Collection of archeological artifacts returned to Historic Bethabara

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 23, 2021

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WINSTON-SALEM — On Thursday, an important collection of archeological artifacts was returned to Historic Bethabara Park from Old Salem Museums & Gardens. The artifacts are from the landmark archeological excavation of Bethabara in the 1960s by the famous historical archeologist Stanley South.

This collection of artifacts, including ceramics, glass, metal and other categories, were analyzed and stored by Stanley South in metal cabinets. First housed at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) in Old Salem, the cabinets became part of the collection of the newly established Old Salem Archaeological Laboratory in 1994. The artifacts have since been curated by Old Salem Archaeology and have been the basis for broad scholarly research. Historic Bethabara’s initiative to reestablish an archeological laboratory has prompted the return of the artifacts.

Stanley South was the first North Carolina State Archeologist and an important pioneer of the theoretical background of historical archeology. His findings at Bethabara played a significant role in his theoretical formulations. In the 1960s, he was engaged by the Southern Province of the Moravian Church to investigate historic Bethabara. It was during South’s extensive archeological study and excavations in 1966 that much of Bethabara was revealed, and his work became the foundation for Historic Bethabara Park. South’s book Historical Archaeology in Wachovia: Excavating Eighteenth-Century Bethabara and Moravian Pottery is his significant publication of that work.

Stanley South fully describes such discoveries as fortifications from the French and Indian War and 20 ruins of various shops and dwellings in the town. He also illustrates methods of ruin excavation and stabilization, including the replacement of palisade posts in the original fort ditch as part of the site development as Historic Bethabara Park.

Historic Bethabara Park has another large collection of archeologically recovered objects from subsequent work on the site. The vast majority of these artifacts are ceramics created by Bethabara’s early Moravian potters: Gottfried Aust, Rudolf Christ, Johann Gottlob Krause, John Butner, and Joseph Butner. These collections form an important resource for the Park’s exhibits and educational activities.

Historic Bethabara Park, a National Historic Landmark, is the 1753 site of the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina and the birthplace of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. For more information, go to or call 336-924-8191.