Excavating the Laundry Facility
Exterior photo of laundry (bottom left) and adjoining slave quarters by Post and Courier
In preparation for the installation of a new Family History Center in the former laundry facilities of the Aiken-Rhett House Museum, Historic Charleston Foundation is spearheading an archaeological dig at the site.
To date, over 10,000 artifacts have been recovered. According to local archaeologists, the dig at the Aiken-Rhett House Museum has yielded more archaeological artifacts per square foot than any other dig in downtown Charleston. These artifacts are currently under lab analysis. The analysis will allow us to properly interpret the artifacts themselves, the time period of these artifacts and will tell us more about the time period of these artifacts and will tell us more about the domestic life and operations of in an in-town mansion.
See the Dig in Action
Items recovered include what one might expect to find in a laundry: buttons, straight pins and stays. However, other items such as egg shells, fish scales, bottles, pottery and ceramic fragments also have been unearthed. The building, circa 1835, was constructed on a work yard, and it's likely that several of the recovered items were discarded in a trash pile that was later used as in-fill.
The Aikens were first-adaptors. They would have used the most modern technology available, and HCF is undertaking research to determine technologies used in the laundry facility. It is quite possible they used technology they had seen in Europe while on their Grand Tour.
Agha and Nicole Isenbarger of the non-profit Archaeological Research Collective led the excavation. "This has been a particularly interesting project for us," explains Agha, "as we don't often have the opportunity to learn about the everyday domestic lives of Charleston's elite and their enslaved household members.