The Archaeology of Cattle Raisers in the South Carolina Backcountry ________________________________________________________________________________________

After collaborating on the Catherine Brown cowpen excavation report with Richard Brooks at the SRARP and learning more about backcountry cattle raisers, I revised some of the interpretations pertaining to my M.A. thesis topic, the Thomas Howell site, that was located in Richland Country near Columbia.  When I originally wrote my thesis in the early 1990s I knew that Howell owned approximately 100 head of cattle at the time of his death, as listed in his probate inventory.  However, I interpreted Thomas Howell as being a diversified planter, and someone that was involved in several frontier agricultural activities.  However, upon closer scrutiny during the late 1990s it became apparent that Thomas Howell was primarily a backcountry cattle raiser, although during his life he had been involved in a broad range of economic activities, such as the deer skin trade, the ownership of toll roads and the operation of river ferries.  This slight revision of my thesis topic led to a journal article in Southeastern Archaeology on frontier cattle raisers.  The article combines information from the Catherine Brown cowpen in Barnwell County with information from the Thomas Howell site near Columbia.  A composite portrait of material life among cattle raisers was developed in the essay by combining archaeological information from these two colonial frontier sites.  The entire article is included on this web page as a pdf file and can be opened via the link below.    



Open-range cattle herding was a lucrative activity before plantation agriculture developed in the South Carolina backcountry.  In this paper, the material record associated with two residences occupied by colonial frontier cattle raisers is summarized.  British settlers and enslaved West Africans inhabited the Catherine Brown cowpen and the Thomas Howell site.  Typical of frontier conditions, the material record at these sites revealed a juxtaposition of formative consumerism and folk traditions.  Archaeological information indicates that despite wealth and the use of imported consumer goods, the two households relied upon impermanent architecture, used local ceramics, and supplemented their diets with wild game. 


SEAC article in pdf file

Copyright 2003 by the Southeastern Archaeological Conference.  Reprinted by permission from Southeastern Archaeology, Volume 22, Number 1, pp. 92-111.


Groover, Mark D., and Richard D. Brooks  2003    The Catherine Brown Cowpen and Thomas Howell Site: Material Characteristic of Cattle Raisers in the South Carolina Backcountry.  Southeastern Archaeology 22(1):92-111.


Brooks, Richard D., Mark D. Groover, and Samuel C. Smith  2000  Living on the Edge: The Archaeology of Cattle Raisers in the South Carolina Backcountry.  Savannah River Archaeological Research Paper 10.  Occasional Papers of the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina, Columbia.



Artist's interpretation of the Catherine Brown cowpen.


Plan view of Brown cowpen.


Spatial analysis of Brown cowpen.


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