The H.L. Hunley submarine, the 16th-century’s Spanish Santa Elena site, and South Carolina’s earliest Paleo-Indian and Native American cultures finally have a common home.
For years, top S.C. scientists have bemoaned the lack of a single, comprehensive book explaining the state’s history through archaeology. So they raised money and, over the course of nearly a decade, wrote it.
The University of South Carolina-based researchers finished “Archaeology in South Carolina: Exploring the Hidden Heritage of the Palmetto State” in March in hopes of bringing the scientific study of the state’s past cultures to the doorstep of curious South Carolinians.
“It gives you a sense of what we do and how we do it – not just the narrative,” said Adam King, the book’s chief editor and a research associate professor in the S.C. Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology. “This is a puzzle.
“That’s the fun thing about archaeology. It’s a puzzle, and we’re all doing it with different data, different time periods.”
With sections written by 20 archaeologists, the book is a sampling of decades of research spanning thousands of years. It delves into high-profile Palmetto State archaeological finds, including the 1995 discovery of the Civil War’s H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in battle.
But it also details more nuanced findings, pottery and stone tools that offer insight into the lives of the earliest inhabitants of modern-day South Carolina.
“It’s sort of like the Wildlife Fund. Everybody wants to save the panda, but there are other things out there,” said Jonathan Leader, an S.C. state archaeologist who contributed to the book. “By having it all together in one spot, people get their pandas. But then they get the other things that have equal importance.”
Writing the book in plain language was a change of pace for researchers, who normally score points by getting published in academic journals. But that was important, Leader said, to make archaeology accessible to people in a state rich with it.
South Carolina has more than 32,400 recorded archaeological sites, with varying numbers in all 46 counties. Researchers expect many more sites are undiscovered since much of South Carolina is undeveloped.
That leaves plenty still to learn, Leader said.
“You can go to places in South Carolina, walk on a battlefield and have a pretty good idea of what that battlefield looked like a couple hundred years ago,” Leader said. “In other areas, they’ve been developed over.”
“Archaeology in South Carolina” is available through USC Press by calling (800) 768-2500, or faxing an order form – available online – to 800-868-0740 or by mailing the form to 718 Devine St., Columbia, SC 29208. The book also can be found at Barnes & Noble and at Amazon.com.