Relics Unearthed at Parris Island Dig - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/16/05

Relics Unearthed at Parris Island Dig

Archeologists are in the Low Country today, searching for clues to help preserve a historic town located beneath the Marine Corps Depot on Parris Island. The site is quite literally layered with history dating back to the 16th century.

"Charlesfort, Santa Elena is one of the finest archeology sites in this part of the world," said USC archaeologist Chester DePratter. "It's a Spanish colonial town sitting on one of the earliest French forts in all of North America."

Although archeologists have been working at this site off and on since 1979, they've only dug about three percent of Santa Elena, and time is running out.

Since the beginning of Santa Elena, close to 125 to 150 feet of shoreline has literally washed away, taking away parts of the town and the nearby forts.

That's why archeologists are re-excavating trenches they dug in the past, trying to find the outline of the French fort--Charlesfort--and its mote.

"We're taking another look after several years of being away from it because we want to know where it goes into the marsh so we can know to protect it during the stabilization effort," explained DePratter.

"What they're doing will tell us what needs to be protected when they come in to do the mechanical aspect, putting riffraff or shoreline stabilization pieces," said Brian Howard with the Parris Island Museum.

But during the process, they've found some interesting artifacts. "We've been finding all sorts of great things," said local archaeologist Ellen Shlasko. "Spanish pottery, which we never see in South Carolina. We've been finding Native American pottery the Spanish had brought from another Spanish colony, finding materials from WWI."

This site is a national historic landmark. Artifacts from this five-week dig and past digs are on display at the museum on Parris Island.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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