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Professor leads archaeological study

archaeologyArchaeological treasures awaited Dr. Nick Honerkamp, acting head of The Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Geography, and a group of UTC students on Sapelo Island, a reserve that was once home to prehistoric Indians, Spanish missionaries, and French plantation owners.

Ownership of the island changed frequently, as is evidenced in a timeline constructed by Orion Kroulek, Field Supervisor and UTC alumnus. The island was owned at one point by R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco company founder. Kroulek is using ArcGIS software to create maps as part of the team’s report for the Georgia Division of Natural Resources (DNR), according to Honerkamp.

“We completed an archaeological survey of Chocolate Plantation, occupied from about 1800 until the Civil War,” Honerkamp said. “There are a lot of tabby foundations there, including slave cabin remains, that still survive. We put in 117 small test pits and are now generating artifact density maps for most of the different types of artifacts we recovered.”

Tabby, a concrete construction material made from lime, sand and oyster shells, is often found in the Low Country.

According to Honerkamp, the UTC group had several goals:

  • to allow the DNR better management of the land through the collection of data and mapping;
  • to provide mapping and findings with prehistoric and historical archaeological value; and
  • to provide documentary evidence uncovered in the archaeological exploration and oral history provided by former slave families.

When they are complete, Kroulek’s maps, showing data in 20 meter intervals, can be spatially analyzed. The DNR will use the information to avoid plowing or starting controlled burnings near areas which could contain evidence of the past.

artifacts“We found literally thousands of artifacts associated with the cotton plantation, and we also recovered a significant number of prehistoric Indian pottery shards, which were a surprise,” Honerkamp said.

Aboriginal ceramics are being studied to identify which Indian groups left the deposits, according to Honerkamp. He said there is much to be learned about the refuse left behind.

Rachel Williams, UTC anthropology major and one of the students who worked on Sapelo Island, carefully examined the hand faceted beads found at the site.

“To think that we are holding in our hands something that was hand made hundreds of years ago, and in the case of the prehistoric findings, thousands of years ago…it is the personal connection I find most interesting,” Williams said.

Allie Stafford, anthropology and religion major, enjoyed the field experience.

archaeology“I learned so much by being out there on a beautiful island, meeting people from the community, and learning about the history,” Stafford said.

On Memorial Day, the UTC team held "Archaeology Day," drawing approximately 40 residents whose ancestors were forced to relocate from uotlying settlements to a central location, known as Hog Hammock. Honerkamp said one of the residents, Cornelia Bailey, was particularly helpful with some of the oral history of the Chocolate Plantation. “It was a big success,” Honerkamp said.

The work of the UTC team was supported by a University of Chattanooga Foundation Faculty Research grant and the donation of a dormitory and utilities by the Georgia Division of Natural Resources. Honerkamp said his truck was also barged to the island so that there was transportation to and from the site.

June 23, 2006

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