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SC Institute for Archeology and Anthropology

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The Stanley South Student Archaeological Research Fund supports University of South Carolina undergraduate and graduate student research in archaeology.

A Tribute

Stanley Austin South (1928-2016)

By Chester B. DePratter

Stan South was a larger-than-life figure that played a prominent role in the field of historical archaeology for nearly 60 years. His passing on March 20, 2016, brought to an end a life and career filled with scholarship and accomplishment.

Stan was born and spent the early part of his life in Boone, North Carolina. After a stint in the Navy in 1945, Stan worked briefly as a professional photographer before taking advantage of the G.I. Bill to return to school. He graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College in 1949, and he taught eighth grade in Greensboro, North Carolina, for two years. During that time, Stan found a Hardaway projectile point that led to a meeting with archaeologist, Dr. Joffre Coe, at the University of North Carolina. A few years later, Stan left his career as a photographer and became a student of Dr. Coe, graduating with a Master’s Degree in anthropology in 1959. He was admitted to the University of Michigan for a Ph. D., but personal matters prevented his move north.

In the decades following his graduation, Stan worked on numerous prehistoric Native American sites, including the Town Creek Indian Mound and on early lithic sites like Hardaway, Doerschuk, Gaston, and Morrow Mountain. In 1959, he published a booklet titled “Indians in North Carolina” that sold almost 70,000 copies over the next 25 years.

Stan worked on his first historic site, the 19th century Kron House on Morrow Mountain State Park in 1957, and it was a life changing experience. Impressed with his ability to use artifacts from the Kron House to address questions relating to “function, status, gender, time, technology, and occupation,” Stan soon found himself on a course toward a new area of study––historical archaeology. When he told Joffre Coe that he was leaving Town Creek Indian Mound to take a job at historic Brunswick Town near Wilmington, North Carolina, Coe told him, “If you want to end your career in archaeology, I suppose you should take it.” This move soon brought Stan to the forefront of the emerging field of historical archaeology.

Over the following decade, Stan worked at Brunswick Town, Fort Anderson, Bethabara, Russellborough, Old Salem, and Fort Fisher in North Carolina, producing more than 60 reports and published papers. In 1969, he was hired by the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology to be the archaeologist at Charles Towne as part of South Carolina’s Tri-Centennial Celebration. Once work there was completed, he moved on to Ninety Six, the Pawley House, and Fort Moultrie in South Carolina.

Along the way, Stan founded the Conference of Historic Sites Archaeology in 1959, and in 1967, he was one of the founders of the Society for Historical Archaeology. He also found time to hone his skills as a painter, sculptor, and poet in his “spare” time.

In 1977, Academic Press published his seminal volume, Method and Theory in Historical Archaeology, as well as an edited volume, Research Strategies in Historical Archaeology. These volumes brought Stan to the forefront of the field of historical archaeology.

In 1979, Stan began work at the Santa Elena site near Beaufort, a project that would occupy him for the rest of his career. In his first week of fieldwork at Santa Elena, he found Ft. San Felipe, which was constructed in 1566. Between 1979 and 1985, he worked on Ft. San Felipe, Ft. San Marcos, and two lots, which we later identified as belonging to Santa Elena’s Governor from 1580-1587. We continued work together at Santa Elena after 1991, and in 1993, we found a Spanish pottery kiln on the periphery of the site. In 1996, we announced the discovery of French Charlesfort of 1562-1563, and in subsequent years, we explored many parts of the town. During these years, Stan also conducted projects at the Bartlam Pottery at Cainhoy, and he directed new investigations at Charles Towne Landing and Ninety Six.

During our years together at Santa Elena, I came to know Stan for his tremendous energy and work ethic. During his entire career as an archaeologist, he worked full weekdays and every evening and weekend with only occasional time off to see a doctor or to take his worn out automobiles to the shop. During our many trips back and forth to Santa Elena, Stan told an endless string of stories about his life and adventures. Somehow, he never repeated himself, perhaps because there was so much to tell! Most of these stories can be found in his memoir, An Archaeological Evolution, which was published by Springer Science in 2005.

In his last years at work leading up to his retirement in 2012, at age 84, Stan worked tirelessly to publish as much as he could, including his M.A. Thesis, a final volume on his work at Brunswick Town, a 60-page annotated vita, and several volumes of poetry that he had written throughout his life. And then, after nearly 60 years of writing and publishing, Stan set aside his pen and he wrote no more.

Over the course of his long career, Stan received many honors due to his lifetime dedication to historical archaeology:

1979   Distinguished Alumnus Award, Appalachian State University
1984   Halifax Resolves Award, Historic Halifax Restoration Association
1987   J.C. Harrington Medal, Society for Historical Archaeology
1993   R. L. Stephenson Lifetime Achievement Award, Archaeological Society of South Carolina
1997   Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree, University of South Carolina
1999   Order of the Palmetto, State of South Carolina
2006   Old North State Award, State of North Carolina
2003   Lifetime Achievement Award, Southeastern Archaeological Conference
2008   Maj. G. Osterhout Archaeological Stewardship Award, Historic Beaufort Foundation
In April 2016, the Santa Elena Foundation opened the Santa Elena History Center in Beaufort, South Carolina. The Center and its exhibits are the direct result of Stan’s decades of work at the Charlesfort/Santa Elena National Historic landmark. Visitors to Beaufort can now learn about the site’s history and archaeology. Stan did not live to see the opening of this Center, but I know that he would have been especially proud to have this part of his life story told in a museum setting.

Those of us who worked with Stan and knew him as friend and colleague will always remember him. We will listen for the bold footsteps of his cowboy boots in SCIAA’s hallways. We will hope to see his 40-year old Chrysler Imperial pull into his long-time parking space across the street from the Institute. When we see a pig belt buckle or a straw hat filled with feathers, we will imagine Stan once again in the field behind his transit, digging at yet another site. When we read his poems, we will feel wonder at his willingness to share himself so totally with the world despite his inherent shyness.


From: The Crescent Moon (1976) by Stanley South

Somewhere in the in-between,
Around and among it all, 
I am a part,
Yet forever apart,
Of the saga
And the song I sing.
The river declares,
The ruin exclaims,
And the broken pot
Proclaims its song.
To those who will hear,
And to those who care to know
I have set my course on a mystic sea
Where the crescent moon is me.

To honor Stan’s many years of work, SCIAA has established The Stanley South Student Archaeological Research Fund to support undergraduate and graduate student research in archaeology by University of South Carolina students. Contributions can be made online or by check or money order may be mailed to: SCIAA—Stan South Fund, 1321 Pendleton Street, University of South Carolina, Columbia SC 29208.

The ART Fund's central mission is to help preserve and interpret the story of our collective heritage.

There was a time in the far distant past when men and women set foot upon the soil of what we now call Carolina for the first time. From that moment on, the activities of humankind here have been recorded.

From the first spearpoint crafted from local chert, from the first deer felled by that spear, to the very moment the Union warship Patapsco, amidst thunder and fire, came to rest on the sands of Charleston Harbor, when the last Edgefield potter gently melded earth, fire and water into the simple beauty of a stoneware jug ― it has all been recorded. This record is an amazingly complete story of all that has befallen us ― it is a tale which faithfully holds our history fast, patiently awaiting the hands of those skilled in revealing its knowledge, so that it may become part of the cherished heritage of this historical corner of America we call South Carolina.

And where is this record? Where are the pages that hold this knowledge fast? They are beneath our feet still ― they form the very soil on which we came first to tread ― it is beneath the seas and rivers which brought many of us to the settlements and plantations that began our saga here. Archaeologists who, with their trowels, patiently peel apart the pages laid down by time reveal the record. They translate the secrets they unearth into the books, films, and museum exhibits that tell the rest of us who we are, where we came from, what struggles, sacrifices, rewards, and accomplishments contributed to the process that makes us what we are as the South Carolinians of today.

And yet the story is barely told. Recognizing this, the State of South Carolina created the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1963. While State and Federal funds support much of the work of the Institute, much of the pure archaeological research is paid for by the private sector. These funds come from foundations, grants, commerce, and industry--companies with the desire to be good corporate citizens, individuals with a desire to make a personal contribution to their State's heritage, and yet more help is urgently needed.

What You Can Do To Preserve Our Past
We are dedicated to provide meaningful opportunities for the private individuals, companies and organizations to make more meaningful contributions to archaeological research, to get involved in local projects, and to communicate the our research results to the larger public. The ART Fund wants to connect its supporters with the work SCIAA does in order to provide a real sense of involvement in this fascinating and important work.

There are a number of ways you can help:

consider a tax-deductible gift to the ART Fund. Every dollar you give will be directly used to support our vital work. This can be done online or by writing your check to the ART Fund at the address listed below. Please make all checks payable to the USC Educational Foundation.
sign up for Legacy Magazine and ART email updates to keep abreast of work going on in South Carolina at all our projects.
consider becoming a member of the ART Society ($500 annually)! You’ll received all the above information plus invitations to quarterly meetings with our ART board at project locations around the state.
provide substantial support the ART Fund’s future with a gift through your estate plan or through a gift of life insurance or some other appreciated asset. The ART Fund was started 20 years ago through just such a generous act. So we very much understand how you can impact archaeological and anthropological research in our state for future generations. Just contact us below if you want more information or need assistance. The ART Funds tax deductibility may help your estate.
You can be a part of this work to save and interpret the story of our heritage be used to broadly support the future work of research and education! Please contact us if we can be of assistance.

Call or Write:
The Archaeological Research Trust
Attn: Steven Smith
South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology
1321 Pendleton Street
Columbia, SC 29208


Nena Powell Rice 
803-331-3431 (cell)


SC Institute for Archeology and Anthropology

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