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Shuler continues archeological research

By Jan Joslin | May 28, 2021
Ethan Shuler presents his findings to history professors and others. Photo by Richard Esposito

When senior history major Ethan Shuler conducted an archeological dig at Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site in Summerville in 2019, he never dreamed that internship would lead to conducting an archeological dig on Charleston Southern’s campus.

While at Colonial Dorchester, Shuler examined an already completed excavation of a house foundation belonging to the Izard family. Park officials told him the Izard family previously owned the land where Charleston Southern University now sits.

Shuler said, “I made it my mission to find a creative way to pursue archeological research.” He approached Dr. Mark Williams, chair of the history department, about a dig. Williams reached out to Larry James at Brockington and Associates, and James became the supervisor of Shuler’s dig.

Shuler and James eventually decided to dig at a site where three bricks were sticking up out of the ground. At the time, they believed the bricks were part of a collapsed chimney, because there were piles of brick nearby. First, they mapped out the site and thought it might be slave quarters.

Instead, they made the rare find of an intact brick floor. They believe the area, located between 50 and 75 yards from the main house, could be a carriage house or an overseer’s house. Other items uncovered in the dig include slate tile, the top of a glass bottle and bits of pottery.

As part of his internship, Shuler researched the history of the Izards. The Izard family acquired land where CSU is today in 1682. Ralph Izard III joined the Revolutionary cause in 1775 and was sent to France to assist in raising funds for the American cause. Izard and Benjamin Franklin developed a tumultuous relationship during that time.

“Ethan’s senior thesis will tie in the archeological work with Izard’s diplomatic situation with Ben Franklin,” said Williams.

Ethan Shuler cataloged his findings during the dig. Photo by Richard Esposito

Shuler’s dig is not the first at the site. In 1974, the late Paul Reitzer, then chair of the history department, conducted an archeological dig at the Izard’s house site in the woods behind the campus. That dig uncovered the entire foundation of the house. In recent years a field study was done of the area by Brockington and Associates when the university was researching relocating some athletic fields.

The Izard family owned the land until the mid-1800s. The City of Charleston eventually acquired the land and sold it to the university in the early 1960s.

Originally published in the Spring 2021 CSU Magazine.

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