Marie McAden



Search for archeological treasures at Old Dorchester

Posted 11/23/2012 3:08:00 PM

You probably aren’t going to find the Ark of the Covenant, but Indiana Jones wannabes have a chance this fall to work with archeologists digging up the remains of a 17th century trading town built on the banks of the Ashley River.

The excavation is taking place at Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site in Summerville, where vestiges of the Old Dorchester village still stand. Among the ruins are a church bell tower, cemetery and tabby fortification.

But most of the remains still lie buried beneath the earth. Work is currently being done on the grounds of St. George’s Anglican Church.

“We’re looking for the foundation remains of the original church and trying to delineate the boundaries of the cemetery,” said state park archeologist Larry James. “Very little is known about the church. We want to get a sense of its size and design.”

Since the excavation started in September, they have found an unmarked grave and a variety of architectural debris, including bricks and nails.

The archeologists also are sorting through some 2,700 artifacts collected from a kitchen house found this spring and summer on a parcel known as the Blake lot.

“One of our most important finds was an intact fork,” James said. “It’s very rare to find utensils like that in one piece.”

As part of the park’s Archeology Lab Volunteer Program, visitors can help sort, clean and bag the artifacts and learn about the process of cataloging.

“They’ll see artifacts come out of the ground and be sent to the lab,” James said. “The data we collect is used to piece together the puzzle.”

In the last 20 years, archeologists have unearthed thousands of historic and prehistoric artifacts that have helped tell the story of one of South Carolina’s most significant historic sites.

Established in 1697 by a Congregationalist colony from Dorchester, Mass., the town included 116 quarter-acre lots, a town square and commons, a school and St. George’s Church. By 1781, some 40 houses had been built in the settlement.

During the Revolutionary War, Dorchester served as a fortified post for the Patriots. The town gradually declined after the Revolution and was eventually abandoned.

Visitors can participate in the collection, analysis and cataloging of the archeological finds from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 8, 9, 11 and 18. Volunteers should meet in the Ranger Station/Lab and bring water, lunch and work gloves.

For more information on the upcoming dig, click here or call (843) 873-1740.