State News

January 24, 2014

Savannah excavation seeks clues from city’s past

SAVANNAH — Old nails and spikes, fragments of dishes and bottles from different times, pieces of colonial tobacco pipes and a pig’s tooth. Those items were among the finds a small team of archaeologists and community volunteers unearthed recently at the Davenport House Museum in downtown Savannah.

The garden area of the property that stands on lots 13 and 14 of what was known as Columbia Ward was filled with several dig sites as archaeologists with the LAMAR Institute and assistants sifted through dirt looking for clues to Savannah’s past.

“We’re looking for information about what happened here in the past,” said Rita Elliott, LAMAR’s education coordinator. “Specifically information related to Isaiah Davenport, African-Americans that were enslaved in this area, children, the women...”

Elliott said Davenport lived in a wooden structure on the lots before the current 1820 Federal-style house was built. Exactly where, she said, is lost to history, and some of Davenport’s original property was lost to neighboring construction. She hoped they would be able to find some evidence or the original dwellings.

LAMAR came to the museum recently to run ground-penetrating radar and came up with some interesting hits. Archaeologists came back to set up the excavation to find out exactly what lies underground. A day of volunteer support, Elliott said, was rewarding.

“It’s really wonderful to see the interest from the community and people come out and actually participate in a scientific excavation,” she said. “And we’re just pleased to see the response. We had to actually start a wait list there were so many people interested in coming out to be involved and make discoveries and learn about the past.”

One volunteer, Vince Green, came out to get his hands dirty after attending a lecture about the topic earlier in the week.

He and 16-year-old Savannah Arts Academy student Eric Aupperle sifted through dirt together at a dig spot near the edge of the property line.

“I just moved to the area in October from Philadelphia, and I’m trying to do as many things as I can to learn about the history of Savannah,” Green said. “And I’ve always been a real big history buff.”

Halfway across the lot, archaeologist P.T. Ashlock was down on his hands and knees inside a rectangular hole clearing earth from old construction rubble. With the afternoon temperature about a cool 50 degrees, he didn’t mind so much.

“It’s actually warmer down here than standing up,” he said.

Ashlock said due to the amount of brick rubble that was being uncovered, he had high hopes they would be able to determine more about the structures that previously stood on the lot.

“Savannah is the kind of city that needs archaeological exploration,” he said. “We have so many great buildings, and it would be great to see more archaeology done in the area to tell us more about the surroundings involving our buildings. Savannah is an architectural marvel because of all the different styles represented here that are still preserved.”

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Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com

 

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