Archaeology group debuts with Darlington County project

Researchers do an excavation at the site of a lost church in Darlington County. This was the institute’s first project. PHOTO COURTESY BEN ZEIGLER

Ancient artifact found during the dig may have been a knife. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Watch where you step, says Ben Zeigler. You could be walking on history. Zeigler, a Florence attorney, is chairman of the board of the Archaeological Institute of the Pee Dee, a newly created group dedicated to researching and understanding the region’s past. It recently launched its first project at a site in Darlington County. “We’re really pleased with what we found,” said Zeigler. “It was a great week, very successful.” For the Institute’s inaugural project, members sought out the location of long-lost 1700s-era Cashaway Baptist Church and a graveyard near the church. They located it on a section of land owned by Diamond Hill Plywood. Small brick fragments gave the researchers a rough sketch of where the church once stood. “We had the outline of where the church probably was,” Zeigler said. The cemetery where church members were buried was roughly outlined by rocks with carved initials. “We think there are more stones than we can see that are actually buried,” he said. The group hopes to return to the area in February with S.C. Department of Natural Resources researchers equipped with ground-penetrating radar. “We feel very good about the prospects of coming back to that site,” said Zeigler. “ … We can learn a lot about how people lived in that area.” He said the group just incorporated at the end of 2021 and does not yet have a website set up. The Florence Museum has offered the Institute a physical place to work from if necessary. The group is working to complete its board; the members are expected to include Brian Gandy, director of the Darlington County Historic Commission and Museum. Zeigler said they will probably have about a dozen board members.

Author: Stephan Drew

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