The Lord Ashley Archaeological Site
Lord Anthony Ashley CooperAs part of Historic Charleston Foundation’s initiative to expand the Ashley River National Register District, a team of local archaeologists and HCF staff conducted archaeological testing and limited excavation in 2009 on a privately owned property along the upper reaches of the Ashley River in Dorchester County. There, archaeologists uncovered the foundation of one of the oldest – if not the oldest—brick structures in the Carolinas. The brickwork is a part of the 17th century settlement of Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, one of the original eight Lords Proprietors of the Carolina colony. It was a fortified plantation and Native American trading outpost, actively used for just a decade, 1675-1685. This outlying settlement may be studied on its own and in relation to the contemporaneous first English settlement site in Carolina, today known as Charles Towne Landing.

Foundations as Unit

Because of the pristine nature of the site and its importance to South Carolina and American history, a second phase of archaeological investigation took place at the Lord Ashley site in the summer of 2011 when the College of Charleston assisted by The Charleston Museum used the site for a portion of their bi-annual field school in historical archaeology. A grant to HCF from Mead Westvaco (MWV) made it possible for anthropology students 

from the College of Charleston to spend the last two weeks of the field school at the Lord Ashley site, following several weeks of excavation at Charles Towne Landing. The field school was successful in advancing information about the major research themes of 17th century cultural contact, defense, architecture, and trade and commerce. Since that time, more than 5,000 recovered artifacts have been analyzed, the 2011 report was completed and a magnetometry survey was conducted on the site to aid in future archaeological investigations. There is much more to be learned and discovered.

Colonoware ShardThe third phase of archaeological investigation took place during the summer of 2013 with another College of Charleston archaeological field school. In 2013, archaeologists positively identified the moat and palisade that surrounded the settlement, and explored the cellar of at least one structure that was identified in the 2011 season. Ground-breaking research continues on artifacts such as early cow bones, colonoware and Barbadian ceramics. Pollen and other ethnobotanical analysis is also being undertaken to better understand the origins of Carolina agriculture and colonial diet. 

Field SchoolFurther archaeological research at this site and Charles Town Landing will increase understanding about our states origins and some of Charleston’s earliest inhabitants and will allow comparisons with similar archeological features and artifacts. The interactions between the different cultural groups at the Lord Ashley Settlement will provide African Americans, Europeans, and Native Americans today a chance to reflect on how these dynamic groups interacted on this early Colonial settlement.

Conservation Spotlight

Poplar Grove and Watson Hill: A Case Study In Coalition Building and Land Conservation

Two converging development threats in the Ashley River Corridor beginning in 2003 catalyzed a major conservation effort led by the Coastal Conservation League, Ducks Unlimited, the Lowcountry Open Land Trust and others…

Established in 1947, Historic Charleston Foundation is dedicated to preserving and protecting the architectural, historical and cultural character of Charleston and its Lowcountry environs, and to educating the public about Charleston’s history and the benefits that are derived from preservation.

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