The Old Santee Canal Sanctuary encompasses the last vestiges of a once great industrial enterprise, a scant mile or more of a 23 mile long canal, the first of its kind in America. When this archaeological project was first contemplated it was not expected to yield much in terms of resources and data.
Part I of this project, the archaeological survey of Biggin Creek and the canal, revealed the existence of an extremely rich resource - the tide-lock, several vessels, earthen works and the remains of the tide-lock gates.
Much of Part II of the project, on which this paper reports, called for research designs to protect these resources from contractor activities and future changes in the environment of the canal and Biggin Creek, rather than excavate them - a restrained archaeological approach that bodes well for the future of cultural resource management in state waters. As a result, the actual archaeological investigations were preliminary in nature.
Even so, this brief glimpse into the enterprise and industry of the newly independent South Carolina reveals an astonishingly broad based picture of late eighteenth century commerce and technology. The indications are that the archaeological record within the Old Santee Canal Sanctuary contains data on small and large river craft construction, blacksmithing, carpentry, masonry, brick manufacture, the lifestyles of the lock tenders and their clients, the nature of trade between up country South Carolina and the coast - and of course some of the earliest canal technology used in America.
This report clearly indicates that the area has the potential to become one of the most important historic and scientific interpretive sites in South Carolina. One of the area's main early attractions was its abundant wildlife and prolific vegetation. To these precious resources is now added a substantial and unique management responsibility - the development and interpretation of the area's historic legacy. It is far more than an early canal site - it is a repository of data on the life and industrial skills of a time and people bent on forging a new world power.
© 1989 by The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology