Historic items reported unearthed by record South Carolina rains

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2015 4:28 PM

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - A number of rare and historic artifacts appear to have been unearthed after record rainfall in South Carolina last month, including pottery, boats and a possible mammoth skeleton, archaeologists said on Thursday.

So far, the state has received 20 reports of items that washed up or were uncovered after storms that caused widespread flooding in October, state archaeologist Jonathan Leader said.

The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) at the University of South Carolina, where Leader works, is asking people to report additional discoveries.

Licensed hobby divers, who must share their finds with the state, already have reported finding a dugout canoe possibly crafted by early European settlers or Native Americans.

There were also some barges and a report of a possible skeleton of a mammoth, an extinct animal that resembled a woolly elephant, according to the SCIAA.

"We're on the tip of what we think is going to be an iceberg in terms of reporting," said Leader, adding that known archeological sites may also have been damaged by the storms. "We want to get in front of it and save and preserve what we can."

The institute plans to examine soon what has already been found and date the artifacts through radiocarbon testing, if funding permits.

"Property owners are saying they are coming up with large numbers of historic or pre-European pottery on what was just a clay or sand bank," Leader said. "There are also reports of damage to historic cemeteries, or places where they weren't aware anybody was buried and now they're finding human bones."

Other natural disasters such as droughts and hurricanes have uncovered historic and pre-historic sites, archaeologists said, but not to the extent they see resulting from the recent floods. 

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Eric Walsh)