Madison Square

Madison Square
Savannah Under Fire archaeologists work in Madison Square, Savannah, GA, surrounded by visitors and citizens interested in our dig.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Last week, we wrapped the first half of our fieldwork. In the next few weeks, we'll be analyzing artifacts, reevaluating maps, and creating a game plan for the second round of fieldwork. We'll also be doing some fieldwork at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum

A huge thanks to our wonderful volunteers who froze alongside us these past three weeks!

Ijtihad Muhammad

Matt Luke

Carl Arndt

Momoco Holder

Laura Lewis

Dawn Chapman Guest

Michael Lamb

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finally? Maybe.

You may have noticed that I have been talking a lot about where we are digging, but not much about what we are finding. We have been discovering artifacts and archaeological sites throughout these past few weeks, but nothing older than the early 1800s. We simply haven’t found anything significant enough to report. Until now.

Today we dug shovel tests throughout Thomas Park, the park adjacent to Bull Street Library. In one corner of the park, we found artifacts that date to the colonial era, including Rhenish stoneware and tabby mortar (but still no military artifacts).

Tomorrow, Dan will run his ground-penetrating radar machine over the area. In addition to archaeological features, we will be looking for modern utilities. The park has a sculpture fountain, a drinking fountain, lampposts, and irrigation lines that have been dug into the archaeology site. We want to avoid these utilities for three reasons: we don’t want to break any of them, we don’t want to electrocute ourselves, and the utility has already destroyed the archaeology site so there is no point in digging near them.

When we being our second round of fieldwork in the spring, we will return to Thomas Park and dig larger areas to determine if there is intact soil from the 1700s.

Also tomorrow, catch us at WW Law Park digging more shovel test pits.

How we dig shovel tests:

 1. Dig a hole and screen the dirt for artifacts.

2. Measure the soil layers.

3. Write notes about the soils and artifacts found.

4. Fill hole back in.

5. Repeat.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Butterflies in the sky...

Thursday we will be digging in the park adjacent to Bull Street Library, one of my favorite places. Props to the Georgia Room and Interlibrary Loan departments- ya'll are awesome!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tomorrow we will continue our relentless pursuit of the American Camps in Laurel Grove Cemetery. Thanks to Mr. Flowers and an anonymous tipster, we now know about some high ground nearby that might be an old road. Time to bring out the topo maps!

Laurel Grove is often overshadowed by its big sister, Bonaventure Cemetery. While boasting fewer famous people, and containing an overload of obelisks, Laurel Grove is still worth checking out.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Presidents Day before we had presidents

Monday we will be working in Laurel Grove Cemetery.  Take advantage of the holiday to celebrate George and the Revolution!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Dirty Job

Why has Mike Rowe never done a Dirty Jobs show on archaeology? Archaeology is all about dirt. Everybody thinks it is all about the artifacts. They're important, but the dirt is the real information. The different colors, shapes, and textures of soil tell us if we are digging a privy, a modern pipe trench, or a post hole that was the corner of a house.

The difference between an archaeologist and someone digging to find artifacts (may I say looter?) are these clues from the differences in dirt. Archaeologists record the soils and the artifacts we find in each soil. We take pictures, fill out forms, map our finds, and write endless notes. In the lab, we use these field records and our artifact analysis to “reconstruct” the site and to understand the site. We then write our technical report and a (hopefully) more interesting public report.

Once you disturb the dirt by digging through it, you destroy history by destroying the dirt clues. Archaeology is a dirty job, in fact, we are dirt connoisseurs.

On Friday- catch us in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Come to Whitfield Square tommorow and visit our hard working volunteers

and watch us dig small holes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Calhoun who?

We started the week working on private property, but Wednesday we start in Calhoun Square. Everyone is welcome to stop by and learn about the project first hand. We will start by running the ground penetrating radar machine and digging shovel test pits. This square might be the location of French saps, or trenches. Our French allies were digging towards the British fortifications, hoping to weaken British defenses and end the siege.

Monday, February 8, 2010

René Descartes

The very first step in exploring a new archaeology site is setting up the grid. Remember the x,y coordinate system from elementary school? In high school the teachers called it the Cartesian coordinate plane. We superimpose one of these imaginary grids over the archaeology site so we can map all of our finds.
Rita sets up the transit.

We start by setting up the laser transit at our (0,0) location, or the datum. We use a grid north rather than true magnetic north. Our grid north is aligned with the town plan of Savannah. So as you drive towards the Savannah River on Bull Street, you are following our grid north. We use the transit to identify the location of more points along the grid, putting large nails into the ground to mark important points. The transit shoots a laser towards the prism rod, and the laser bounces off of the prism back to the transit. From this, the transit computer calculates distances and angles, allowing us to precisely identify any point with our grid.

Laura holds the prism rod while Rita operates the transit.

We map in all of our excavations, ground penetrating radar areas, and special finds. We also use the transit to map significant locations such as roads, buildings, monuments, and other obstructions. At the end of the day, we go back to the office and download these points (or coordinates). I can use basic drafting programs to make simple maps, or I can put these coordinates into our GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database and make more complex maps. (I’ll be posting more on GIS in the future.)

On last Tuesday, we began setting up our grid near the corner of Fahm and Zubley streets in Savannah. We established the grid, and Dan ran his ground penetrating radar (GPR) machine over the grassy greenspace between apartment buildings. We believe this area is the location of one of the redoubts (mini forts) that surrounded Savannah in 1779. Once the data is collected, Dan will use a computer program to post-process the data, producing 2-D and 3-D images of what anomalies lie beneath the surface. The GPR images will suggest what archaeological resources are present. However, the only way to know for sure is to dig, looking for artifacts and old soils. This process is called “ground-truthing”. I’ll let you know when we have GPR results!

We took advantage of the rain on Friday and visited Luciana at the Savannah City Archives. She helped us find many maps of the project area. Even though the Archives does not have any Revolutionary War maps, later maps are also helpful. We have to understand everything that has happened in between the Rev War and today in order to understand the archaeology site itself. For example, maps showing the Civil War fortifications can help us eliminate areas to dig. Or if many buildings have been built and rebuilt in an area, there might be many feet of other cultural layers covering up the Revolutionary War layers.
Thanks Luciana!
Rita examines maps in the Savannah City Archives.

Monday, February 1, 2010

fieldwork schedule

The real fieldwork begins this week! We are planning to spend the next three weeks in the field. We will be posting our tenative schedule and dig locations as we know them. Come visit us the field to watch history being discovered.

Unless , of course, it rains. This seems very likely.
The Plan:
~Tuesday we will be doing ground-penetrating radar at the corner of Fahm and Zubley Sts. We are hoping to locate the remains of one of the redoubts, or mini forts, that surrounded Savannah during the 1779 battle.
~Wednesday through Friday we will be working on private land where the Reserve Corps of Haitian volunteers protected retreating allied American and French forces.

The Backup Plan:
~Tuesday will be flexible. Maybe we can do some prep work in the afternoon if it stops raining.
~Wednesday we will do ground-penetrating radar at the corner of Fahm and Zubley streets, hoping to locate the remains of one of the redoubts, or mini forts, that surrounded Savannah during the 1779 battle.
~Thursday and Friday we will be working on private land where the Reserve Corps of Haitian volunteers protected retreating allied American and French forces.

Fine print: Our schedule is always tenative, based on weather, our latest findings, and emergencies.