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Local divers, under the direction Mr. Jimmy Moss from Abbeville, conducted a preliminary archaeological and historical survey the west branch of the Cooper River. Guidance and advice was provided by the Sport Diver Archaeology Management Program (SDAMP) of South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA). The Cooper River is one of the most popular recreational diving areas in the state. The objectives of this project were two-fold. First, to involve divers in an avocational archaeology project with the idea of promoting diver education. Second, to systematically locate and assess the underwater cultural resources in this historically significant two mile stretch of river. These sites included prehistoric and historic artifact scatters, a dock structure, shipwrecks and a barge. The artifact scatters were sampled and initial documentation was undertaken on the structural remains. Participating divers were involved in a range of tasks which included historical research, maintaining field notebooks, plotting sites on topography maps, cataloging and labeling artifacts, and compiling the final report. Reviews of unpublished literature about past archaeological surveys and state-sanctioned salvage projects were undertaken by SCIAA staff in an attempt to determine the extent of the usefulness of these records. This background study also instigated a closer examination of South Carolina's early site file system and identified various management problems which could be pertinent for future work on underwater sites. Based on the formative results of this survey, some ideas were gleaned about underwater site distribution and fluvial processes in relation to riverine geomorphology and terrestrial topographic features. An analysis of the artifact collection recovered by the sport divers reflects distinctive assemblage components relating to plantation sites on the nearby river banks. This groundbreaking project, conducted and directed by sport divers, provided an ideal opportunity to combine public outreach and education with research - a important goal of SCIAA's Sport Diver Archaeology Management Program.

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The South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology--University of South Carolina




Excavations, Sport divers, Cooper River, South Carolina, Archeology



The Cooper River Survey:  An Underwater Reconnaissance of the West Branch

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