Don’t forget your archaeologists outside on this first day of winter! We love unearthing our shared history whatever the weather, but the cold definitely requires us to bundle up!
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum is a division of the City's Office of Historic Alexandria and is a
Don’t forget your archaeologists outside on this first day of winter! We love unearthing our shared history whatever the weather, but the cold definitely requires us to bundle up!
This semester we had two wonderful interns helping our staff with a variety of collections management projects. These two worked on reboxing artifacts, conducting inventories, and accessioning collections. We were so lucky to have them and wish them well in their future endeavors!
Where did Four Mile Run get its name? According to the “Landmarks of Old Prince William” by Fairfax Harrison, the stream was named in 1706 because it was four miles north of Great Hunting Creek (really creative). From the colonial period through the mid-19th century, it served as the power source for numerous grain mills. Today, the channelized Four Mile Run serves as part of the northern border of Alexandria with Arlington.
Happy National Day of the Horse! We have found a number of equine related artifacts on archaeological sites including these pieces of tack from a Civil War era privy excavated at the Lee Street Site (44AX180). Tack is the term used for any equipment that equips a horse such as saddles, stirrups, or reins. Horses were a critical component of life before the invention of the automobile. They were used for many purposes including to transport supplies and wounded soldiers to the many wartime hospitals that existed in Alexandria.
A few weeks ago we dropped off some historic ship timbers from the Robinson Landing Site with our friends at the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab). These artifacts will now undergo a multi-year conservation process before they return to Alexandria for eventual interpretation and exhibition.
Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing site found this pewter syringe in the fill of a brick lined privy (Feature 13). Long before the hypodermic version we are more familiar with today, these tools were historically used to suction or irrigate wounds and inject materials into various bodily orifices. The first “modern” syringe was likely developed in the 17th century after Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and physicist, began experimenting with fluid mechanics. Pascal’s observation that pressure applied to one part of a fluid will be transmitted equally in all directions through the liquid underlies the development of effective syringes and the development of hydraulic machinery.
In honor of ask your favorite watering hole to make you a flip. This historic beverage was originally made using a mixture of beer, liquor, spices, raw egg, and sugar heated with a hot iron to froth the drink. Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing Site uncovered the remains of at least 45 tumblers/flip cups (no, not that kind) in the fill of a brick-lined privy (Feature 13) that was likely used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Though most were plain, the assemblage also contained a few decorated examples like this polychrome floral enameled example.
Make your own inedible ship biscuit this Saturday at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. Bakehouses like the Jamieson Steam Bakery along the Alexandria waterfront made large amounts of hard-as-rock biscuits for ships to take on voyages. These biscuits were designed to last a long time, and they certainly did! Archaeologists found this 200-year-old biscuit in the ground near the Jamieson bakery at the Robinson Landing Site (44AX235). Try your hand at making a late 18th century recipe to see how long it can last. Free from 2 – 5 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum.
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum will be closed for Thanksgiving tomorrow, but archaeology is all around you! Go on a pre-turkey scavenger hunt around Robinson Landing to spot the hidden historical elements built into the new development. The scavenger hunt map and clues can be found online: https://www.alexandriava.gov/archaeology/archaeology-at-robinson-terminal-south.
Everybody likes you when you’re 33 - happy birthday to our archaeological protection code! This year we may not have been able to get Blink tickets, but we were able to preserve the City’s collective archaeological heritage. So far this year our office has reviewed 229 building permits and 380 site plans for their potential impact on archaeological resources.
Prosser buttons became ubiquitous in the second half of the 19th century. Manufactured using the Prosser process, invented by Richard and Thomas Prosser around 1840, these high fired ceramic buttons were manufactured in a variety of sizes and shapes, ranging from simple 4-hole rounds to elaborate examples with birds on them. These buttons were excavated from the fill of a brick-lined drainage feature at the Robinson Landing Site. Though the feature may date to the 18th or early 19th century, the presence of Prosser buttons and other later artifacts in the fill suggest that it fell out of use and was filled in in the later 19th century.
Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing Site (44AX235) uncovered this pewter plate at the bottom of a brick-lined privy (Feature 13). This plate was likely deposited as part of a mass cleanout sometime after 1815. In the 18th century, people used pewter plates alongside ceramic ones when dining. Pewter is often not recovered from archaeological assemblages because it was highly durable and thus rarely broke, it had a high resale value and could be recast into other objects, and if it was discarded, it was likely to disintegrate in the ground. Finding this nearly intact plate is a rarity and attests to the high rate of preservation in this privy.
Happy National /STEAM Day! It is no easy feat to lift over 1,000 waterlogged ship timbers. Archaeologists turned to the power of hydraulics to lift and move them from the Alexandria waterfront to their eventual home 5 miles away in Ben Brenman Pond. This year, visitors to events throughout the DMV lifted 3D printed timbers with our own mini forklifts to see how they transmit force from one point to another using fluids.
Hurry over to Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden to see a wonderful exhibit featuring archaeological finds from our collection!
This is the last week to view our exhibit “Trash to Treasure: Uncovering the Downhams.” We worked with Alexandria Archaeology Museum to showcase artifacts that were uncovered from the property and which date to the Downham family’s ownership of the Lee-Fendall House.
This pair of bifocal lenses are still intact and were used to correct both nearsighted and farsighted vision. The top half of the lens is for distance vision, while the bottom half is for reading purposes. These bifocal lenses are thought to have belonged to Robert Downham, who we know from photographs wore glasses of this style.
Artist Elizabeth Luallen’s interpretation of Alexandria’s early waterfront shows some important details about the city’s original landscape. It depicts high bluffs rising above mudflats along the Potomac’s edge. Historical records and extensive archaeological evidence indicate that early Alexandrians cut these bluffs down in the late 18th century to make new land in a process locally called “banking out.” This work created roughly 10 new city blocks in what is now the core of Old Town’s waterfront.
Hear the latest findings about the 18th century Alexandria ships from Dr. Christopher Dostal. The free virtual lecture, “A City Built on Ships: Reconstructing 18th Century Ships Excavated from the Alexandria Waterfront,” will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26. Registration is required. Visit www.AlexandriaArchaeology.org and click on the calendar to register.
The Alexandria Archaeological Commission (AAC) is proud to announce the winners of this year’s Bernard “Ben” Brenman Archaeology in Alexandria Award. Congratulations to The Neighborhoods of EYA (EYA RTS Construction, LLC) for Outstanding Developer, AECOM for Outstanding Cultural Resources Management, and the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) for Outstanding Conservation. Their efforts made possible the documentation, recovery, and preservation of significant features and artifacts, including three historic ship hull fragments, that will enrich the lives of Alexandria residents and visitors for years to come. The awards, named in honor of the late Ben Brenman, a longtime AAC chair, were presented at the Alexandria City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 11. Councilmember John Chapman read the proclamation.
Virginia Native American heritage spans more than 10,000 years. Archaeologists, working collaboratively and respectfully, can contribute evidence of a history that has been forgotten and distorted over centuries of racism. A new exhibit case at Alexandria Archaeology Museum will be on view for the first time tomorrow, October 11, in recognition and celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day. The exhibit maps past and present Native American tribes and nations and shows how archaeologists can learn about the past by studying changes in stone projectile point technology. The panels are also available now at www.AlexandriaArchaeology.org. The exhibit case was made possible with the help of Friends of Alexandria Archaeology and the Pamunkey Indian Tribe.
Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing Site (44AX235) found this pipkin in the contents of a wooden box privy (Feature 12) that was likely used and filled in the late 18th or early 19th century. Early Alexandrians used this coarse earthenware, bulbous bodied, vessel to cook over an open fire. Pipkins were commonly used throughout the medieval and early modern periods.
The weather may have impacted our in-person plans for today, but we still have plenty of archaeology content to kick off Virginia Archaeology Month! Check out these 3D models of all four ships recently excavated along the waterfront. Can you spot any similarities or differences among them?
Robinson Landing Site, Ship 1 https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/robinson-terminal-south-feature-200-ship-1-26df32b3fea34eb68351fa71604363b4
Robinson Landing Site, Ship 2 https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/robinson-terminal-south-feature-155-ship-2-9cdb41a617bf4d83a319878fe536bae5
Robinson Landing Site, Ship 3 https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/robinson-terminal-south-feature-159-ship-3-9def23ba89a944f6b94ff4ff50fa7478
Hotel Indigo Site Ship https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/220-s-union-street-feature-53-ship-f1e46df838404c299b38dd5b0900dbfe
Alexandria, Virginia 220 S. Union Street, Hotel Indigo (44AX229) Feature 53 Type of Ship: Brig or large sloop Capacity: ~140 tons Projected Length: 70 feet Projected Width: 18.5 feet (Beam) Projected Depth: ~9-10 feet For more information on this ship and the archaeological site, click here: https:/...
This weekend's SeeWorthy Archaeology Festival at Ben Brenman Park has been cancelled due to Hurricane Ian and the state of emergency declared in Virginia. The event will be rescheduled for May 2023 in celebration of Historic Preservation Month. There are more ways you can participate in Archaeology Month with Alexandria Archaeologists! Learn more about Archaeology Month events https://www.alexandriava.gov/archaeology/celebrate-virginia-archaeology-month
Check out Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden new exhibit now through November 13! Learn how archaeology provides a glimpse into the lives of past people.
A 1986 excavation of the old well/privy on the Lee-Fendall property yielded many artifacts from when the Downham family lived on the site in the early twentieth century. These artifacts, once discarded as trash, are now a treasure trove of information about both the public and private lives of the family. For our new exhibit, we collaborated with Alexandria Archaeology staff to showcase some of these artifacts. Check it out through November 13!
Alexandria Archaeology Museum
We’re celebrating Virginia Archaeology Month with free events starting this weekend! Additional information can be found on our website. We hope to see you at one of our outdoor events, in the museum, or virtually this October!
What's better than spending the weekend on the Alexandria waterfront? Spending it with us, of course! Come see us at Archaeology Along the Waterfront, an event in partnership with Robinson Landing on Saturday, October 15 from 12 – 4 p.m. Test your 18th-century engineering skills and figure out a way to make new land without having it wash away into the Potomac, take part in a block-wide scavenger hunt, and join City archaeologists on timed walking tours of Robinson Landing. The event is free and open to the public, but tours are limited. To reserve your guided tour spot visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/archaeology-along-the-waterfront-tickets-383760296377
We’ve taken to the streets to bring you archaeology! Come find our privy-themed parklet today, September 16, from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Union Street along Founders Park. PARK(ing) Day is a global event aimed at reclaiming on-street parking spaces by temporarily transforming them into exciting and imaginative park spaces or parklets.
Archaeology enthusiasts of all ages are invited to the SeeWorthy Archaeology Festival on Saturday, October 1 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. at Ben Brenman Park. Meet archaeologists working in the region, try your hand at 18th century engineering, discover the physics behind moving large ship timbers, and find out why historic ships are submerged in the park’s pond.
Alexandria Archaeology is hitting newsstands now! For today’s extra special edition of we are excited to share that the historic ships made the FRONT cover of American Archaeology! The Fall 2022 issue of the magazine prominently features our creative curation solution of preserving the historic ship timbers in Ben Brenman Pond. A brief excerpt on the project is available online and the full version is available at a newsstand near you! https://www.archaeologicalconservancy.org/aafall22-counterintuiitive-preservation/
Before Alexandria was even formally Alexandria, there was a to***co inspection station and warehouse located at West’s Point (foot of Oronoco Street), on the northern end of the arc shaped bay. Virginia’s colonial government established this station and others like it following the passage of the 1730 To***co Inspection Act which was intended to better regulate the to***co trade. Named for Hugh West, owner of the warehouse and adjacent property, West’s Point was one of the last upstream locations at which large ships could anchor.
Thanks for visiting! Check out Veterans Curation Program for more information on their amazing program!
In 1755, Alexandria’s Trustees called upon merchant John Carlyle to oversee the construction of the town’s first public warehouse on Point Lumley (foot of Duke Street). The original structure likely straddled the unaltered shoreline with the Trustees initially instructing Carlyle to raise the sill (lowest horizontal part of wall framing) about four feet from the ground on piers to protect the building and its contents from high water. However, by September 1755, the Trustees ordered the area around the piers to be filled in with land, creating a more permanent and stable foundation for the building. The archaeological remains of this important structure were found in 2015 during investigations at the Hotel Indigo Site (44AX229). The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) is preserving wooden beams from the warehouse for future exhibit and interpretation.
Are you looking for a way to support archaeology and history in the city, but don't have a lot of extra time? Friends of Alexandria Archaeology invites you to their annual meeting and happy hour at Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant & Bar, 112 King Street, this Wednesday, August 24 from 6 – 8 p.m. A brief business meeting will be followed by an update from Alexandria's archaeologists. Meet or re-connect with fellow friends and supporters of Alexandria Archaeology while enjoying complimentary snacks and a cash bar.
In the 1760s, Alexandria was located on an arc shaped bay with high bluffs and mud flats. Carlyle House, built in 1753 for John and Sarah Carlyle, sat atop one of these bluffs overlooking the Potomac River. It was strategically located between the river and Market Square, which gave John Carlyle easy access to both for commercial purposes. Carlyle House Historic Park
In the early 1980s, Torpedo Factory Art Center artist Elizabeth Luallen worked with City archaeologists and historians to draw this interpretation of what Alexandria’s waterfront may have looked like in the 1760s. This piece was commissioned by Alexandria Archaeology as part of the Waterfront Forum programming. Over the next few weeks, we will highlight locations depicted in this artwork, explore how and why Alexandria’s shoreline changed shape over time, and explore the history hidden within Luallen’s work.
Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing Site (44AX235) found these to***co pipe pieces and copper alloy tamper in the fill of a foundation (Feature 5, Fill 2). A tamper was used to pack a pipe bowl or to crush ash. One pipe bowl looks like it may be Dutch in origin (top left object). Dutch pipes were usually fired at a slightly higher temperature than British manufactured ones leading to a less porous body. Dutch and British pipes also often had different bowl shapes and decorations.
How do archaeologists determine how old an area of a site is? There are many ways, but one of them is called terminus post quem, or TPQ for those not well versed in Latin! If you saw our camp post from last week, you’ll know that the TPQ is the earliest possible date that the artifacts were deposited based on when each object was manufactured. As we say farewell to Klondike’s Choco Taco (1983-2022), we can take solace in knowing that if a Choco Taco wrapper is found in a layer of soil, that layer must not have been around before 1983.
Archaeologists working at the Robinson Landing Site (44AX235) found these pieces of porcelain pepper pots (say that five times fast) in the fill of a foundation (Feature 5, Fill 2). Native to India, black pepper (Piper nigrum) was so valuable in medieval Europe that it was used as currency. However, by the late 18th century, it was a much more common condiment that was accessible to most households.
It’s the last day of camp! Today, campers finished excavating their units, documented their observations in their field notebooks, and spent the afternoon preparing for the public open house for family and friends.
Summer campers and staff are inside enjoying the air conditioning today at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and public lab. Campers spent the day in the lab washing and sorting artifacts that they excavated during the first part of the week. They then put their lab skills to the test by breaking and mending their own modern ceramic to take home.
How are we already halfway through summer camp week? Today campers learned about stratigraphy and recorded the soil layers present in their excavation unit’s walls. Profile maps like these record the vertical changes in soil color and texture as an area is excavated. These soil layers, or strata, show natural events like flooding, and cultural events like putting in a new road or backfilling a cellar. Archaeologists use the Munsell Soil Color System to describe the exact color of each layer of soil. At the end of the day, campers made their own color chart to add to their field notebooks.
Welcome to day two of Alexandria Archaeology Summer Camp! Today we’re learning about TPQ (terminus post quem), the earliest date after which an artifact could have been deposited Archaeologists can use artifacts to determine when a feature like a privy or a foundation may have been used. Campers learned how known manufacturing dates help archaeologists interpret sites and learn more about the past.
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The Alexandria Archaeology Museum is dedicated to preserving and studying Alexandria’s rich archaeological heritage and fostering within residents and visitors a connection between the past and present while inspiring a sense of stewardship and adventure.