Art Buzz January 16, 2012: George Wingard: Discovery of jar brings new insight into history of artisans who created pottery near Augusta



Discovery of jar brings new insight into history of artisans who created pottery near Augusta

Source: The Augusta Chronicle, 1-16-12

PHOTO: This undated photo provided by the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program shows a reassembled jar that was found in pieces at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina near Augusta, Ga. The jar was made by the slave potter known only as Dave, and dated April 16, 1862. After its discovery, it helped inspire a new documentary film that will be released later this year. (AP Photo/Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, George Wingard via The Augusta Chronicle)
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Savannah River Site historian George Wingard’s fascination with the slave potter known as “Dave” began with a phone call in 2006 and led to an upcoming film honoring one of the South’s most mysterious artisans.

“That morning, we had people looking around in an area where some monitoring wells were planned,” said Wingard, the administrative manager for the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, whose workers are required to evaluate areas to be disturbed by construction.

As routine, random test holes were dug to determine whether any important artifacts might lie beneath the soil, the technician discovered the proverbial needle in a haystack: a large, greenish-glazed shard of stoneware pottery.

“When he pulled it out, it had ‘Dave’ inscribed on it,” Wingard said. “He called me right away, from his cellphone.”

Both men knew immediately the find was an important one.

Dave was a slave who worked among the dozens of potteries that operated during the 1800s throughout South Carolina’s plantation-strewn “Edgefield District” near Augusta.

The region’s alkaline-glazed pottery is widely sought by art collectors, but the works of the mysterious Dave are the most prized examples of all. Further excavation at the remote hillside within Savannah River Site yielded more pieces of Dave’s handiwork.

“We were digging in what turned out to be a mid-20th century trash pile,” Wingard said. “We found about 95 percent of the jar.”

In addition to Dave’s signature, the jar – which was carefully reassembled – carried the date of manufacture: April 16, 1862. Soon it became a popular item in the research program’s outreach activities, which include educational programs to acquaint others with the region’s cultural past….READ MORE