Alliance series, Backyard History, public archaeology

October 9, 1779: Backyard History

October 9, 1779, is the anniversary of the Battle of Savannah. Most people don’t know there was a major Revolutionary War battle in downtown Savannah. At 800 casualties, this is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution. However, only approximately 50 of these were British. We lost. Badly. The British held Savannah until the war’s end.

Archaeology has contributed to to our knowledge of this event. The Coastal Heritage Society manages a small, but critical, portion of the battlefield, Battlefield Memorial Park. In 2005, the park was scheduled for rehabilitation and a make-over. Archaeologist Rita Elliott asked for one last chance to find the redoubt, or small fort that the Americans and their allies attacked in an attempt to retake Savannah. She was successful, and Rita’s findings were incorporated into the reconstructed redoubt, memorial stones, and interpretive signs throughout the park. This work was also the catalyst for two National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grants, starting in 2007. I was fortunate to be part of the “Savannah Under Fire” project team, who extended the excavations throughout downtown Savannah’s greenspaces, finding more intact pieces of the battlefield.

Archaeologists are often criticized for being “elitist” and not sharing artifacts or knowledge. Especially for this project, that cannot be farther from the truth. In addition to the signs on Battlefield Park, there is an exhibit in the Savannah History Museum next door, where you can see the artifacts recovered from the battlefield. The project’s social media is still floating around including this brochure and (my favorite) a video of us in the field. The technical reports for all phases of the project are available as free downloads on the LAMAR Institute website:

(While there, you can also look at more than 200 other archaeology reports from Georgia and the Southeast.)

Finally, today, and every October 9, the Coastal Heritage Society holds a Battlefield Memorial March. I attended several years under obligation as an employee but was always impressed by the event and its significance.

October 9, 2018, Battlefield Memorial March. Photograph courtesy of the Coastal Heritage Society Facebook page.
October 9, 2018, Battlefield Memorial March. Photograph courtesy of the Coastal Heritage Society Facebook page.

I urge you to explore your Backyard History, our Revolutionary War battlefield. There is so much more than I could possibly cover in one blog post. Battlefield Memorial Park is a great place to start.

Alliance series

The Alliance

I deliberately named the Savannah Archaeological Alliance (unlike the orange color scheme, which was a bit random, but as a Syracuse alum, I’m liking it). The Savannah and Archaeological should be fairly obvious- we’re doing archaeology in Savannah. The Alliance part is the most critical. I started this little venture as one person, but I’m already gaining partners and alliances. And nothing can happen without a little help from our friends. As I roll out more projects, I will introduce some partners that will be pretty obvious- other historic sites, historians, preservationists, and anthropologists. Others may not be immediately intuitive.

As anthropologists, we are trained to think holistically, to look at the whole picture. The Savannah Archaeological Alliance (SAA) looks at preservation holistically, not just considering historic preservation, city planning, archives, and other types of historic and urban resources and professionals. True, holistic preservation needs a healthy, local economy; SAA will always buy local when possible. True preservation also needs a healthy environment and in particular, good land conservation. For example, supporting family farms supports the preservation of archaeology sites. How? Attend your local farmer’s market*, buy local food, and keep family-owned farms in business. Small farms are good stewards of the land, and care about preserving their land in every sense of the word. Plowing and working the land does little to disturb archaeology sites. When small farms fail or when the next generation simply doesn’t want to continue farming, they have to sell their land, and to whom? Usually a developer.

There are many ways to preserve archaeology sites and support preservation, so we’ll be highlighting some of those projects that work and some that don’t in our Alliance series. We’ll also share ways you can support preservation everyday. This fall, become a Friend of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market, and better yet, stop by the Market Saturday morning (9am-1pm) or buy from the Farm Truck throughout the week. See you at the Market.

Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Saturday, October 6, 2018.

*Full disclosure: I am a member of the Forsyth Farmer’s Market Board of Directors.