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Case Studies (Sponsored Research)

Case Studies (Sponsored Archaeology Research)

 -  Camp Lawton at Magnolia Springs

On August 18, 2010 the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Southern University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), announced a major historic discovery: the excavation of numerous Civil War artifacts from the Camp Lawton Site. The announcement was made at Magnolia Springs State Park, where the majority of Camp Lawton's stockade and Fort Lawton earthworks exist. Part of the site is on the property of Bo Ginn National Fish Hatchery, which the FWS administers.  Following the announcement, the public was able to view many of the artifacts, including some of the prisoners personal items, at an open house at the park.

Camp Lawton Archaeological Discoveries Unveiled - September 2010
Camp Lawton update - January 2010
The brief life of Camp Lawton - June/July 2009

Georgia Southern University's Camp Lawton website
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Camp Lawton website


 - Fort Morris State Historic Site

Located in Liberty County, south of the historic town of Sunbury, Fort Morris is best known as an important and strategic fort during the Revolutionary War.  Constructed and garrisoned by the Americans in 1776, Fort Morris was used as a staging ground for several military attempts against British East Florida.  None of these were successful and Fort Morris eventually fell to British forces in a siege on January 9, 1779, after which it was renamed Fort George.  Fort Morris saw further action during the War of 1812 when it was renamed Fort Defiance.  Today, the Fort Morris Historic Site is managed by the Department of Natural Resources and is open to the public.

Archaeological research carried out by Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants, Inc. revealed rich documentary and archaeological records at Fort Morris. Documentary research has helped to establish an in-depth timeline for the use and occupation of the fort, detailing military units and officers present at various times at Fort Morris.  Additionally, ground penetrating radar was used to guide limited archaeological excavations which yielded considerable numbers of artifacts including military buttons and weapons, ceramics, glass, animal remains, and shrapnel related to the British siege on January 9,1779. The research at Fort Morris was funded through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Archaeology at Fort Morris - July 2010

Fort Morris Discovery: An Educational & Archaeological Odyssey for 4th Graders - August 2003

Visit the Fort Morris State Historic Site  web page for more information.


 - Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park
Archaeologists conducting a dig
           University of South Florida archaeologists investigate a Weeden Island Period house at Kolomoki.

Located in southwest Georgia's lower Chattahoochee Valley, Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park includes one of the state's most valuable cultural heritage sites.  The mound mound group includes at least nine mounds as well as the surrounding village and outlying sites.

Archaeological research at Kolomoki was first carried out by Charles Fairbanks and Robert Wauchope in the 1930s.  Their work was followed by further excavations by William Sears in the following decade.  While there has been debate in the last fifty years surrounding both the time period in which the Kolomoki mounds were constructed and the nature of the site itself, recent archaeological excavations by the University of South Florida's Thomas Pluckhahn for his 2002 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Georgia have helped to refine both the dates assigned to the sites occupation as well as the overall interpretation of the Kolomoki mounds.  Pluckhahn's research, which received in-kind support by DNR, has revealed that Middle to Late Woodland people occupied the site primarily between A.D. 350 to 750 and that during this time period Kolomoki was the heart of a rich ceremonial tradition.  Over the hundreds of years of Woodland occupation at the site, the focus on group ritual at Kolomoki gradually gave way to an increased focus on individual and personal status.  Today, Kolomoki stands as a reminder of Georgia's dynamic American Indian past.

In 1974, thieves broke into the museum at Kolomoki Mounds State Park and stole over 90 whole pots. The vessels are important for more than their archaeological or scientific value; they are also special to the decedents of the native people who inhabited the site. These artifacts are beautiful pieces of art with several effigy pots representing animals including panthers, deer, owls, and ducks. Since the burglary, only 13 of the pots have been recovered. We hope that the vessels will be found. Now, more than 40 years later, some of these vessels may reappear in collections as unknowing family members inherit the artifacts, unaware that they were stolen. Please help us spread the word about these vessels. A brochure that includes images of the stolen vessels is available here (PDF).


 - Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site
The Etowah Indian Mounds were one of the most important political centers of the late prehistoric southeast.  They have been investigated by archaeologists since the late 19th century, but the application of remote sensing technology is resulting in important discoveries about exactly what the mounds and surrounding town looked like. 

Read "City Beneath the Mounds: Mapping a prehistoric American metropolis" by Mike Toner in the November/December 2008 issue of Archaeology magazine.

 - Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island, one of Georgia's thirteen major barrier islands, has seen an astonishingly wide array of people, cultures, and colorful characters throughout its long history of human occupation.  From the earliest American Indians to the present-day Geechee of Hog Hammock who call Sapelo their home, these groups have left their own unique traces on the face of the island.

The Sapelo Island Archaeological Research Consortium is a loosely organized group of archaeologists who are dedicated to the research and study of Sapelo Island's amazing history.  Funded partially by in-kind support from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Research Consortium members bring to Sapelo Island their own background, perspectives, and research topics.  All the archaeological work on Sapelo Island is brought together by one very important theme: students.  Both undergraduate and graduate students work on each project on Sapelo, gaining valuable field experience and, hopefully, a love for the peoples and cultures that have made Sapelo what it is today.

 - Sapelo Shell Rings
People first began to live in villages on Sapelo Island during the Late Archaic Period, roughly 4,200 to 3,000 years ago.  While Archaic people left behind many smaller sites on the island, perhaps their most enduring landmarks are the Sapelo Island Shell Rings.  The Shell Rings are a group of three ring-shaped mounds of discarded shell and other materials that built up over time around American Indian dwellings.  Previous research carried out by C.B. Moore in the late 1800s and Antonio Waring and Lewis Larson in the 1950s have shown that the oldest portions of the Sapelo Island Shell Rings date to 2,500 B.C.  Research Consortium member Victor Thompson and his colleagues Wesley Stoner and Harold Rowe have recently investigated the Native American ceramics recovered from these Shell Rings in an attempt to understand the evolution of ceramic production on Sapelo Island and determine if the Late Archaic people utilizing the Shell Rings were trading with other groups off the island.


 - Sapelo Island during the Spanish Period

The arrival of the Spanish along coastal Georgia marks the first contact between Native Americans and Europeans in the region.  Consortium member John Worth has carried out exhaustive documentary research into the contact and interaction between Spanish colonists and Missionaries with the local Guale Indians who inhabited Sapelo Island and the surrounding area.  Worth's research traces the history of the first Spanish slave raiding excursions along the Georgia coast between 1515 and 1516, the upheaval and change caused to Guale culture by the Spanish Missionary and military presence, revolts against the Spanish by the Guale Indians in 1576-1580 and 1597, and the final retreat of the Spanish Missionaries and their Guale followers to St. Augustine, Florida in 1702 and 1704 following raids by English and French pirates.

Fellow Consortium members Richard Jeffries and Christopher Moore have been excavating the area just north of Shell Ring II, one of the three Shell Rings on Sapelo Island.  Their excavations have yielded Spanish artifacts and Native American ceramic types dating to the 17th century, a date that coincides with the intense contact between the Guale and Spanish Missionaries.  Additionally, Jeffries, Moore, and their students have discovered a number of archaeological features such as pits and post molds.  Though there is still work to be done at this site, it seems likely that the uncovered features and artifacts represent Mission San Joseph de Sapala, the flagship of the Spanish Missionary efforts on Sapelo Island and the center of the daily interaction between the Spanish and Guale cultures.  Norma Harris of the University of West Florida Archaeology Institute is investigating Bourbon Field, a very large prehistoric site that may include components related to the earliest Spanish presence on the island.

Archaeologists scan a site with Ground Penetrating Radar
          Ground penetrating radar (GPR) has proven an effective technique
          for locating archaeological features on Sapelo Island.
         Here Dan Elliott (left) and Nick Honerkamp (right) watch as GPR is used at Chocolate Plantation.

Spanish Mission Research on St. Catherines and Sapelo islands - November 2009

 - Sapelo Island during the Plantation Period

For a brief period following the Spanish retreat to St. Augustine in 1702 and 1704, Sapelo Island seems to have been relatively deserted.  By the middle 1700s, however, Sapelo became home to several historic plantations.  Two of these plantations, High Point and Chocolate, have been the focus of recent research by Nicholas Honerkamp of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Exhaustive documentary research by historian Buddy Sullivan has revealed parts of the complex history of Sapelo, including the claiming of the island in the mid-1700s by a Creek woman named Mary Musgrove, the purchase and occupation of the island by a small group of Frenchmen escaping the Reign of Terror in France, and the eventual establishment of Chocolate and High Point Plantations in the late 1700s.  Honerkamp has conducted large-scale archaeological surveys at both Chocolate and High Point Plantations to better understand how the documentary history relates to information recovered archaeologically from each site.  These current surveys are part of a long-term effort by Honerkamp to study and compare the overall site structure at Chocolate and High Point.

 - Slave cabins on Sapelo Islands South End Plantation

Archaeology graduate students from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga have recently discovered the slave cabins associated with Thomas Spalding's South End Plantation on Sapelo Island.  Spalding, one of the wealthiest and most influential southern planters of the antebellum era, owned most of the island before the Civil War.

Locating the cabins posed a significant challenge.  Built of wood, and with foundations of wooden posts, the archaeological signature of the cabins consisted primarily of thousands of nails.  Archaeological testing revealed that there are significant features such as trash pits and stains left from structural members throughout the site area.  Particularly heavy artifact concentrations appear to be located around the windows and doors of the structures, a phenomenon known in archaeological circles as the Brunswick Pattern, named for the colonial site in North Carolina where it was first identified.  The Brunswick Pattern results from the day in-day out disposal of household refuse by tossing it out the doors and windows of a house.  Knowing where these resources are located is critical to their future management and interpretation.

Archaeologist excavate a slave cabin
             University of Tennessee-Chattanooga graduate students excavate
             the site of a slave cabin, as State Archaeologist Dave Crass examines their finds.

Dr. Nick Honerkamp of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, who led the search for the cabins, is currently developing a research design that will involve members of the Hog Hammock community, some of whom are descended from enslaved Africans who worked South End and the other plantations on the island.  Opportunities for the general public to participate in Honerkamp's Sapelo Island projects are a regular feature of the Department of Natural Resources Weekend for Wildlife, an event that benefits the departments Nongame Conservation Section.

Slave cabins on Sapelo Island's South End Plantation discovered - September 2009

Sapelo Island Natural Estaurine Research Reserve

Sapelo Island Preserve and Reynolds Mansion

University of Georgia Marine Institute    

Also see:

The Popper Site - April 2012
Archaeology at Bush Head Shoals - December 2011
Ossabaw 2011 Archaeological Field Investigations - August 2011