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Introduction to Edgefield Stonewares

This is the transcript of the first program in our YouTube series on the stoneware potteries of the Old Edgefield District of South Carolina (Link)

Stoneware pots…might not sound interesting to many people…but then when you consider pots that are the most collectable in America, pots that are the most rare and valuable…pots that are considered an early American art form…pots that connect us directly to the magic and pathos of Western Africa in the 19th Century, and even spring from industrial secrets stolen from ancient China…then you have some stories you might want to hear.

My name is Mark Newell. I have searched, collected and excavated stoneware potteries for more than thirty years. Over the next few programs I will introduce you to the fascinating story of stonewares made in the potteries of the Old Edgefield District in South Carolina.

In each program I will introduce you to the major potteries and show you a range of the wares they produced. We will look at the features that distinguish one pottery from another, talk about the richly colored  glazes, the pottery marks, capacity marks and more. The programs will give you a basic overview of the Edgefield potteries, the men – and women – behind the pots – and the stories that make these unique vessels sing to us about the rich traditions of Edgefield’s chapter in the story of Southern Pottery.

Landrumsville – also known as Pottersville on the outskirts of Edgefield

The first stoneware pottery was built  in an area called Pottersville doubtless to meet the growing need for utilitarian storage vessels for everything from whiskey to turpentine, preserves and even bear meat. In those days this was the American frontier and finished goods from Europe were hard to come by.

Typical storage jar from Landrum’s pottery.

That first pottery I mentioned was started by Abner Landrum around 1800  just outside the town of Edgefield .  When the site was finally excavated recently it was discovered that Landrum had built a 100 foot long Chinese style  ‘dragon’ kiln.

 

 

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Image showing the footprint of Landrum’s kiln at Pottersville (Christopher Fennell)

Chinese dragon kiln in Jingdezhen Province China (Agavarts.com)

Loading a Dragon Kiln (Pinterest)

Prior to this excavation there had been much debate about how Chinese style ash glazes came to be used in South Carolina in the 1800s.

Chinese ash Glaze (Pinterest)

Many collectors liked to believe it was American co-invention. In fact a Jesuit priest in China, Father d’Entrecolles sent highly detailed information about porcelain manufacturing back to Europe in 1722.

d’Entrecolles letter published in France 1722.

The English trade directory that reproduced a translation of d’Entrecolle’s letter in 1755.

That information was published in an English dictionary of trade of commerce – and this almost certainly was the source of Landrum’s knowledge.[Insert trade Dict picture]. Landrum was initially interested in producing porcelain – but does not appear to have ever been successful at it with his Dragon Kiln. He respond to the demand for utilitarian stoneware though – and so started the expansion of the pottery industry in South Carolina. Within a short while of the start of the Pottersville operation, Landum’s brothers Amos and John started their own operations on Edgefield’s Horse Creek – the remains of finely bricked waterways can still be found at these sites.

Landrum’s first pottery also saw the beginning of unique vessels created by an enslaved potter by the name of David Drake, known to most of us as simply ‘Dave.”

Inscribe pot thrown by Dave in 1858

Dave may have worked at Landrum’s  Edgefield newspaper “The Hive” and it is thought that it was here that he learned to read and write – supposedly an illegal activity for slaves at the time. We know his story because he often wrote dates, his owner names and even short poems on many of his pots. Some of them were very large – up to 40 gallons.

Large storage jar made by Dave and inscribed with a couplet.

They are among the most highly prized vessels by collectors and museums. We will devote an entire program to Dave later on in this series.  Landrum. it is clear, was very liberal in his views..something that made him unpopular in The Old Edgefield District which was firmly committed to the institution of slavery. As a result, Landrum moved to Columbia, South Carolina in 1830 and started a new pottery and brick operation – and a newspaper there. His most famous potter, Dave, remained in Edgefield, becoming the property of Landrum’s son-in-law, Lewis Miles – the next Edgefield Potter we will discuss.

There are many Landrum Potterville pots to be found. They are most often large ovoid posts with a rich, runny glaze and a double collared neck. Some pots, such as this storage Jarappeared to be crude, even made by inexperienced hands. This pot is attributed to Dave and may be one of his earliest pieces.

Next program, Lewis Miles – and the loss of two of his pottery sites to pots hunters and bad archaeological judgment.

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Dark water diving & artifacts on the CSS Georgia

print of the CSS Georgia
Contemporary print of the CSS Georgia (pubic domain)

Archeologists are now working to remove small artifacts and map sections of the wreckage of the massive Confederate Ironclad CSS Georgia in Savannah Harbor prior to heavy lifting operations, expected to be completed by the end of this summer.

According to principal investigator Julie Morgan, an archaeologist with the Corps of Engineers, divers will be working in zero visibility conditions guided by an underwater acoustic positioning system and  “a navigation web of transit lines that helps the diver move around the site.”

Even so diving on the wreck will not be easy or safe. The ship was scuttled by the Confederates as Sherman’s Union forces marched on Savannah on the Georgia coast at the mouth of the Savannah River. The wreckage sat on the edge of the ship channel and has been struck by vessels and dredgers over the years. The protective covering of the upper structure, the casemates, were constructed of railroad iron. Over the years since its sinking, the wreck has become a tangled mess of iron and accumulated debris brought downriver by swift currents.

“The current is abated by diving at slack tide only.  All the divers have extensive experience working in black water environments and work only under the supervision of the Corps’ dive inspector.  Safety is the Corps’ top priority. No more than two divers will be in the water at once for safety reasons,” said Morgan.

effrey Pardee, Panamerican diver tender, examines diver James Duff's equipment and topside air supply during an initial dive event Jan. 22, 2015, on the Savannah River near Old Fort Jackson. Duff, a Panamerican diver and maritime archaeologist, used a rope to connect sections of the CSS Georgia wreck site scuttled on the river floor. A network of ropes connects wreck site artifacts and assists divers to navigate through the murky underwater floor of the Savannah River. CSS Georgia recovery is the first action begun under the construction phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chelsea Smith.)
Jeffrey Pardee, Panamerican diver tender, examines diver James Duff’s equipment and topside air supply during an initial dive event Jan. 22, 2015, on the Savannah River near Old Fort Jackson. Duff, a Panamerican diver and maritime archaeologist, used a rope to connect sections of the CSS Georgia wreck site scuttled on the river floor. A network of ropes connects wreck site artifacts and assists divers to navigate through the murky underwater floor of the Savannah River. CSS Georgia recovery is the first action begun under the construction phase of the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Chelsea Smith.)

Once the divers have completed mapping, tagging and recovery operations, the US Navy will recover heavy materials. “The archaeological data recovery phase is expected to last until early summer 2015.  Upon completion of that phase, the US Navy will set up on site to recover ordnance, large artifacts, the casemate sections and miscellaneous railroad iron using large mechanized machinery.  A lift plan that details where cuts will be made, placement of straps and slings, and type of lift structure will be developed for each artifact and casemate section in the next couple of months, ” said Morgan.

According to Ms. Morgan, earlier surveys have been used to plan the operation now underway, “The Georgia has periodically been investigated since the late 1970s as funding became available.  In 1979 a site assessment was conducted to determine the approximate site size and degree of integrity. Ordnance, small artifacts and two cannon were recovered in 1986 by Savannah District after the vessel was damaged by a dredge.  In-situ investigations were conducted in 2003 to fully map the site and document conditions.  Most recently multibeam and sidescan sonar surveys were completed in 2013 to document site changes since 2003.  The results of those surveys provided the base map for the current data recovery effort.  Also in 2013 a small casemate section was recovered during a test recovery exercise.”

It is now believed that nothing of the hull of the Georgia remains. The massive upper works may have crushed the wooden hull beneath it. This, coupled with teredo worm damage in the salty estuarine water, may have resulted in the complete disintegration of the hull. Morgan states: “Studies conducted in the 1970s thought that the hull was buried underneath sediments.  In the 1980s, it was thought to be underneath one of the casemate sections.  In both instances, it was never seen, only THOUGHT to be there.

“It was not until 2003 when Panamerican Consultants, Inc. conducted in-situ investigations and confirmed that there is no indication that any of the hull exists on the site.  This was verified in 2013 by the multibeam and sidescan sonar.  What happened to the hull?  It is difficult to tell.  It has been hypothesized that, if it were fairly intact, it may have been  recovered during the salvage attempt in the late 1860s-1870s.  Alternatively, it could have been badly damaged as a result of the salvage attempt and slowly deteriorated and/or was carried off the site by currents.   Regardless, there are no remains of the hull.  We hope that the edges of the casemate sections and any fasteners will provide clues as to what the hull was like.”

Given the presence of heavy silting and the resulting anaerobic environment, it may be possible that some heavy timbers, such as live oak frames, or the very bottom strakes of the hull, have survived. Whether or not this is so remains to be seen.

The Archaeology Hour asked Morgan about the disposition of any artifacts that might remain in the wreckage. According to Morgan there is no archival record of anything having been removed from the ironclad before it was scuttled. If the ship was abandoned in haste ahead of Sherman’s army, it may therefore contain artifacts.

“The archaeologists are currently recovering small artifacts from the wreck site.  No personal items have been found.  It is unlikely that we will find anything else due to the lack of sediments and the current,” added Morgan.

“The Corps has contracted with Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University to conserve the artifacts that will be retained for curation and exhibit.  All of the large artifacts, i.e., cannons and power plant parts, as well as ordnance, casemate sections and other small artifacts with unique or diagnostic features will be conserved.  There are no loan agreements in place at this time, but several museums of have expressed interest in exhibiting the artifacts.  Final decisions regarding the disposition of the artifacts will be made by the US Navy as that agency is held accountable for CSS Georgia,” Morgan said. The entire property of the Confederate States of America, especially its fleets and weapons, became the property of the Federal Government following the defeat of the Confederacy.

The Archaeology Hour hopes to broadcast an audio interview with Ms. Morgan in the coming weeks, followed a video segment later in the year.

 

The archaeology hour podcast can be found at:

http://archaeologyhour.podomatic.com

Metal of the Gods

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Ingots of Orichalcum Source: Daily Mail

According to Professor Sebastiano Tusa, an archaeologist at the office of the Superintendent of the Sea in Sicily, an archaeological team working on an ancient wreck off the southern coast of Sicily has raised a large number of ingots of a rare metal known as orichalcum – a substance mentioned by Plato as the legendary sacred metal used in Atlantis to sheath the walls of temples. Media reports do not quote Tusa as explaining why or how the encrusted ingots are being identified as Orichalcum.

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The Italian dive team on the orichalcum wreck: Source Daily Mail.

 The find was made in little more than 10 ft of water some 1000 feet from the shoreline of the town of Gela in southern Sicily. Analysis of the metal shows that it is an alloy of copper, zinc, lead, iron and nickel. Ancient accounts describe orichalcum as an alloy of silver gold and possibly copper–and for this reason the identification of the ingots has yet to be fully explained. The Archaeology Hour is seek an interview with Prof. Tusa and these questions may be answered then.

From Gods to Witches…

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A few of the coins found by Nick Davies. Source: Daily Mail UK.

“The Archaeology Hour” – the radio podcast soon to be a video podcast soon to be a cable channel program is developing well. Our pilot program being pulled to gather now will have features on a number of major discoveries around the world from Egypt to the UK.

Irene Morfi will be talking to us about a discovery at two tombs at Sheikh Abd el-Gourna near Thebes. They were discovered in the 19th century and though to be a small tomb complex. A re-examination by Morfi and her colleagues revealed an undiscovered shaft — and this led to a massive multi-layered complex. The layout of the new complex appears to have been constructed to represent the mythical tomb of Osiris, an important figure in the creation myth of the ancient Egyptian culture. We will be asking Dr. Morfi about the most recent work on the tomb complex — and why it was never discovered when early explorers entered the smaller tomb as far back as 1887.

We will also be talking to archaeologist James Drummond-Murray of Oxford Archaeology about a dig near a cemetery in Luton, Bedfordshire. The local council decided to lay a new road to improve access to the cemetery—and the work unearthed a Roman burial. Archaeologists then discovered that not only had the area had been used as a burial site from Roman times to the present — but that even Bronze age and neolithic age artifacts were present on the site. We’ll chat to Drummond-Murray about what this may mean, possibly a continuously used sacred site from very ancient times to the present.

Vincent Drost is an ancient coin expert at the British Museum in London. He will be talking to us about  more than 10,000 Roman coins found in a clay jar by metal detectorist Nick Davies (who was on his very first outing with his metal detector). We’ll talk about theories as to why the hoard was buried (almost three hundred years before Saxons and Vikings were reading Britain) and what they tell us about Roman coin production at the time.

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Nick Davies and the pot. Daily Mail.

We are also working on one of my favorite topics – English witchcraft.  Researcher Brian Hoggard has made a study of methods and spells used by people to ward off the evil castings of witches (always something to watch out for). He will chat with us about recent research—and perhaps provide us with  some useful advice into the bargain.

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Archaeologist Jackie Woods found a witchcraft related site in own backyard in Cornwall – that dated from the ancient past to modern times! Source: Archaeology Magazine.

Bones In Lakes

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Mounted skull from Motala. Source: Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen

Bones in Lakes are making the news in Sweden and in India. Work on railroad construction at he edge of Lake Motala in Sweden uncovered the remains of a grisly display of skulls once posted on stakes. They represented men, women and even children. Archeologists determined that the skulls were once in the lake itself. The initial discovery was made in 2011 and archaeologists have yet to determine the true nature of the site. It may be a reburial site of venerated ancestor bones—or perhaps the sacrifice of members of an enemy tribe. The Archaeology Hour will cover the latest news with Frederik Hallgren of the Swedish heritage foundation Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen in an upcoming feature in its podcast.

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Motala Lake Digsite Source: Stiftelsen Kulturmiljövård Mälardalen

Roopkund Lake tells a very different story. The lake is high in the Indian Himalayas and at 16,000 feet it is frozen for most of the year. There is one month a year when the lake melts—and during one of those months years ago passers by discovered the bones of more than 300 people sticking above the surface as the lake dried. It was at first thought the bones belonged to Japanese soldiers. Later research determined that the bones had first been noted in the 19th century. According to India Today the bones have now been dated to approximately 850 B.C. Examination of the skulls has shown a common injury-indentations made by a round object the size of a baseball. Some have concluded that the group of people died in a severe hailstorm!  While a possible explanation, it would seem more likely that some sacrificial killing process is involved. The isolated lake is considered sacred by local tribes and is still an area of annual pilgrimage.

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Bones at Roopkund Land. Source: India Times.

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The Lake during the annual thaw. Source: India Times

Saxon Hoard-Osiris Temple-Amphipolis Bones – and more

Saxon Hoard:

The British Museum (BM) is currently cleaning and evaluating the 5200 silver pennies found by Paul Coleman in Buckinghamshire, England. According to my sources at the Bucks county museum, the BM may have an announcement to make about the coins by February 10th. That is the day the BM issues its “Annual Treasure Report,” a document that details the previous year’s finds by avocationals through the British Isles.  Included may be the final evaluation of the coins. Brett Thorn, Keeper of Archaeology at the Bucks County Museum said, ” We do know that there are just over 5200 coins, and so far, all the cleaned coins are of Ethelred II and Cnut. They are all ion very good condition, due to having been buried wrapped in a lead container. The container did not survive well, but it preserved there coins.” The mainstream media has mentioned evaluations well over $1.5 million but, according to Thorn, no official figure has been issued yet.

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Photo: Daily Mail UK-the coins as discovered.

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Greek Bones:

Bone fragments have been recovered from the Amphipolis tomb being excavated in Macedonia. This important development means that researchers may be able to learn the sex and age of the person buried in the once magnificent complex within Kasta Hill near Seres, Greece. There is much speculation as to the burial. It dates to the time of the death of Alexander the Great–and since he was buried in Egypt (upcoming story) it is thought the person in the Amhipolis tomb may be that of Alexander’s mother Olympias. The Archaeology Hour is seeking an interview with Katerina Peristeri, the lead archaeologist for the project and developments will be posted here. A full interview will appear in The Archaeology Hour podcast. The website for the dig reports that a geoscan of the Kasta Hill indicates that there may be other burials within the mound. This opens up the possibility of other royal tombs–perhaps not targeted by looters.

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Geoscan of Kasta Hill. Source:amfipolinews.blogspot.com.au

The archaeology hour podcast can be found at:

http://archaeologyhour.podomatic.com

The Archaeology Hour: The Pilot

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Ten of the 5,200 silver coins just after being unearthed. Source: Daily Mail

“The Archaeology Hour” is a project in development that will provide a podcast and eventual video program of information and background on major archaeological projects and news around the world. It will be hosted by Mark M. Newell PhD, a British underwater and terrestrial archaeologist currently working in the United States. Newell has a distinguished record of archaeological accomplishment over the past forty years including leading the successful search for the C.S.S. Hunley in Charleston SC, discovery of the remains of the historic Santee Canal, recognized by the US Secretary of the Navy for preservation work on the U.S.S. Constitution, discovery of the Baynham pottery hoard near Edgefield, S.C. and discovery of the only known Edgefield African face jug site near Trenton S.C.  Newell has lectured at major venues throughout the US and the UK and has appeared on numerous television programs and documentaries.

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I can’t think of a more exciting time in Archaeology to be involved in launching a podcast and eventual video program on new discoveries. Looking almost anywhere in the world, I find fascinating new projects and discoveries every day. Most of these are covered to some extent or another by the news media — from the mainstream press to specialist websites like Ancient Origins–but there are always more questions to ask, greater insights to develop, new views to express and that elusive ‘insider” story that rarely gets told. I will be working with CSquared Communications and The Archaeology Hour to do just this. I will bring together my background in archaeology and journalism to develop unique insights on breaking stories and present an insider’s view that the general media cannot. There is clearly a huge interest in archaeology snd history as indicated by magazines, television programs, internet sites, documentaries and even movies (ok, that’s entertainment not education).

Posts will be on a frequent if not daily basis until the first pilot podcast is launched this Spring. Projects we are looking at hint at the  range of a topics we will cover this year: the amazing Saxon silver coin hoard found in Buckinghamshire, England, a lost city discovered off the Egyptian coast by a French archaeologist, Two entirely new tombs found in Egypt, not to mention a new find at the pyramid of Giza. The Norway scientists have found a dried lake bed with a mysterious deposit of skulls once impaled on stakes. The Greek ‘find of the century’ a massive tomb at Amphipolis may turn out to be even more spectacular, a city of the dead rather than a single burial. Herod’s Palace, the place where the trial of Jesus is supposed to have occurred, has been found during a new dig. A veritable catalog of ancient ships built over a 5000 year period has been discovered in Turkey.

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French diver by lost stelae Source: Christoph Gerigk, Daily Telegraph

The Archaeology Hour will cover these topics and more in the coming months. You will also find links to the project websites and other features of interest to the general public, working archaeologists, volunteer and archaeology/history tourists.