The historic working small craft of South Carolina : a general typology with a study of adaptations of flatboat design
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The following dissertation presents a typology for historic working watercraft of the State of South Carolina, United States of America. The background investigation for this typology addressed research design questions concerning the geographic and ethnic origins of the builders of these craft, the history of transportation growth in the area and other factors which are thought to have influenced basic design, and construction methods. These factors were the environments in which craft operated, the materials and skills available for their construction, and the shapes and eights of typical cargoes they were designed to transport. In addition to archival sources, data was developed by surveying regions of South Carolina where specific types of craft were known to operate. These areas included lower coastal plain riverine environments, abandoned rice plantations, abandoned ferry crossings, historic canals, and marine phosphate mining areas. Where remains of craft were discovered, a survey was conducted to gather sufficient information to determine the basic design, construction, and function of the vessel. Experimental archaeological projects also were undertaken during the last stages of the research to determine if it were possible to gather viable data concerning construction economy, construction sequence, and performance. The projects consisted of the construction of one full scale 'replica' rice plantation barge, one full scale 'reconstruction' of an upland cotton boat, and one large scale model of a plantation chine-girder barge. These projects also constituted an examination of the value of experimental archaeology to this type of research. The work also provided an opportunity to compare the relative values of the construction of replicas using historic techniques and materials, versus 'reconstruction' to visually accurate standards using modern materials. It was determined, given certain factors dictated by funding and labor, that experimental archaeology can indeed contribute worthwhile data for research purposes. The archival and field data generated by this activity were analyzed and a typology developed. It was determined that at least fourteen specific types of paddled or wind and tide driven watercraft were operated in the study area from the pre-historic period to approximately 1930. These craft included dugout canoes, dugout-form based plantation craft, flat bottomed sailing vessels, round hulled ocean going sailing vessels, barge-form ferry craft, rice flats and phosphate carriers, extreme length-to-beam ratio mountain river craft, and highly specialized canal craft. The data also indicate that working environments and cargo form were specific and direct influences on watercraft design. In some cases, such as aboriginal dugout canoes produced prior to European contact, ethnic influences were readily discernible. This proved not to be the case after the contact period. Archival data clearly indicate that both European and Africans and African Americans were engaged in watercraft construction and operation during the study period. Evidence is presented to show that Europeans sought specific skills among imported Africans ranging from the cultivation of agricultural crops to blacksmithing. Further evidence demonstrates African skills in watercraft construction and operation, especially of dugout canoes and dugout based designs. It is hypothesized that craft of these type are most likely to be representative of the craft produced by this ethnic group in South Carolina. This hypothesis is supported by presentation of archival data showing that these types of craft were the vessels of choice of African and African American crews. Further evidence is presented to show that widely ranging European boat building skills also are represented in the archaeological record, including English, French and possibly middle European influences. It is further determined that specific identification of the influence of anyone ethnic group is made unlikely as a result of the early absorption of ethnic traditions and the training of one group, Africans and African Americans, in the boat-building and carpentry traditions of the dominant European group. Extensive additional field data is presented on barge-form craft as remains of this type of vessel contributed to the archaeological record in far greater numbers than any other. The preponderance of this form is interpreted as a manifestation of the magnitude of the South Carolina rice industry and the catastrophic nature of its cessation due to the Civil War of 1860-1865. Two types of construction are identified, one based on plank and frame (as opposed to plank on frame) methods, the other method utilizing massive chine-girder logs. Evidence is presented to demonstrate that, while the basic barge or flat design was similar throughout the study area, details of construction including chine-girder shaping, fastening methods, scarphing techniques, and bow/stern to side construction methods varied greatly. This is interpreted as a reflection of the individual skills of the plantation carpenters who were primarily responsible for the building of these craft. Evidence also is presented for an emerging dating technique based on the nature of construction methods, types of fastenings, and the size of lumber components of barge form craft. The research also suggests predictive models for determining the likelihood of further remains of specific vessel types ranging from rice cuIture flats to phosphate barges. Finally, appendices to this dissertation include 106 illustrations, a glossary of terms, a procedure for barge documentation, tables of conversions for metric measurements to English measurement on barges, and a discussion of weights and measurements for historic period cargoes and containers.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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