Second archaeological dig to provide further insight into life at Andalusia

Second archaeological dig to provide further insight into life at Andalusia

A second archaeological dig took place Nov. 4 - 6 at Georgia College’s Andalusia: Home of famed author Flannery O’Connor in Milledgeville, Georgia. The principal archaeological excavation team focused their efforts on areas around the grounds of the main house, the Hill House, equipment shed, dairy barn and the milk processing shed. The excavation is part of a multi-year survey conducted by Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants to discover artifacts on O’Connor’s property. The last archaeological dig was in June 2019, which pinpointed the location of pens where she kept her flock of more than 40 peacocks.

“We’re trying to paint a better picture of what the site looked like in the past,” said Matt Davis, director of historic museums at Georgia College. “Through archeology, primary document research and analysis of the site’s extent buildings, we can gain a fuller understanding of the property’s historic resources and better tell the story of O’Connor’s life at the farm.”

The archaeology crew began the excavation process with shovel tests marked by flags secured in the ground. The tests are performed on a grid measuring 10 meters apart from where they had excavated last year. 

Gretchen Eggiman, researcher with Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants, discovers buried artifacts at Andalusia.
Gretchen Eggiman, researcher with Southern Research Historic Preservation Consultants, discovers buried artifacts at Andalusia.

“We do shovel tests—exploratory holes—in the ground to gage what the soil looks like,” said Liz Williamson, principal investigator and archaeologist, overseeing the project. “This helps show us if there are concentrations of artifacts in those areas.” 

“This excavation has been one of our favorite sites. Flannery’s home is contemporary. It’s one of the most recent sites I’ve ever worked on where the period of interest is so close to our times. That’s pretty cool.”
– Liz Williamson

Last year, the crew focused their efforts on the backyard of the main house.

“It’s a little bit less systematic this year,” she said. “but we’ve created a station, so we know exactly where we are.”   

First, crew members use shovel tests to determine where to dig. Then, they lay out a one-meter by two-meter unit outlining where they excavate. They dig at different levels. The top 10 centimeters will be dug with all artifacts bagged separately from the soil. From the next 10-centimeter level down, artifacts and soil will be bagged together to maintain control of the artifacts. 

Principal Investigator and Archaeologist Liz Williamson (right) discusses excavation procedure with fellow researchers at the Hill House.
Principal Investigator and Archaeologist Liz Williamson (right) discusses excavation procedure with fellow researchers at the Hill House.

In close proximity to one of the excavation sites is a partially buried brick walkway.

“There was more going on with these walkways than what we see now, especially with Flannery having lupus and needing to have walkways to get around,” said Williamson. “There was once a path here. So, we’re hoping to intersect it and find remnants of the brick pavers. This will help in restoring the pathways and walkways as they were during Flannery’s time.”

During the excavation, the crew discovered murky soil indicating it has a lot of organic material in it.

“The other test unit behind the Hill House is situated in what we think is sheet midden [thin layers in the ground of discarded food scraps and other cultural materials] prior to municipal trash pick-up service,” she said. “Back then, they threw trash out the back door or in the nearest gully. We’ve already found a bit of broken ceramics and glass and some bones that have been heated.”

The crew was excited about researching a more modern-day locale, considering most of their archaeological settings are older.

“This excavation has been one of our favorite sites,” said Williamson. “Flannery’s home is contemporary. It’s one of the most recent sites I’ve ever worked on where the period of interest is so close to our times. That’s pretty cool.”

Andalusia is open for tours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m.