Data Recovery Excavations at 38BU832. A Wilmington Phase Oyster Station, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina


Data recovery investigations were undertaken at the Wilmington phase shell midden, site 38BU832, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. A four by four m block and a two by eight m block were excavated. Column samples (50 by 50 cm) were taken from each 10 cm level of each two by two m unit. The laboratory analyses included: a detailed oyster shell study; an examination of the stylistic and technological variability in the ceramics; zooarchaeological and ethnobotanical analysis; and an assemblage level comparison with other sites in the region. In addition, the utility of various recovery techniques is evaluated, and the seasonality data for shell midden sites are critically evaluated.

The study demonstrates that the 38BU832 midden was created in the Wilmington phase, ca. AD 1 to 600. Corrected radiocarbon dates of AD 10 +/- 49, AD 600 +I- 47, and AD 530 +/- 46 were derived from oyster shell from the midden. The assemblage is characterized by the following: a dominance of oyster shell; a paucity of vertebrate faunal remains; a virtual lack of shell tools, bone tools, lithic debitage or tools, and sherd hones/abraders; a lack of ideotechnic items; very few sherds, all from simple bowl forms; and very few non-oyster shellfish. No storage or structural features were encountered. The site is interpreted as an oystering station where a few individuals mass processed oysters to create a surplus for storage or exchange.

A review of the results from the present and similar projects suggests that the screening of midden through 0.125 inch mesh does not offer significant returns for the cost and time expenditures relative to 0.25 inch mesh recovery. While 0.125 inch mesh recovery does occasionally add a species not represented in a 0.25 inch mesh collection, the use of 0.125 inch mesh does not add significantly to the data gathered from column samples. If larger or more reliable samples are desired, than it is more effective to increase the number or size of the flotation samples collected, and to screen the remainder of the midden fill through 0.25 inch mesh.

The consistent pattern of shellfish gathering seasonality from regional studies (Late Spring/Early Summer) does not mesh well with the ethnohistoric record nor with general reconstructions of resource availability. The comparison of seasonality indicators in the oyster and vertebrate faunal records is inconclusive, but at least some vertebrate species were being captured in different seasons than those in which oyster gathering occurred. The conclusion of this study is that the oyster seasonality studies must be treated as suspect until a more complete modern comparative study is finished; that study must also critically address the possible effects which past environmental conditions may have had on masking seasonal differences.

Cite this Record

Data Recovery Excavations at 38BU832. A Wilmington Phase Oyster Station, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Christopher T. Espenshade, Linda Kennedy, Bobby G. Southerlin, David R. Lawrence. Brockington and Associates, Inc. 1992 ( tDAR id: 391056)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Temporal Coverage

Calendar Date: 1 to 600

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.972; min lat: 32.105 ; max long: -80.555; max lat: 32.347 ;

Record Identifiers

Brockington and Associates, Inc., report number(s): 0276