Augusta State University Archaeology Project
In mid-July, personnel working for the contractor renovating Rains Hall discovered a pair of lady's slippers inside of a wall on the north side of the building. Christopher Murphy examined the location of discovery (see picture below). The discovery of the shoes triggered research on the circumstances by which the shoes might have found their way into such a seemingly unlikely location.
Below left: the area of renovation work in Rains Hall.
Center: the area of the wall from which the shoes came.
Right: young worker who first spotted the shoes when they fell from space between outer brick wall and old plaster lathes.
Initially the archaeology project staff assumed that the shoes (seen in photos below) were deliberately placed in the wall when the building was constructed in 1827-28. However consultation with other archaeologists suggests that it is more likely that they were placed in the wall at a later date. A likely time for this would have been when the two officers' quarters (ASU's Benet House and Rains Hall) were damaged by the severe 1886 "Charleston Earthquake". We know that these two buildings were among the more seriously damaged by the earthquake. (see commandant's letter regarding the earthquake; for other evidence of damage sustained in the earthquake, see refuse pit with fallen plaster)
Based on our research to date (investigation continues), the Archaeology Project staff believes that these slippers are an example of what archaeologists call "concealment shoes". Such shoes were placed in walls during construction, apparently often near doors, windows, or chimneys, to prevent evil influences entering the structure. Hundreds of examples of such placements have been discovered in Europe and the British Isles as well as in the United States. We have learned that such artifacts (often shoes, sometimes other objects) in walls seems to have occurred more often in a reconstruction episode than in the original construction of the structure. We have tentatively dated the shoes themselves to the 1870s-1880s period* which is compatible with the date of the earthquake.
* I wish to thank Ms. Jessica Geisler of the National Park Service for her generous assistance in dating the shoes and providing information aiding us in the interpretation of these artifacts.
Photographs of the concealment shoes
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