Archaeology of Edgefield, South Carolina, Pottery Communities

The following announcement recently appeared on the H-Net Southern History forum. My thanks to Prof. Christopher Fennell for allowing me to repost it here.  

Note: Edgefield, South Carolina, as well as the craft of pottery making, was an important link between the Randolph County area of North Carolina, the upcountry of South Carolina, and migration from Edgefield, South Carolina, to the Mississippi Piney Woods.

Vikki Bynum, Moderator

From: Fennell, Christopher []
Sent: 04 March 2013 03:21
Subject: Archaeology of Edgefield, South Carolina Pottery Communities

This six-week field school (May 26 to July 8, 2013) will focus on investigations at the Pottersville site (also called Landrumsville) and nearby John Landrum and B. F. Landrum kiln sites within the area of the Old Edgefield Pottery District, and will provide training in the techniques of excavation, mapping, artifact classification and contextual interpretation. Students will work in supervised teams, learning to function as members of a field crew, with skills necessary for becoming professional archaeologists. Many students from past University of Illinois field schools have gone on to graduate study and professional field-archaeology positions. Laboratory processing and analysis will be ongoing during the field season. Evening lectures by project staff, visiting archaeologists, and historians will focus on providing background on how field data are used to answer archaeological and historical research questions.

The first innovation and development of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery in America occurred in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in the early 1800s. Our 2011 field school also discovered that the earliest of these production sites also utilized industrial-scale “dragon” kilns never seen before in the Americas. It remains an enduring mystery as to how these new ceramic methods were developed in that place and time, and how the techniques of kiln design and choices of clay, temper, and glaze ingredients developed over the following century. These potteries employed enslaved and free African-American laborers in the 19th century, and the stoneware forms also show evidence of likely African cultural influence on stylistic designs. Edgefield potteries thus present fascinating research questions of understanding technological innovations and investigating the impacts of African cultural knowledge and racial ideologies on a craft specialization during the historic period in America. This project entails an interdisciplinary, collaborative, and archaeological study of the first development in America of alkaline-glazed stoneware pottery forms, the development of that South Carolina industry over time, and the impacts of racism and African cultural influences on those processes.

For additional information about this field school opportunity, please contact Chris Fennell by email at To apply for participation in this field school, please download and complete a short application form and submit it by March 25, 2013. Students will be notified of acceptance no later than April 10, 2013. Accepted students should register for six credits in the University of Illinois summer session. Students from colleges other than the University of Illinois can register through our exchange at program and receive transfer credits. Additional information and application forms are available a

Watch a documentary about our 2011 field school at Pottersville by StoryLine Media at

Best wishes,

Christopher C. Fennell
Editor, Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage (JADAH)
Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Associate Head
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois

Categories: Uncategorized

1 reply »

  1. Ms. Bynum,
    I’m currently working on a paper to illustrate how historical archaeology can help validate some of the stories surrounding Newton Knight and the Free State of Jones. Are there any well documented battles between Knight’s men and the Confederacy that you could direct my attentions towards? I hope this is not too much of an imposition.
    L. Berryhill


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