FMU archaeologist to uncover local history

Christopher Barton, assistant professor of archaeology, has been hired by FMU to investigate the university’s history as well as the history of South Carolina.

Barton received his doctorate from Temple University and was focused on teaching at the University of Memphis in Tennessee before coming to FMU. While in Tennessee Barton wrote and taught until he had the opportunity to come work at FMU.

“Archaeology shouldn’t be limited to site reports and in the classroom, it should be out and about in the public,” Barton said.

Barton is motivating students to focus on the study of archaeology and how it can be used in the real world. Barton is working to use his historical findings as a way educate the people of South Carolina.

“We want to create more of an identity that connects to the past of the university the plantations and things like that to what is going on here at the university,” Barton mentioned. “We also want to tie in the university and the archaeology program into the Pee Dee region.”

Barton said he plans to enlighten the Pee Dee area by visiting local historical societies and elementary, middle and high schools to talk to students about archaeology and the past that it represents.

“The idea is to demystify what archaeologists do and show that archaeology is everywhere,” Barton said.

Barton will be doing archaeological excavations on campus and at Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown, S.C.

“We will eventually start to work with Snow Island,” Barton also said. “Which is believed to be one of the swamp retreats for General Francis Marion.”

While archaeology’s main principle is excavation, the focus is not to dig immediately when coming to sites like Snow Island and Hobcaw Barony.

“We have different phases in archaeology,” Barton said. “We look at historical records, surveying and mapping the land, and eventually excavate.”

According to Barton, he tries to approach his field knowing that everybody has their own subjective experiences.

“Archaeology, like history and political science, like anything — there is still an individual perspective that goes into it,” Barton said. “One of the ways I try to deal with that is I try to have as many people talking to me and I try to have this multivocal and pragmatic approach to archaeology.”

Barton said everybody’s past experiences bring insight into the future as well as what is happening in the present.

“I have my own baggage that I bring into it, but it’s not the same as other people,” Barton said. “When we have these conversations with other people, we get different perspectives and we get a better re-creation of the past.”

Barton will work with the FMU Trail Commission to explore the colonial history and how it is connected to General Francis Marion. Next semester Barton said he will be taking a break to work overseas in Ireland as a Fulbright Scholar. He will researching heritage tourism around the Glasgow islands and will teach at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Before visiting Ireland, Barton will give a talk in December at the American Heritage Festival in Lake City, S.C. about colonial archaeology.

“We always think of colonial history as this distant thing, like they have those really cool pointy hats,” Barton said. “But, realistically, it has huge ramifications for us today.”

One of Barton’s goals as an archaeologist is to bring the past into the present and the future.

“We study the past not just for the sake of studying the past,” Barton said. “We study it to better ourselves in the present and ultimately to make a better future.”