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Public Archaeology Corps Excavates and Preserves Historic Cistern in Downtown Wilmington

Isabelle Shepherd
Jonathan Schleier (left), founder of Public Archaeology Corps, Justin Freeman (right), and volunteers work to excavate the historic cistern.

Developers inadvertently destroy archaeological sites on private land every year. Public Archaeology Corps’ mission is to reverse this trend, and they’re starting in Wilmington.

A motley crew of volunteers is unearthing a historic cistern in downtown Wilmington. A wife, grandfather, daughter, brother-in-law, and friends sift through dirt and identify found artifacts. Jonathan Schleier, archaeologist and founder of Public Archaeology Corps, says the new nonprofit aims to engage both trained archaeologists and interested civilians in discovering and preserving history:

“I really want it to be kind of like a family-friendly atmosphere where people can, you know, feel free to come and work and bring their kids with them and get their kids involved. You know, just something that people can bring their family to and everybody can participate and learn about archaeology.”

Schleier says Public Archaeology Corps aspires to one day open a research center and museum.

The cistern site will be registered with the Office of State Archaeology in Raleigh, where its site number and form will be available for academic research and inquiring members of the public. The volunteers will backfill the cistern with the removed dirt, which will help to preserve and stabilize it.  

To volunteer your time, contact Public Archaeology Corps at facebook.com/PACarchaeology.