Madison Square

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Archaeology Education & Glynn County

The Glynn County School System has an amazing, dynamic Archaeology Education Program in which students learn the required state quality core curriculum objectives through archaeology and hands-on activities. The county is thinking about eliminating this program because of budget shortages.

Please support this fabulous program by:

1- becoming their fan on Facebook and leaving your comments in support of the program.

2-  or more importantly, write to the superintendent and tell him you support innovative educational programs like this one.

3- also, write to the Board of Education and let them know special programs like this are important.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


You may recall that in a previous post I discussed our minimal success in finding archaeology sites from the 1700s. We spent much of our first three weeks of fieldwork focused on finding where the American and French armies camped during the Siege of Savannah. We have maps showing the approximate locations, but no solid leads yet.

Map of the 1779 Siege of Savannah, from the Coastal Heritage Society Collection.

Finding the soldiers' camps is difficult for several reasons.

1- Our method of locating sites is georeferencing historic maps in GIS. Translation: I use a computer program called ArcMap to match up historic maps with a modern map of Savannah. However, when we line up the maps, our matching points are all located downtown. So as the historic maps is stretched and resized the edges can become distorted and somewhat inaccurate. This is why we were so successful finding sites downtown, but have had much less luck mid-town.
2- Historic maps simply are not as accurate as modern maps. We have looked at almost 30 historic maps and each varies. Some of the maps even conflict with each other.

3- The camps were only occupied for several weeks. The soldiers would probably have only lost or discarded a minimal number of artifacts.

4- As Savannah grew and more land was developed, the sites may have been destroyed or buried very deeply under lots of soil, making them hard to reach.

5- We have dug small pits called shovel tests in seven parks throughout mid-town Savannah looking for the camps with little success and without finding any military artifacts. This technique is limited in the area we can cover and the depths we can reach. Metal detectors are frequently used to find military sites because of the high percentage of buttons, bullets, and gun parts on military sites. But in modern Savannah, we have found that there is too much modern trash for this technique to work. We do find pennies and nickles though.

Therefore, we need your help to find these sites. Have you ever found any artifacts in your yard? Send us pictures of these artifacts and the address where they were found to We would be happy to give you more information about the artifact if possible.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mapping Our Treasures

Two important federal grant programs are on the fiscal chopping block. Eight of these projects are in Savannah, several of which are Coastal Heritage Society Projects. Please write to your Congressmen and Senators and tell them we care about America's Treasures!

Mapping Our Treasures- This map shows you where each Save America's Treasures and Preserve America site is located. Scroll over to see the many Georgia projects.

Georgia Trusts You

The Georgia Trust has a great new blog about preservation issues and preservation legislation in Georgia. Keep up to date on your community and find out how to take action to save Georgia's treasures. It's at the local level that we can all make a difference. Thanks for your support!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Savannah Under Fire?

I am frequently asked, why is the title of our project "Savannah Under Fire"? The answer is twofold. First, as the French and American Allies laid siege to British-held Savannah in the fall of 1779, the city was literally under fire. Mortars and cannons were fired into the city from the French fleet on the Savannah River and from batteries constructed south of the city. French and American troops also conducted sorties, attacking the British defenses surrounding the city.

Today, Savannah's archaeological sites are under fire from a less obvious source: development. It is a myth that archaeology holds up development. Once archaeology is properly integrated into the permitting process, it becomes simply another step in improving our city. Archaeology also has much to contribute to the culture of the city, just as the historic preservation movement has done wonders for Savannah.

Bull Street, just south of Broughton Street. Picture taken on 21 Feb 2010.

Close-up of the hole in Bull Street, note the brickwork.
Was an archaeological site destroyed here? I don't know. No one was allowed (or required) to check or document the area before work began. Unlike our beautiful live oaks, we cannot simply grow another archaeological site. Once it is destroyed, it is gone forever. Savannah still has archaeological sites long buried and waiting to share their history. Let's not squander them.

For more detailed information on the rate of destruction and the great potential of archaeology, please read the 7-page final chapter of our 2008 report on the first "Savannah Under Fire" grant available here, under documents.