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Rivers and Bays: UNCW Archaeological Field School in the Wilmington area

Location: Wilmington, North Carolina, United States

May 20, 2013 to June 20, 2013

Application Deadline: 
Friday, March 15, 2013

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



UNC Wilmington

Project Director:

Eleanora Reber, UNC Wilmington

Project Description

UNC Wilmington will offer a field school in the Wilmington area from May 20-June 20, 2013.  Our goal is to investigate two separate parks in the Wilmington area:  Brunswick River Park in Belville, and Halyburton Park, in Wilmington.  Over the course of the session, students will learn surface surveying, excavation techniques, record-keeping, mapping, and basic lab techniques, including flotation. We will also go on field trips to some local archaeological sites of interest.  The class will be 6 credit hours, and will be intensive--it will take place M-R 9-5, and F 9-12.

The Brunswick River Park is a Brunswick County-operated park located in Belville, NC along the Brunswick River.   The area is archaeologically complicated--it is known to contain four registered terrestrial archaeological sites (and one underwater one) prior to dredging of the Brunswick River.  When the river was dredged, the river shoreline was pulled back at least 20 or 30 feet, probably disturbing at least some of the known archaeological sites.  The artifacts being found at the river's edge probably have one of three possible sources:  1)  intact archaeological soil that was originally cut into by the dredging, and is now being nibbled away by the river.  2)  One of the original terrestrial sites which is now underwater, with the artifacts washing in to shore on the tide.  3)  Artifacts from highly disturbed soil and no intact archaeological soil.  One of the primary goals of our field school will be to find out which of these possibilities is most likely.

In order to do this, the Brunswick County department of Parks and Recreation has generously given us permission to do 4-8 1 x 1 m test units in two or three parts of the park.  We will spend three weeks in this park, performing these test excavations and also some mapping, in order to match up the pre-dredging archaeological survey map with the modern landscape. 

We will also spend two weeks of the session performing archaeological survey in some parts of Halyburton Park, in Wilmington.  Halyburton Park is a city park and nature preserve situated on two previously permanent freshwater ponds and a network of small, seasonal water holes.  It contains three primary biomes—the wetlands surrounding the ponds, Carolina Sandhills, and Carolina Flatwoods, and is close to a Carolina Bay, a unique regional biome.  The area should have contained plenty of resources that would make it an attractive place to live, and therefore an area of possible archaeological potential. Despite this potential the park area was never systematically surveyed, according to the Office of the State Archaeologist.   In addition, the park is of some historical interest; a civil war embankment stretches through the eastern part of the park.  Oral history suggests that a field hospital from the Battle of Wilmington was located on park property, but its precise location has not been determined. 

Thanks to the generous permission of the City of Wilmington and Andrew Fairbanks, Park Director, we will perform surface survey (walkover) when appropriate, which it is in the Sandhills portion of the environment.  In areas with insufficient visibility for surface survey, which will probably include all the Flatwoods, we will perform shovel test pits (STPs) at 50 cm in diameter at 20 m intervals.  Both these techniques are standard archaeological survey techniques, and very useful for people interested in continuing with archaeology.

Period(s) of Occupation: Prehistoric/Historic

Will perform surface survey, STP survey, and test excavations

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Students can make their own arrangements for room and board.  If anyone is coming from out of town, Dr. Reber is happy to help make arrangements at the university or in nearby student housing.  Due to this system, room and board is not included in the cost of the field school, and may vary from person to person. 
Students are also expected to get themselves to the field and lab locations every day, but we are also happy to organize carpools and rides as needed.

$75 plus tuition

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
UNC Wilmington
Number of credits offered 6
$839.28 in-state/$3292.56 out-of-state


Contact Information
Eleanora A. Reber
Anthropology department, UNC Wilmington, 601 S. College Rd.