Dig it! USC Salk home to Topper archaeology exhibit
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Artifacts from an archaeological site in Allendale, which document man’s earliest occupation in North America, have a new home at USC Salkehatchie.
The exhibit, “Searching For Our Beginnings: Public Archaeology at the Topper Site,” opened Thursday (Sept. 15) at the university’s West Campus in Allendale with a ceremony that featured USC President Harris Pastides, USC Salkehatchie Dean Ann Carmichael and archaeologist Dr. Al Goodyear.
Carmichael said the exhibit is an institutional collaboration that benefits the public.
“A display of Topper artifacts for the public to enjoy is good example of how our flagship and local campus are collaborating to serve our communities,” Carmichael said. “We live in a region that is rich in history and heritage, and we want to bring this to life through this exhibit.”
Located in the campus library, the permanent exhibit documents more than 25 years of excavation by Goodyear that provides evidence of Clovis and pre-Clovis occupations at Topper site, which is located 15 minutes from the campus along the banks of the Savannah River on the property of Clariant Corp. The Allendale region is rife with chert quarries, the flint-like stone that Paleoindians sought to make their ancient tools for hunting and other uses.
On display are text panels and cases featuring man-made stone tools that were created by flaking and chipping flint. These tools include fluted spear points that the Clovis people used for hunting around 13,100 to 12,900 years ago and points that were used by the Redstone people who emerged afterward. Also on display are blades by an earlier occupation that dates 50,000 years or more.
The pre-Clovis culture artifacts, which have garnered international attention, potentially puts man in South Carolina long before the last ice age. Goodyear’s findings have put the field of archaeology in flux, opening scientific minds to the possibility of an even earlier pre-Clovis occupation in the Americas.
“People are fascinated with the origins of man and are particularly interested in knowing who the first people were who lived where they do now,” Goodyear said. “Somehow, if we know where, when and how we started, we might gain some insight into who we are today. That this issue could be investigated right here in Allendale County is, well, just phenomenal.”
The Topper exhibit was designed by the S.C. Archaeology Public Outreach Division (SCAPOD), a non-profit organization dedicated to preservation and archaeology education. Interactive displays and audio-visual elements that will include excerpts from documentaries that have explored the many discoveries at Topper, will be added.
The new exhibit joins other displays of artifacts at USC Salkehatchie, some donated by area citizens, and others on loan from Harvard University. The Topper exhibit is the result of a grant from the Winthrop Family Allendale-Hampton Fund and Clariant Corp.
Carmichael says the Topper exhibit is the first phase of a multi-phase project to create a science and technology center at USC Sakehatchie that will encourage research and greater interaction with the community through displays, lectures and other activities.
The “Searching For Our Beginnings” exhibit is free and open to the public during the library’s operating hours: 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 3 – 7 p.m. on Sunday.
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