Originally created 05/10/04

University students lead excavation at antebellum home



LAFAYETTE, Ga. -- Archaeology students are putting their classroom knowledge to the test in a search for hidden artifacts on the site of an antebellum home in northwest Georgia.

While working on historic preservation plans for the Marsh House and John B. Gordon Hall, the oldest standing brick school in Georgia, architect Andrew Smith contacted Nick Honerkamp, head of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's archaeology/anthropology department.

"I asked Dr. Honerkamp if he would be interested in conducting a field school to try and find as much as we can about what went on here by digging underground," Smith said.

Honerkamp said students will excavate about a dozen pits on the Marsh House grounds during the dig. Students will work six hours a day, five days a week and receive six semester hours credit.

Ceramics and broken pots from before the Civil War have already been found, although they have not yet found any muzzle-loaded bullets used during the war, Honerkamp said.

Students John Riede, Mark Shearer and James Greene sifted through collections from one pit last week.

"So far we have found ceramics, broken pots, nails, brick, mortar and clinkers from burned coal," Greene said.

If historically significant pieces are found on the surrounding land, then a second-phase dig would be recommended, said Erin May, a consultant with Preservation Studio South and a partner in the project.

Smith said he plans to submit the final preservation plan for the house, which might eventually be open for tours, to the Walker County government and its historic preservation task force in September. The Green Revival mansion was built in 1836 by businessman Spence Marsh.

Checking for historic items on the grounds is like a due diligence issue, Smith said.

"What's below ground could be as important as what's above ground," he said.