Archaeology students uncover new facts at Brunswick Town historic site

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ECU anthropology students investigate colonial life at Brunswick Town during a six week dig this summer. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
ECU anthropology students investigate colonial life at Brunswick Town during a six-week dig this summer. (Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources)

A group of archaeology students with East Carolina University uncovered hundreds of artifacts from the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State historic site this summer and discovered a new fact about a lot on the site.

Twelve students alongside Dr. Charles Ewen, of East Carolina’s department of anthropology, worked for six weeks seeking new information about the historic site located at St. Philip’s Road in Winnabow, according to the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commission.

“The field school at Brunswick Town went very well,” Ewen said, adding that they were able to get a glimpse of what life was like in Brunswick Town during the colonial period.

In May and June, the students worked to investigate the residence lot of what was believed to be the home of former surveyor general of North Carolina, Edward Moseley. But the budding archaeologists uncovered evidence at the site, which suggested neither of the two structures on the lot belonged to Moseley. Instead the documents they found indicated that a David Jones lived on the property, which was later sold to Prudence McIlhenny.

During the excavation hundreds of artifacts were recovered, including fine Delft and porcelain ceramics, three pairs of scissors, two King George II copper half-pennies (ca. 1750), a winding tool for a pocket watch and many wine bottle fragments.

Ewen described the partnership between the college and the historic site as a “win-win.”

“My ECU students get trained at an important site, the historic site gets more area interpreted and artifacts to display, and the public gets to see archaeology in action to better appreciate how the past is interpreted,” Ewen said.

Deputy State Archaeologist John Mintz said the students’ archaeological investigation also sought information on the architectural construction methods of the past residents of Brunswick Town.

“This information allows us to tell the story of the daily lives of a coastal port town,” Mintz said.

One of the Civil War-era gun emplacements was also excavated, but none of the original platform remained. A new representative gun deck may be constructed at a later time.

Brunswick Town was settled in 1726 and served as home to Royal Governors Arthur Dobbs and William Tryon of the Province of North Carolina. The site was a bustling shipping port for tar, pitch and turpentine. During the Revolutionary War, it was burned by the British in 1776. The site was abandoned until the Confederates built a fort there during the Civil War in 1861. The ruins of the colonial town and the Confederate fort still remain.

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and through Labor Day the site is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information about the historic site visit their website.