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SC Institute for Archeology and Anthropology

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South Carolina Maritime Heritage Resources

A collection of maritime heritage, underwater archaeological, relevant sites, and references in, around, and beyond the waters and borders of the state:

Historic Port Settlements:

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site encompasses the site where British settlers arrived from Barbados and established the first permanent European colony in the Carolinas in 1670. The Park also includes a replica of the ship that brought the colonists to the new colony. 

Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site preserves the site of the town of Dorchester, which flourished from 1697 through the Revolutionary War, located on the banks of the Ashley River just above Charleston. Park archaeologists conduct ongoing research of the town through excavation and interpretation. 


Fort Sumter National Monument and Fort Moultrie commemorates the first American victory over the British Navy in 1776 at Fort Moultrie and the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. The two forts also contain remnants of late 19th century coastal fortifications associated with the Spanish-American War. 

Fort Fremont Historical Preserve situated at the mouth of the Beaufort River was built in 1899 to protect the Naval Station on Parris Island and now used to promote the educational, historical, natural, and cultural resources of the preserve.


Old Santee Canal Park commemorates South Carolina's natural resources and emphasizes the historical significance of the Santee Canal built in the early 1800s. 

Landsford Canal State Park centers on the best preserved of numerous 19th-century South Carolina river canals, and retains remnants of all its major structural features. 


The Morris Island Lighthouse, now surrounded by water due to erosion, stands just west of Charleston Harbor. The lighthouse is owned by Save The Light, Inc. for 99 years to coordinate the stabilization, erosion control and restoration of the lighthouse and to raise the necessary funds for that work. 

Hunting Island State Park is an historic 19th-century lighthouse is Hunting Island’s most popular landmark, and where visitors can climb to the top for a spectacular view of the coastline. The lighthouse and its complex are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. site contains photographs, descriptions, travel directions, and GPS coordinates for lighthouses in the United States. Choose South Carolina to learn more about the history of several lighthouses in South Carolina. 


The South Carolina State Museum is the Palmetto State's flagship museum, and features a rotating exhibit of artifacts and fossils collected in waterways throughout the state by MRD hobby licensed divers.

The Berkeley Museum traces the county’s history back 12,000 years, and exhibits a replica of the semi-submersible CSS David, built at nearby Stoney Landing, that attacked the USS New Ironsides off Charleston Harbor, and an exhibit on the Lewisfield Shipwreck, a Revolutionary warship sunk in the Cooper River.

The Charleston Museum founded in 1773 is commonly regarded as “America’s First Museum,” The museum's collections now represent the most comprehensive assemblage of South Carolina materials in the nation. Focusing on the South Carolina Lowcountry, modern collecting emphases include historical material culture and both documentary and photographic resources.

The Georgetown County Museum operated by the Georgetown County Historical Society seeks to preserve and promote the history of Georgetown County from its origins to the present, providing perspective on the past and a legacy for the future.

The Rice Museum in Georgetown houses the remains of a small coastal vessel named the Browns Ferry Vessel, built in the early 1700s and sunk approximately 1730, which is on permanent display. Discovered on the Black River in 1976, this vessel was reconstructed and stored by the University of South Carolina and brought to the Museum in 1992. The museum also chronicles the development of rice agriculture and its impact on not only South Carolina, but internationally as well.

South Carolina Maritime Museum located on the waterfront in historic downtown Georgetown features exhibits, programs and events related to South Carolina’s rich and remarkable maritime history.

The Horry County Museum in Conway has several permanent exhibits devoted to the naval stores industry, once an important economic activity in the county and surrounding area.

Civil War Vessels:

H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine that sank the USS Housatonic during the American Civil War, was recovered in 2000 and now undergoing analysis and conservation by The Friends of the Hunley at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston.

H.L. Hunley C-SPAN interview with project archaeologist about the history, discovery, and recovery of the Confederate submarine.

Natural and Agricultural Products:

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site is located on a creek off the North Santee River, and during the 18th and 19th centuries was a working rice plantation. Interpretive programming at this site focuses on the Lowcountry rice culture and plantation system that shaped the lives of Hampton’s residents. 

Article primarily about rice agriculture in South Carolina. By the early 18th century, with the slave system established on a large scale, rice became a major export crop of the region. 

SC Department of Archives and History website contains several archaeological contexts of important industries associated with maritime activities, namely phosphate industry and rice agriculture. 

Article entitled “A Short History of the Forest Industry in South Carolina” discussing the forest products industry, including naval stores, which began in 1670 when boards were sawn near the mouth of the Ashley River. 


The Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant has several vessels docked including the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, along with numerous aircraft, and a reproduction of a Vietnam-era base. 

The Naval Weapons Station Charleston is an active US Navy installation located on the Cooper River.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island has trained enlisted male training since 1915 and enlisted female training since 1949. The depot also houses the Parris Island Museum with exhibits of the navy/marine corps presence on Parris Island, as well as archaeological materials associated with Spanish Santa Elena and French Charlesfort from the late 16th century.

South Carolina Archaeological Organizations & Non-Profits:

Archaeological Society of South Carolina (ASSC) has been in operation since 1968 to share information about South Carolina's archaeological heritage.

Chicora Foundation is a Columbia-based public, non-profit heritage preservation organization founded in 1983. The foundation conducts archaeological and historical research throughout the Southeastern United States, public education (primarily in South Carolina), and conservation and preservation with museums, libraries, archives, historic organizations, and private citizens.

South Carolina Archaeology Public Outreach Division (SCAPOD) Preserving Heritage through Archaeology Education, SCAPOD was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2010 with a mission to encourage knowledge of the state’s archaeology to the public through publications, public education, and museums.

South Carolina Archaeological Sites:

The Topper Site / Allendale Paleoamerican Expedition is a field program where members of the public can register for a week, or more, and help excavate one of North America's most ancient archaeological sites associated with several prehistoric chert quarries. Team Members learn about excavation techniques and artifact identification. The Expedition also provides a challenging and diverse excavation experience for undergraduate and graduate students.

The Mulberry Site / Wateree Archaeological Research Project  focuses on a large mound/town site known as Mulberry, once a capital city of Cofitachequi, a chiefdom on the Wateree River central South Carolina from A.D. 1100 - 1700.  Occupation spans the Belmont Neck, Savannah II, Adamson, Town Creek, McDowell, Mulberry, and Daniels ceramic phases, as well as an as-yet unnamed late protohistoric ceramic phase. Mulberry was visited by Hernando de Soto in 1540 and by other Spanish and English explorers through 1670.  WARP is designed to investigate human-land relationships in the Wateree River Valley utilizing a wide range of approaches including anthropology, archaeology, geography, history, folklore as well as the natural sciences.

The Johannes Kolb Archaeological Site is located on the Great Pee Dee Heritage Preserve. This is land owned and maintained by the SC Department of Natural Resources.  Working in conjunction with the SC Department of Natural Resources, Diachronic Research Foundation, and later University of South Carolina-Lancaster, the site has functioned as a public education and outreach center for student volunteers, avocational archaeologists, and the public.

Coast Guard:

The US Coast Guard base is located on the Ashley River in Charleston, once the site of a rice factory.


Georgetown's Wooden Boat Show is intended to give both visitors and residents an understanding and appreciation the area’s rich maritime heritage. 


Coastal Heritage is a quarterly publication of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium with many features related to the maritime heritage of the state.

State Ports:

The South Carolina State Ports Authority contributes to the economic development of South Carolina by fostering and stimulating waterborne commerce and shipment of freight at two terminals in Charleston and Georgetown. 

Seafood Industry: 

The South Carolina Seafood Alliance seeks to provide information and education about the state fishery industry, namely shrimping, oystering, and fishing. 

Underwater Archaeology Resources

Many of these links were selected due to the professional or personal relationships that exist between MRD personnel and the following institutions. Browse these internet sites to learn more about the field of underwater archaeology as practiced and advocated by these diverse organizations. 

State Agencies:

The Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts custodian of underwater archaeological resources.

The State Marine Archeologist at the Texas Historical Commission is responsible for the protection, preservation, and investigation of historic shipwrecks in all state-owned waters of Texas. 

The Maryland Historical Trust's Underwater Archaeology Program, the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program (MMAP), is tasked with the inventory and management of the state's submerged cultural resources. 

The Georgia Underwater Archaeology Program housed at the Department of Natural Resources is charged with the management of submerged cultural resources in state waters. 

The Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research’s Underwater Archaeology Section manages the underwater archaeological remains on state bottomlands. 

North Carolina Office of State Archaeology’s Underwater Archaeology Branch conducts and supervises the investigation of underwater archaeological sites throughout the state. 

Federal Agencies:

The National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center mandate is to inventory and evaluate submerged resources in the National Park System and to assist other agencies, nationally and internationally, with underwater heritage resource issues. 

The Naval Historical Center's Underwater Archaeology Branch advises the Navy in matters related to historic preservation of U.S. Navy ship and aircraft wrecks.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Maritime Heritage Program focuses on maritime heritage resources within the thirteen designated National Marine Sanctuaries, and promotes maritime heritage appreciation throughout the nation. 

International Organizations:

The Subdirectorate of Underwater Archaeology of the National Institute of Anthropology and History mission is to carry out research projects to locate and research underwater archaeological and historical sites in Mexican waters.  

Educational Institutions:

East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies offers a master's degree in maritime history and nautical archaeology and provides a thorough education for those interested in a professional career in maritime history and nautical archaeology. 

The Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University is an academic degree-granting graduate program offering MA and PhD degrees in Old World and New World studies. 

The University of West Florida’s Department of Anthropology Maritime Studies track offers graduate students a M.A. and undergraduates a minor in the study of maritime archaeological focused research.

The University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences offers an underwater archaeology track within its Master of Marine Ecosystems & Society.

 Professional Organizations:

The Advisory Council on Underwater Archaeology serves as an international advisory body on issues relating to underwater archaeology, conservation, and submerged cultural resources management. The ACUA is also closely affiliated with the Society of Historical Archaeology. 

The Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) is the largest scholarly group concerned with the archaeology of the modern world (A.D. 1400-present). The focus of the society is the era since the beginning of European exploration. The society is specifically concerned with the identification, excavation, interpretation, and conservation of sites and materials on land and underwater. 

Avocational Organizations:

The Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society (MAHS) is organized for the purpose of enhancing public awareness and fostering appreciation for the significance of historic shipwrecks and other submerged cultural resources.

Non-Profit Organizations:

The Institute of Nautical Archaeology is a non-profit private research institute affiliated with TAMU and is closely integrated with Nautical Archaeology Program with the mission to conduct significant archaeological research that will increase knowledge of the evolution of civilizations through the location and excavation of submerged or buried ships, submerged ruins, and their associated artifacts, and dissemination of the knowledge gained. 


The Underwater Archaeology Jobs website is the place to find employment in underwater archaeology, maritime history, and marine archaeological conservation. 

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