locations with small flags. Other than property owners and their guests, only project staff and excavation teams will be permitted on private properties near the shovel test area(s).

If anything is found, what happens?

In order to properly clean, catalogue, analyze, conserve, and preserve finds, all artifacts recovered become property of the SC Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), who assumes these responsibilities in perpetuity. Items of historical interest, from whatever period, may be placed on long term loan by SCIAA to local museums or other chartered organizations. If there is a larger promising find, the archaeology team will discuss options with the landowner, and only with permission will the shovel test opening be enlarged, or an alternate strategy planned.

Our partner, the Beaufort History Museum, plans to create an exhibit built around the process of community/public archaeology, and to showcase the 'finds' from the project.