Hoeing Rice, 1859

UNCW Archaeological Field School in the Cape Fear Region, 2021

Summer I, May 17-June 17 2021

Dr. Eleanora Reber

ANT 311/411 6 credits


UNC Wilmington will offer a field school in the Wilmington area from May 17-June 17, 2021.  Our goal is to investigate the archaeological and historical heritage of the Cape Fear region.  Over the course of the session, students will learn surface surveying, excavation techniques, record-keeping, mapping, and basic lab techniques, including flotation. We will also go on field trips to some local archaeological sites of interest, depending on availability.  The class will be 6 credit hours, and will be intensive--it will basically take place all day Tuesday-Friday, and half days on Monday. Actual hours of excavation will be decided by vote of the crew.

Laboratory and Project Components

Depending on how much material we find, we will put aside at least one half-day a week for laboratory artifact processing and perhaps more.  This will familiarize everyone with standard archaeological lab techniques--washing, inventorying, pottery analysis, etc. We will always have lab days or field trips on our Monday half days, and will dig Tuesday-Friday, weather permitting.

Each student will also have either a group or individual project that will include an oral and written report, to ensure that everyone is keeping their mind on the larger issues of archaeology, as well as the dirt.  More information will be available soon.

Pandemic Safety

We will be following all state, county, and university regulations for pandemic safety during our project! Please only carpool with fellow students if you are in each other's bubble, such as roommates. We will mask up if working within 6 feet of each other, and I will try to organize the excavation and screening process to minimize digging and screening in close quarters. Most of the field season will take place outside.

When doing laboratory work, and in case of rain, the university has allocated us two rooms, so we can spread out safely when indoors.


The site is located about twenty minutes from downtown Wilmington, and about forty minutes from UNCW, depending on traffic.  Local students can live in their usual residences, and we will meet at the site (or a designated Wilmington meeting point, such as UNCW) every morning.  We can arrange on-campus lodging for out-of-town students, if necessary. 


The Cape Fear region is archaeologically important in both the prehistoric and historic periods. Prehistoric occupations began in the Paleoindian period (13,000 BP) and extended up to European Contact. Following the Yamassee War (1715-1716) many indigenous groups were decimated or left the area, although the Waccamaw Siouxan people remain in the Cape Fear region. The Lower Cape Fear is one of the earliest parts of North Carolina settled in the colonial period, with Brunswick Town formed in 1726.  This town was abandoned as a habitation after it was burned by the British during the American Revolution.

Wilmington, upriver of Brunswick town, became the largest city in North Carolina through the Civil War years and into 1898. Areas from the former Brunswick Town upstream to Wilmington were used as naval stores plantations, and later as rice plantations. The Lower Cape Fear is the northernmost part of the Gullah-Geechee Heritage Corridor, an area where Black descendents of rice plantation slaves formed their own unique culture. The port of Wilmington was an important blockade runner port during the confederacy, making the Wilmington area the focus of one of the last military campaigns in the Civil War, in December/January 1865.

Following the Civil War, Wilmington was a multiethnic, bustling port. The coup of 1898 suppressed the multiracial Fusionist coalition that had been elected to run the city and replaced it with a white supremacist city government. A majority of the Black population in Wilmington was forced out of town or left, permanently changing the ethnic makeup of the city.

Despite this complex history, relatively little archaeology has been performed in the area. 

How much?

UNCW has now posted summer tuition costs, at this link!  The field school will not charge fees for lodging or food, but each student will need to buy individual insurance from the university as part of registration, at a cost of about $18.  A good estimate would be one 6-credit summer class, plus $18.

Are There Any Required Prerequisites?

I would prefer that everyone have at least ANT 207 Archaeology or an equivalent, but this is negotiable in special cases.  Please contact me at to discuss and/or negotiate this.

How do I sign up?

If you're interested in taking the field school, or even thinking about it, please send me an e-mail at, and I will give you more details. We can arrange a Zoom meeting as necessary, if you prefer a face-to-face meeting.

There is no formal application form--if you'd like to apply for the field school, please notify me by March 31.  You will hear from me about your acceptance into the field school by April 1--this should give you plenty of time to plan your summer schedule prior to the opening of Summer preregistration on April 5.  Following acceptance into the field school, a packet of information and other forms will be sent to you. 

We may schedule one orientation meeting before the field season begins--this will depend on everyone's schedules.

Enrollment is limited to 15 students (or whatever the safe state limit for group size is on May 1)!

For Non-UNCW Students

We are always interested in hosting non-UNCW students!  For academic credit, you will need to register as a Visiting Summer Student  at UNCW and then register for the class.  You can then transfer it in to your home institution in whatever way is standard there.  Please apply to the Field School via e-mail (and receive an acceptance) prior to registering as a Visiting Student!  And you may want to check with your home institution on what forms are necessary to transfer in a domestic transient study credit.

What else?

For more information, please contact, or (910)962-7734.