Ole Miss students dig for history at Rowan Oak

Ole Miss students dig for history at Rowan Oak

OXFORD, MS (WLOX) - Students at the University of Mississippi are digging for history at the home one of the most well-known American writers.

The Center for Archaeological Research and a University of Mississippi research group are in the midst of an archaeological investigation at Rowan Oak to find out if slaves once lived on the property.

Although it gained notoriety because of its Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner, the Oxford home was built in the 1840s by Richard Sheegog. According to an 1850 census, nine slaves lived on the Sheegog estate.

Little is known about the surrounding property, and students hope to learn more about the pre-Civil War history of the seven acres of cleared land around the home.

"We want to build a context of the university during the 19th century," said Tony Boudreaux associate professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Archaeological Research. "We know a little about the big stuff, but the day-to-day aspects of living falls away. My hope is this adds more information to Rowan Oak's story during the period of time before the Civil War."

Before being excavated, students will survey the land and perform shovel tests. So far, testing has uncovered items including ceramic, brick, coal, and pieces of glass. Upon excavation, students will work to identify structural remains.

In addition to analyzing items found in the ground, Lafayette land deeds and Sheegog's will will also be studied.

"You get a different level of education across the board," said Allie Smith, a UM graduate student from Fort Payne, Alabama. "All the students are getting a taste of the different aspects of archeology."

On Saturday Oct. 15, the public is invited to learn more about the project during Public Archeology Day on Oct. 15, from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. There will be no cost to enter the home, but donations will be accepted.

"This project is an opportunity to better understand the role of slavery in Oxford and beyond, and it is the first systematic attempt to archaeologically identify the remains of slavery on university grounds in the Deep South," said Chuck Ross, the group co-chair, director of African-American studies and professor of history.

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