UNCW HomeUNCW Archaeological Field School in the Wilmington Area

Summer Session I 2016

UNC Wilmington





UNC Wilmington will offer a field school in the Wilmington area from May 16-June 16, 2016.  Our goal is to investigate a colonial/antebellum/postbellum rice plantation along the Brunswick River in Belville, near 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 basically take place M-R 9-5, and F 9-12. 


Brunswick River Park--home of Buchoi Plantation?

Field School crew, 2013

The 2013 Field School crew at the Brunswick River Park, with their rubber reptiles.


The Brunswick River Park is a town-operated park in Belville, NC along the Brunswick River.  It contains a boat ramp, small fishing pier, and a variety of playground, picnic facilities, the Duke Energy Educational Pavilion, trails, and is the starting point of the Belville Riverwalk, presently under construction.  


In 2013, the UNCW Anthropology department sponsored an archaeological field school that performed limited archaeological excavation along the bank and bluff of the Brunswick River at the park.  The goal of the excavation was to determine if the prehistoric remains found on the riverbank derived from intact archaeological sites.  Unfortunately, we determined that the riverbank was highly disturbed, and that there were no intact sites along the water.   As a secondary goal of the excavation, however, we attempted to locate the remains of Buchoi Plantation, registered in a previous archaeological survey as 31BW126. 


A previous archaeological survey was performed on the area in the mid-1970s, finding potentially intact historic foundations.  They were described at the time as being present about 200 feet east of State route 133, and to consist of the remains of a house structure, including ballast stone foundations, brick rubble, and a brick cistern which appeared to be largely intact. Archival research was completed in 1993, and suggested that the remains belonged to Buchoi plantation.


Buchoi was a working rice plantation originally belonging to Alfred Moore, the second U.S. Supreme Court justice from North Carolina, and a noted supporter of the colonists during the Revolutionary War.  The plantation was constructed by the end of the Revolution (and probably earlier) and owned and partially occupied by a number of landowners until 1903, when the final owner died.  At that time, rice planting in the Cape Fear region was not economically feasible, and the plantation was abandoned.  Following that time, the plantation area was put to pasturage, and then was a storage depot for the NC DOT.  The site was eventually transformed into the Brunswick River Park.


The plantation, according to the previous surveys and archival research, included a house, a separate kitchen building, a cistern, a barn, slave quarters, and other outbuildings.  The main house was burnt and rebuilt at least once.  It seems likely that at least some of these structures are partially intact below the ground surface, although we suspect that at least some outbuildings are under the modern parking lot.  The goal of our field school will be to locate the remaining buildings through Ground-Penetrating Radar and excavation, and to evaluate the condition of the remains.  If the remains are sufficiently intact, we will, with the permission of the Belville Town Council, sponsor the site for entry into the National Historic Register.


In order to do this, the Belville Town Council has generously given us permission to perform excavations in the park.


Park Conservation and Public Education


Brunswick River Park is a public location that is owned and maintained for the benefit of the public.  When working in the park, we will need to remember two key principles:  public education, and minimal disturbance of the park and its use.


Our excavation units will be in public places, and will be very obvious to park users.  We will be in a public place, doing something strange and mysterious with shovels and screens.  One of the most important parts of this project will be our interacting with the public.  One view of an archaeological site is of an outdoor museum in which we're the main exhibit!  We will have educational handouts, we will have educational signs, we will give lectures, talks, school field trips, and site tours when requested, and we will always be happy to talk with members of the public about what we're doing.  We will also be very, very careful to mark all excavation units so that they don't cause a public hazard. 


Laboratory and Project Components


Depending on how much material we find, we will put aside at least one half-day a week for laboratory artifact processing, and perhaps more.  This will familiarize everyone with standard archaeological lab techniques--washing, inventorying, pottery analysis, etc.


Each student will also have either a group or individual project that will include an oral and written report, to ensure that everyone is keeping their mind on the larger issues of archaeology, as well as the dirt.  More information will be available soon.




The site is within close driving distance of UNCW and Wilmington; Brunswick River Park is about 20 minutes by car from the university.  Local students can live in their usual residences, and we will meet at the site (or a designated Wilmington meeting point, such as UNCW) every morning.  We can arrange lodging for out-of-town students, if necessary. 




The Cape Fear region is archaeologically important in both the prehistoric and historic periods, and has not been excavated or published with the thoroughness it deserves.  Despite the large number of rice plantations known to have existed in the area, none have been excavated.  Further, although the best suvey and documentary information suggests that the historical remains at the Brunswick River park were from Buchoi Plantation, and did belong to Justice Alfred Moore, there has been no archaeological testing of this hypothesis.  We would like to confirm both the modern location of the historic remains, and also the identity of the remains as much as possible.



How Much?


The present estimate for costs is difficult, as UNCW has not yet posted summer tuition costs.  The field school will not charge fees for lodging or food, but we will charge a small fee of about $75 per person to keep us in digging supplies.  A good estimate would be one 6-credit summer class, plus $75.



How Do I Sign Up?


 If you're interested in taking the field school, or even thinking about it, please drop by my office in OH 1018L, or send me an e-mail at rebere@uncw.edu, and I will give you more details. 


There is no formal application form--if you'd like to apply for the field school, please notify me of your name and insurance # by March 15.  You will hear from me about your acceptance into the field school by March 22--this should give you plenty of time to plan your summer schedule prior to the opening of Summer preregistration on April 8.  Following acceptance into the field school, a packet of information and other forms will be sent to you. 


We may have to have some preliminary field school meetings to talk about archaeological information, and to fix our screens, which are in need of some TLC.

Enrollment is limited to 12.



What Else?

For more information, contact  rebere@uncw.edu, or (910)962-7734.