Drayton Hall
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Uncovering the Past through Archaeology


In total, 18 archaeological projects have been conducted at Drayton Hall since the National Trust purchased the site from the Drayton family in 1974. Much of the archaeological work at Drayton Hall was carried out or overseen by National Trust for Historic Preservation archaeologists. In 2006 the Preservation Department was established at Drayton Hall with an emphasis on continuing the archaeological research at the property. From investigations of the main house and flanker buildings to investigations at the African-American cemetery, the late eighteenth-century privy building, and the twentieth-century freedmen's village, archaeologists are continually discovering new information about the residents of Drayton Hall.

Archaeological features and artifacts recovered through such excavations provide particular insight into the lives of Historic Native Americans and enslaved Africans at Drayton Hall as neither culture left written records; and while not a single building used as housing for either Native American or Africans still stands today, we can see evidence of both cultures in the archaeological record.

Archaeology also plays a critical role in our pursuit to better understand the Drayton family as not every generation of the Drayton family had a biographer like Charles Drayton, who kept detailed diaries from the end of the eighteenth century until his death in 1820.

Pre-Drayton Occupation

Drayton Hall was not the first house on this piece of land. Discover what we know about the house that stood before Drayton Hall and the people who lived here.
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18th- and 19th- Century Drayton Family Artifacts

Artifacts recovered at Drayton Hall illustrate the objects that were used by seven generations of the Drayton family. These artifacts also show how the material culture of the Drayton family changed through time coinciding with major historical events such as the American Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. They also create personal ties to specific members of the Drayton family.
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Evidence of Enslaved Africans and their Descendants

The history of enslaved Africans goes back to the early days of the South Carolina colony. Enslaved Africans at Drayton Hall worked in many specific capacities as coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, boatmen, and domestic workers; archaeological evidence indicates that many were also skilled potters. In addition to ceramic materials made and used by enslaved peoples at Drayton Hall, archaeologists have also investigated the burial ground for these enslaved workers and their descendants.
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Featured Investigation

The Garden House

Depicted here in an 1840s sketch by Lewis Reeves-Gibbes, the Drayton Hall Garden House was constructed in 1747 as an important architectural feature in the formal gardens of John Drayton. An archaeological project in 2008 to stabilize the Garden House and surrounding terrace uncovered rubbed and gauged bricks that provide evidence of the building's original appearance as well as the intricate details associated with the cornice and jack arches that are the same as those found on the main house of Drayton Hall.
This 6.5 inch piece of iron hardware was originally uncovered at the Drayton Garden House site in 1989. Recent research identified the artifact as a bolt used to hang a chandelier. The bolt was placed through the upper portion of a chandelier and then passed through a framing beam where a cotter pin was inserted at the top. While the chandelier no longer exists, this artifact suggests that the interior of the Garden House was highly decorated.
The Garden House site at Drayton Hall after the completion of the archaeological excavations and stabilization project. Visit the site while you are at Drayton Hall; it is located on the banks of the Ashley River.