What is a Shell Midden? Data Recovery Excavations of Thom's Creek and Deptford Shell Middens, 38BU2, Spring Island, South Carolina


Data recovery excavations were conducted at five shell midden loci of site 38BU2, Spring Island, Beaufort County, South Carolina. The excavations included: four by four m blocks in three Deptford phase middens; a four by four m block in a Thom's Creek midden; a six by six m block in a Deptford midden; and two exploratory one by one m units in other Deptford middens. The analyses included detailed zooarchaeological and ethnobotanical studies, an investigation of oyster source environment and seasonality, and a detailed perusal of the stylistic and technological variation between and within middens. In addition, the overall assemblage traits were compared within and between phases.

The results support an evolving model of prehistoric midden development which emphasizes that all shell middens were not formed by the same activities. It is clear that the Thom's Creek midden at 38BU2 was the locus of diverse domestic activities beyond basic shellfish gathering. It appears that the Thom's Creek midden accumulated during repeated, seasonal semi-permanent occupations.

In contrast, the Deptford phase middens all exhibit the following traits: very low frequency of vertebrate faunal remains; virtual lack of shell, bone, lithic, or sherd tools; low frequency of ceramic sherds/vessels; very minor contribution by non-oyster shellfish; and lack of ideotechnic items. These Deptford middens are consistent in form and content with other known Deptford/Wilmington middens in the Beaufort County area. It is suggested that they represent oystering stations where large numbers of oysters were processed by a few individuals for surplus storage or exchange.

Cite this Record

What is a Shell Midden? Data Recovery Excavations of Thom's Creek and Deptford Shell Middens, 38BU2, Spring Island, South Carolina. Christopher T. Espenshade, Linda Kennedy, Bobby G. Southerlin, David Lawrence, David C. Jones. Brockington and Associates, Inc. 1994 ( tDAR id: 391052) ; doi:10.6067/XCV81837BF

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.702; min lat: 32.253 ; max long: -80.458; max lat: 32.446 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contributor(s): Bobby G. Southerlin; David Lawrence; David C. Jones

Field Director(s): Linda Kennedy

Principal Investigator(s): Christopher T. Espenshade

Landowner(s): Spring Island Plantation

Sponsor(s): Spring Island Plantation

Submitted To(s): South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)

Record Identifiers

Brockington and Associates, Inc., report number(s): 0250

File Information

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