Unearthing the Past: Edgefield Pottery Excavations Reveal New, Surprising Information
June 30, 2012, by DeDe Biles, Aiken Standard News
Archaeological excavations are uncovering new and surprising information about the potteries that thrived in Aiken and Edgefield counties in the first half of the 1800s.
“There is a sparse documentary record of this area that is maddening, and what we’ve found has been a complete revelation,” said Dr. Christopher Fennell, an associate professor and the associate head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Fennell and a team of graduate and undergraduate students, along with some volunteers, have been working at Pottersville, a site not far from downtown Edgefield, since just after Memorial Day. They are scheduled to wrap up this year’s efforts on Friday. Their focus in 2013 has been to add to the knowledge gained during a series of digs at the same location in 2011.
Before then, much of what was known about local potteries in the past suggested that a groundhog kiln about 25 to 30 feet in length and 9 to 10 feet wide would be found at Pottersville. Instead, the researchers discovered a kiln that was more than 105 feet long and had a sloping floor similar to the dragon kilns used in China.
“It gave us quite a new view of Edgefield,” Fennell said. “There had been a working historical theory before then that this had started out as smaller scale crafts industry. But what was found was a much bigger industrial-scale pottery.”
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