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Stanley South Student Archaeological Research Fund

The Stanley South Student Archaeological Research Fund was created to support University of South Carolina undergraduate and graduate student research in archaeology.

A Tribute

Stanley Austin South (1928-2016)

By Chester B. DePratter


Stan South was a larger-than-life figure that played a prominent role in the field of historical archaeology for nearly 60 years. His passing on March 20, 2016, brought to an end a life and career filled with scholarship and accomplishment.

Stan was born and spent the early part of his life in Boone, North Carolina. After a stint in the Navy in 1945, Stan worked briefly as a professional photographer before taking advantage of the G.I. Bill to return to school. He graduated from Appalachian State Teachers College in 1949, and he taught eighth grade in Greensboro, North Carolina, for two years. During that time, Stan found a Hardaway projectile point that led to a meeting with archaeologist, Dr. Joffre Coe, at the University of North Carolina. A few years later, Stan left his career as a photographer and became a student of Dr. Coe, graduating with a Master’s Degree in anthropology in 1959. He was admitted to the University of Michigan for a Ph. D., but personal matters prevented his move north.

In the decades following his graduation, Stan worked on numerous prehistoric Native American sites, including the Town Creek Indian Mound and on early lithic sites like Hardaway, Doerschuk, Gaston, and Morrow Mountain. In 1959, he published a booklet titled “Indians in North Carolina” that sold almost 70,000 copies over the next 25 years.

Stan worked on his first historic site, the 19th century Kron House on Morrow Mountain State Park in 1957, and it was a life changing experience. Impressed with his ability to use artifacts from the Kron House to address questions relating to “function, status, gender, time, technology, and occupation,” Stan soon found himself on a course toward a new area of study––historical archaeology. When he told Joffre Coe that he was leaving Town Creek Indian Mound to take a job at historic Brunswick Town near Wilmington, North Carolina, Coe told him, “If you want to end your career in archaeology, I suppose you should take it.” This move soon brought Stan to the forefront of the emerging field of historical archaeology.

Over the following decade, Stan worked at Brunswick Town, Fort Anderson, Bethabara, Russellborough, Old Salem, and Fort Fisher in North Carolina, producing more than 60 reports and published papers. In 1969, he was hired by the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology to be the archaeologist at Charles Towne as part of South Carolina’s Tri-Centennial Celebration. Once work there was completed, he moved on to Ninety Six, the Pawley House, and Fort Moultrie in South Carolina.

Along the way, Stan founded the Conference of Historic Sites Archaeology in 1959, and in 1967, he was one of the founders of the Society for Historical Archaeology. He also found time to hone his skills as a painter, sculptor, and poet in his “spare” time.

In 1977, Academic Press published his seminal volume, Method and Theory in Historical Archaeology, as well as an edited volume, Research Strategies in Historical Archaeology. These volumes brought Stan to the forefront of the field of historical archaeology.

In 1979, Stan began work at the Santa Elena site near Beaufort, a project that would occupy him for the rest of his career. In his first week of fieldwork at Santa Elena, he found Ft. San Felipe, which was constructed in 1566. Between 1979 and 1985, he worked on Ft. San Felipe, Ft. San Marcos, and two lots, which we later identified as belonging to Santa Elena’s Governor from 1580-1587. We continued work together at Santa Elena after 1991, and in 1993, we found a Spanish pottery kiln on the periphery of the site. In 1996, we announced the discovery of French Charlesfort of 1562-1563, and in subsequent years, we explored many parts of the town. During these years, Stan also conducted projects at the Bartlam Pottery at Cainhoy, and he directed new investigations at Charles Towne Landing and Ninety Six.

During our years together at Santa Elena, I came to know Stan for his tremendous energy and work ethic. During his entire career as an archaeologist, he worked full weekdays and every evening and weekend with only occasional time off to see a doctor or to take his worn out automobiles to the shop. During our many trips back and forth to Santa Elena, Stan told an endless string of stories about his life and adventures. Somehow, he never repeated himself, perhaps because there was so much to tell! Most of these stories can be found in his memoir, An Archaeological Evolution, which was published by Springer Science in 2005.

In his last years at work leading up to his retirement in 2012, at age 84, Stan worked tirelessly to publish as much as he could, including his M.A. Thesis, a final volume on his work at Brunswick Town, a 60-page annotated vita, and several volumes of poetry that he had written throughout his life. And then, after nearly 60 years of writing and publishing, Stan set aside his pen and he wrote no more.

Over the course of his long career, Stan received many honors due to his lifetime dedication to historical archaeology:

  • 1979   Distinguished Alumnus Award, Appalachian State University
  • 1984   Halifax Resolves Award, Historic Halifax Restoration Association
  • 1987   J.C. Harrington Medal, Society for Historical Archaeology
  • 1993   R. L. Stephenson Lifetime Achievement Award, Archaeological Society of South Carolina
  • 1997   Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree, University of South Carolina
  • 1999   Order of the Palmetto, State of South Carolina
  • 2006   Old North State Award, State of North Carolina
  • 2003   Lifetime Achievement Award, Southeastern Archaeological Conference
  • 2008   Maj. G. Osterhout Archaeological Stewardship Award, Historic Beaufort Foundation

In April 2016, the Santa Elena Foundation opened the Santa Elena History Center in Beaufort, South Carolina. The Center and its exhibits are the direct result of Stan’s decades of work at the Charlesfort/Santa Elena National Historic landmark. Visitors to Beaufort can now learn about the site’s history and archaeology. Stan did not live to see the opening of this Center, but I know that he would have been especially proud to have this part of his life story told in a museum setting.

Those of us who worked with Stan and knew him as friend and colleague will always remember him. We will listen for the bold footsteps of his cowboy boots in SCIAA’s hallways. We will hope to see his 40-year old Chrysler Imperial pull into his long-time parking space across the street from the Institute. When we see a pig belt buckle or a straw hat filled with feathers, we will imagine Stan once again in the field behind his transit, digging at yet another site. When we read his poems, we will feel wonder at his willingness to share himself so totally with the world despite his inherent shyness.


From: The Crescent Moon (1976) by Stanley South

Somewhere in the in-between,

Around and among it all, 

I am a part,

Yet forever apart,

Of the saga

And the song I sing.

The river declares,

The ruin exclaims,

And the broken pot

Proclaims its song.

To those who will hear,

And to those who care to know

I have set my course on a mystic sea

Where the crescent moon is me.


To honor Stan’s many years of work, SCIAA has established The Stanley South Student Archaeological Research Fund to support undergraduate and graduate student research in archaeology by University of South Carolina students. Contributions can be made online or by check or money order may be mailed to: SCIAA—Stan South Fund, 1321 Pendleton Street, University of South Carolina, Columbia SC 29208.