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James L. Michie

James L. Michie

James L. Michie, always Jim to his many friends and colleagues, had a passion for archaeology.  His curiosity, intelligence, and dry wit, combined with a willingness to ask the most basic questions about how artifacts came to be distributed in the ground as they are found and what that distribution means, made an impact on people he worked with, professional colleagues, and students. Jim Michie devoted himself to understanding the prehistoric past of South Carolina when he began his independent studies and explorations, establishing a lasting pattern of discovery of some of the most ancient evidence of human presence in North America. 

When he decided to make archaeology his professional career, Jim ignored people who told him he wasn’t college material and earnedd a BA in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina, Magna Cum Laude. For those who had known him for years, talking archaeology late at night, working together on the professional journal and newsletter of the Archaeological Society of South Carolina that Jim helped found, it was no surprise that he continued on to graduate studies. His many friends and colleagues respected his thoughtful approach to archaeological questions, and his commitment to publishing the many surveys and excavations he conducted. When he expanded his research interests from the earliest periods to plantation archaeology, Jim continued to ask questions and we all know more about the lives of all the people who lived on plantations as a result.

Friends and colleagues describe James L. Michie as a fine storyteller, a great fisherman, knowledgeable about the wildlife and ecology of South Carolina to the point of being able to call an owl from the woods into the trees beside a fire, a man who would not give up searching for sites that must be there, like Fort Congaree, occupied for only four years but the basis for Columbia. His work at the Taylor site still serves as the framework for understanding a crucial phase of archaic culture along the river systems of South Carolina.

Professor James L. Michie laid the foundation for the new Center for Archaeology and Anthropology at Coastal Carolina University, and his family and friends recently established a professorship in his name. Jim Michie taught in the History Department at Coastal Carolina University and also served as associate director of the Waccamaw Center for Historical and Cultural Studies from 1990 until his retirement in 1998. In 1998, Jim Michie's work at Wachesaw plantation, his discovery and excavation of Richmond Hill plantation, and his investigations at The Oaks overlooking the Waccamaw River in what is now Brookgreen Gardens was recognized by a lifetime achievement award from the Archaeological Society of South Carolina.

Jim was passionate about being outdoors and sharing his knowledge with others in a kind and unassuming way, a person who inspired other dreams. David Anderson, professor of archaeology at the University of Tennessee and today an eminent archaeologist specializing in the Southeastern region, got his start in South Carolina archaeology with Jim. He describes Jim as one of the best field archaeologists he ever saw or had the privilege to work with and said, “Jim (James L. Michie) was a major figure in southeastern Paleoindian archaeology in the 1960s and 1970s, at a time when few people in the region were interested in the subject. He developed type descriptions of early points in the South Carolina area, conducted excavations at major early sites like Taylor and Manning, and started the South Carolina fluted point survey, one of the first in the region, and an effort that continues to this day. He was an excellent fieldworker, a fine colleague who thought deeply and creatively about the archaeological record, and a friend and teacher who helped many people, including myself, learn about South Carolina archaeology.”