HILTON HEAD, S.C. -- A team of University of South Carolina maritime archaeologists will be on the beach near Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island Friday to train a group of students on how to get an unidentified shipwreck to reveal its secrets.
Archaeologist Ashley Deming and archaeology technicians Carl Naylor and Joe Beatty will show four students how to excavate and record the remains of an abandoned wooden vessel that was reported to state archaeologists in late 2010.
The students are adult scuba divers who are taking a four-day Sport Diver Archaeology Management Program course offered through USC’s South Carolina Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The vessel, located on the beach of Calibogue Sound, was reported to state archaeologists in late 2010 by Sea Pines resident Sally Peterson and her brother Peter Thompson.
State archaeologists visited the site, located on a shell beach not far from the 18th tee of Harbour Town Golf Links, in March 2011.
“We decided that the wreck needed further study and would be an excellent opportunity to teach students the basics of ship recording,” Deming said.
The archaeologists and students hope to answer a number of questions, including: What type of vessel was it? How old is the vessel? Why was it abandoned? Where was the vessel built?
“Our purpose is twofold,” Deming said. “First, we want to learn as much as we can about this particular shipwreck. Second, we want to give the students the tools necessary to become our eyes and ears in South Carolina waters.”
Scuba divers who want to collect artifacts and fossils from state waters are required to have a license issued by the state. This licensing program is administered through the USC Sport Diver Archaeology Management Program, whose offices are at the Fort Johnson Marine Resources Center on James Island near Charleston.
“The divers get to keep everything they find provided they report to us descriptions and precise locations of their finds,” Deming said. “But we want them to be more than collectors. We want them to become protectors of South Carolina’s submerged cultural resources.”
At the end of the course, the wreck will be sandbagged and reburied to protect it from future deterioration.