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“I was really taken with the environment and the challenges of working as an archaeologist in that environment,” Peixotto said.“But also..people who were living there in the past and the challenges of living in that environment.” The work by Peixotto and Sayers is not only important to American history, but it is also inspires their students.There was little solid information on the Swamp’s history and the communities that lived there in exile, he said.

“At that beginning early stage, I think it was just an absolute fascination with the folks who I was coming to understand may have lived out in the Swamp,” Sayers said.

Peixotto first went to the Swamp as a field school student as she was getting her master’s degree and returned when she began her own doctoral research.

Sayer’s interest in the area peaked during his doctoral dissertation project.

He sifted through old documents and history books on the area for research.

“A lot of this history of the Swamp is going to be guarded,” Sayers said.

“This is the kind of history where if your family has a connection to the Swamp, there might be reasons not to go around telling everyone about it.” One of these reasons is the family’s vicinity to conservative areas that still hang Confederate flags and are stuck in Jim Crow era, Sayers said.This research in the Great Dismal Swamp is vital, as it delves into a mysterious narrative of American history and allows us to better understand the people who have fought against systematic oppression, Sayers said.“We need to know more about our radicals—our social radicals,” Sayers said.Primary documents lack significant information and there are often people with family ties to the Swamp’s inhabitants who are unfamiliar with the story, Sayers said.Sometimes, descendants are even reluctant to share the information that they do know.These small artifacts, however, can offer vast insight into the life of the Swamp.

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