Category: UIUC Grad Students in the News!

Jamie Arjona accepts 2014 award from SHA President Paul Mullins.

Jamie Arjona accepts 2014 award from SHA President Paul Mullins.

Congratulations to Anthropology department alumna Annelise Morris in receiving the first-place award for the Society for Historical Archaeology‘s Diversity Field School Award, and to graduate students Jamie Arjona and Tatiana Niculescu for the second-place award. These awards recognized their excellent work as collaborative archaeology project managers and their successes through research designs and public participation in enhancing the diversity of our field of science. The SHA congratulates them for excellence in “making the field of historical archaeology more inclusive of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, and socio-economic background” and showing “a commitment to increasing diversity in the field.” Annelise’s field school focused on her dissertation site at Lawrenceville, Illinois, and Jamie and Tatiana’s contribution focused on the 2013 field school at the Pottersville site in Edgefield, South Carolina.

A Dragon Kiln in Carolina

By K. Kris Hirst, Guide

excavation photoChinese Pottery Technology in the Antebellum American South

As modern humans, we tend to think of international trade, commercial innovation and mass production as strictly modern inventions, no more than a century or so old and certainly never dreamed of by our great-grandfathers. I know what you’re thinking–didn’t Henry Ford invent that stuff? But as archaeology teaches us over and over again, modern industrial revolutions are in fact based on centuries and even millennia of collaboration, innovation and espionage.

A Dragon Kiln in Carolina is the story of the origins of mass production of an innovative and revolutionary type of ceramic stoneware, pottery made beginning in the southern United States about 1815, with clay body and glaze recipes and equipment technologies borrowed in part from 6th century Chinese manufacturing. It is a tale of the import of an idea for an enormous, fiery pottery-making monster, aptly named a dragon kiln for its heat, length and high-maintenance characteristics, and it is one of technological transmission from China to South Carolina that the excavators have yet to completely understand.

The archaeological identification of a dragon kiln in the historic South Carolina pottery workshops called the Edgefield District was made by Christopher Fennell (U. Illinois), George Calfas (U. Illinois), Carl Steen (Diachronic Research Foundation), and Sean Taylor (S.C. Department of Natural Resources) during the summer of 2011, and I thank them sincerely for bringing the story to me, as well as providing photos and information to take the story to you.

Read full article and photo essay online


Jamie Arjona and Steve Szynal of UIUC excavate at Pottersville

Jamie Arjona and Steve Szynal of UIUC excavate at Pottersville

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.”

Read the full article online.

Egungun! Power Concealed

Krannert Art Museum and Kinkaid Pavilion Exhibition

August 31 through December 30, 2012

Guest Curator: Timothy R. Landry

In a gallery adjacent to the African Gallery Reinstallation, Timothy Landry, a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology, will guest curate the focus exhibition Egungun! Power Concealed. This exhibition is based upon research Landry recently completed in the West African nation of Benin. Egungun are powerful Yoruba ancestors who are periodically summoned by their descendants to bring blessings and counsel to the world of the living. This exhibition will feature a lavishly sequined, full body egungun costume and undergarments and will project a video of an egungun in performance.

Thanks to the South Carolina Humanities Council and National Endowment for the Humanities for grant support for two projects on Edgefield ceramics and archaeology. Congratulations to the Edgefield County Historical Society, as the sponsoring organization for these projects, and to George Calfas as Project Director and author of the grant proposals.

The first project consisted of a five-part speaker series convened in South Carolina in the Summer of 2011, entitled “Pottersville: 200 Years of Pottery Production in the Edgefield District.”

The second project is entitled “Pottersville: Home of Alkaline Glazed Stoneware,” and has the following description on the S.C. Humanities Council web site: “create a short documentary film of 8 to 10 minutes showcasing the alkaline-glazed stoneware tradition that is so important in Edgefield County. This film will be presented at the Joanne T. Rainsford Discovery Center in Edgefield, the McKissick Museum in Columbia, at regional historical society meetings, as well as on several websites, including SCETV’s, which reaches K-12 classrooms across the state” (

Over the past few months Mr. Calfas and his colleagues have been working with Storyline Media to edit film footage with the goal of sharing the rich history of the pottery communities of Edgefield, the accomplishments of African-American and European-American artisans in those industries, and to document the 2011 Archaeological Fieldschool at Pottersville. The final product is a concise, 15 minute documentary now available online. In the coming month a DVD version will be added to the Anthropology department video library. If you would like a copy please let Mr. Calfas know, and please pass along this information to others who may be interested. Additional information about this multi-year, collaborative research and education project is also available online.

Our PhD alumni Alison Goebel and Kok (Chris) Tan have been praised for authoring dissertations in the top 40 ranking by the Anthroworks web site. Congratulations to Alison and Chris!

Here are their dissertation titles and abstracts —

Small City Neighbors: Race, Space, and Class in Mansfield, Ohio, by Alison Goebel. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Advisors: Alejandro Lugo, Brenda Farnell, Ellen Moodie, David R. Roediger. This dissertation investigates social relations in a small deindustrializing city in the United States to analyze the specificities of class, “race relations,” and small city “cityness.” I conducted ethnographic research in Mansfield, Ohio, a multiracial, class-stratified city of about 50,000 residents. My work contributes to studies of whiteness and U.S. race relations by examining how whiteness hierarchically structures social relationships among neighbors. In analyzing how middle class white dominance responds to pressures that seek to undermine its privileges, my dissertation offers a small city view of U.S. race relations. My findings capture particularities of the field site as well as the consequences of global neoliberal capitalism and white racial privilege common throughout the United States.

Stand up for Singapore? Gay Men and the Cultural Politics of National Belonging in the Lion City, by Kok Tan. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Advisors: Martin Manalansan IV, F. K. Lehman, Janet D. Keller, Alejandro Lugo. This dissertation examines how Chinese-Singaporean gay men articulate their aspirations for national belonging within a recalcitrant state and its nation-building programs. These men expose the artificiality of the nation and its categories of belonging. Even as the state compels them to submit to its call for economic and biological (re)productivity, it also chastises them for their allegedly excessive individualism. In everyday life, they navigate a social landscape structured by the very real practices of an authoritarian state that criminalizes their sexuality. I argue that the illiberal state achieves its political legitimacy by convincing citizens that only it can secure Singapore’s continuous economic growth.

From May through June, anthropology graduate student George Calfas led a team of undergraduate students, including five LAS students. Working in muggy, 100-degree weather, they uncovered the industrial-scale kiln used to make pottery at Pottersville, about a mile from Edgefield, S.C.


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