Archaeology of
Edgefield, South Carolina
Pottery Communities


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Information for Volunteers

Archaeology Field School, June 13 to July 12, 2016

Join us at the Pottersville ("Landrumsville") site for archaeology in the summer of 2016! We return for another season of field research on the amazing heritage and history of Edgefield pottery production. Our 2016 investigations will focus on the areas of the turning shed and pug mill, which were located just downslope from the extraordinary "dragon" kiln built there circa 1815.

Students and volunteers will work in supervised teams, learning to uncover the archaeological record as members of an investigative team, with skills employed by professional archaeologists. You receive training in the techniques of surveying, interpreting geophysical and LiDAR data, excavations, mapping, artifact classification, and contextual interpretations. Laboratory processing and analysis will also be ongoing during the field season. Evening talks by project staff, visiting archaeologists, and historians will focus on the history and heritage of Edgefield and how field data are used to answer archaeological and historical research questions.

2011 field school excavation of the Pottersville kiln
Excavated contours of the Pottersville kiln, 2011.

This year's dig will take place in and around the Pottersville kiln site under the direction of Chris Fennell (Associate Professor), doctoral students Shawn Fields and Rebecca Schumann, and collaborating archaeologists and consultants. We plan to work at the site on Mondays through Fridays from 9am to 5pm.

The team is flexible on the length of time each volunteer can contribute. To best schedule volunteers and plan the excavation tasks day to day, all volunteers must arrange their schedules in advance with Prof. Fennell. Volunteers can participate in all aspects of the field work, including surveys and excavations. Among other subjects, this Summer's team will focus on the areas of the likely turning shed and clay processing areas near the kiln remains at Pottersville.

Required, advanced registration for participating in the dig must be arranged with Prof. Fennell, who will handle volunteer organization and coordination. You can email him at to register and arrange your volunteer schedule. In your email, please list the dates on which you wish to volunteer and describe any prior experience in archaeology surveys or excavations you may have (although none is required). All field project participants are required to complete a "Waiver, Release, and Acknowledgement" form, which will be sent to you in response to your email.

2013 ground penetrating radar survey

Our archaeology project at the Pottersville site started in 2011 and has revealed astounding new evidence concerning the history of the Edgefield stoneware pottery tradition. Archaeology alone revealed that Abner Landrum and his workers constructed a 105-foot long "dragon" kiln of remarkable scale around 1815 at Pottersville. They launched the Southern alkaline-glazed stoneware tradition in Edgefield with an industrial-scale operation.

Dragon kiln reconstruction
You can imagine what the hillside of Pottersville once looked like by comparing this reconstruction of a dragon kiln in Dingshu Town of Yixing City, east China's Jiangsu Province, which is 160 feet long. The buildings here serve as turning and drying sheds.

Skilled African-American artisans, including Dave Drake, performed all tasks in this early pottery production at Pottersville. In April 2016, Dave Drake was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame "to recognize and honor both contemporary and past citizens who have made outstanding contributions to South Carolina's heritage and progress" (

There is no charge to participate in the dig, but transportation, meals and lodging are the responsibility of the volunteer participants.

While camping facilities are not available, lodging is available at the beautiful Edgefield Inn at special rates for registered volunteers of $50.00 per day ( The daily room rate includes a continental breakfast. Rooms include a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. The Inn also features free WiFi and a well-equipped exercise room. You can reach the Inn's manager, Ms. Trish Berry, by email at and by telephone at 803-637-2001.

Edgefield is a small Southern town located in the southwest of South Carolina. The Town has a disproportionately vibrant history, having provided ten governors to South Carolina. The attraction of Edgefield pottery, in more recent times, has brought national prominence to the District. There are a variety of locally owned restaurants, antique shops, art and pottery galleries, historical homes, and museums to visit and enjoy. The town center is recognized for its significance on the National Register of Historic Places.

More details about our archaeology program and past findings are available online on our project web site:

In addition to the archaeology project, the Edgefield County Historical Society, University of Illinois, and University of Chicago will also host a related speaker series on the history and heritage of Edgefield, South Carolina, and the Southern stoneware pottery traditions, at the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center in Edgefield. Planned speaker events in this series, entitled Cultural and Craft Legacies of Edgefield, include Bettis Rainsford, Joe W. Joseph, Carl Steen, George Wingard, Keith Stephenson, April L. Hynes, and members of the archaeology team. These events are scheduled for Thursday evenings, June 9, 16, 23, 30, and July 7.

Use this link to view the program of our terrific speaker series in June and July!

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Maintained by
Christopher Fennell