Old Salem archaeologist retiring after 47 years

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Michael O. “Mo” Hartley built the archaeology program at Old Salem from the ground up by looking at it from the ground down.

In his 47 years as an archaeologist, Hartley unearthed not only numerous artifacts but also knowledge on the Moravian community and its role in shaping the county.

“All the history of this place until now rests on Moravian origins,” said Hartley, the director of archaeology at Old Salem who will retire Dec. 31. “When I came here, I wanted to know, ‘Who are the Moravians?’”

Archaeology is a field of work where every new answer provides a handful of new questions.

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Hartley brought his inquisitive nature to Old Salem about 35 years ago to help solve some of the mysteries about the early days of the settlers who would lay the groundwork for the city.

As he approaches retirement, Hartley, 75, has much to show for his work.

In one display case at the archaeology center he created, he proudly points out the stories behind a handful of fragmented dishes and a small collection of toy soldiers recovered from a cellar hole, originating in 1825.

“It raises the question: Why would the passivist Moravians have toy soldiers?” he said. “If you can look at people’s material items, you can tell who they are, what they did, what they were up to.”

Each toy soldier and shard of pottery tells a story, he said, and allows for a comprehensive picture of the lives of the Moravians.

An archaeological investigation into the Builder’s House helped dispel the notion that the tradition of Moravian pottery in the Salem community ended with Rudolph Crist’s death in the 1820s, he said.

Hartley and his team recovered thousands of artifacts that proved Heinrich Schaffner, who arrived from Germany, continued the tradition of Moravian pottery long after.

“Mo has really been the single most influential individual in…

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