Hoeing Rice, Charles C. Coffin, Building the Nation (New York, 1883), p. 76

UNCW Archaeological Field School in the Cape Fear Region, 2020

Summer I, May 20-June 22 2020

Dr. Eleanora Reber

ANT 311/411 6 credits


UNC Wilmington will offer a field school in the Wilmington area from May 20-June 22, 2020.  Our goal is to investigate slave cabins and possible sharecropper cabins at an antebellum/postbellum rice plantation along the Brunswick River near Wilmington.  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.  The class will be 6 credit hours, and will be intensive--it will basically take place all day Monday-Thursday, and half days on Friday. Actual hours of excavation will be decided by vote of the crew.

Surviving chimney falls and other remains of slave cabins and sharecropper residences have been located on local, privately owned land that once belonged to an antebellum rice and naval stores plantation.  We began to excavate the first of these cabins in our 2018 field season, and continued in 2019; prior to that, no slave cabin was excavated at any rice plantation along the Lower Cape Fear River, although some plantation houses and outbuildings have been investigated.  The goal of our field season will be to map as many of the surviving cabin remains as possible, and excavate some of the slave cabins.  We then will be able to compare the Lower Cape Fear slave cabins to those from South Carolina rice plantations, which have been excavated.

The landowner has given us permission to excavate the remains on their land.  While excavating, we will carefully mark our excavation units for safety, and create as little disturbance as possible, under the circumstances.

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.

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.


The site is within reasonable driving distance of UNCW and Wilmington; about 40 minutes by car from the university, and about 25 minutes from downtown Wilmington and Leland.  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, and has not been excavated or published with the thoroughness it deserves.  Despite the large number of rice plantations known to have existed in the area, slave cabins have previously been excavated at none of them, and many of the historic rice plantations have been extensively disturbed by modern development.  This field school represents an unusually important opportunity to excavate undisturbed slave cabins and sharecropper cabins in the Lower Cape Fear region.

How much?

The present estimate for costs is difficult, as UNCW has not yet posted summer tuition costs.  Check this link for more information!  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 class requirements?

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 drop by my office in OH 1018H, or send me an e-mail at, and I will give you more details. 

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 the same day.  Following acceptance into the field school, a packet of information and other forms will be sent to you. 

We will need to have at least one preliminary field school meeting to talk about archaeological information, rules for onsite behavior, and to fix our screens, which are in need of some TLC.

Enrollment is limited to 16 students!

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.