A Long History of Occupations: Stephanie King’s Week 1

by Stephanie King, VCU student

Day 1: Orientation

Orientation at Ferry Farm introduced some and reacquainted others with the history of the area, particularly history directly related to the Washington occupation and a bit associated with Antebellum-era events. We learned that the site has a long history of occupations, dating as far back as 10,000 years, although it wasn’t occupied by the Washington family until Augustine Washington purchased the property in 1738. The entirety of the Washington occupation (1738-1754) is the major concern of the Ferry Farm excavations, but everything culturally relevant that is found is kept all the same.

We split up into groups to start our units. My dig-partner Ruth and I are situated directly north of a brick platform that was excavated by a previous group. Our student instructors Alan and Ashley demonstrated how to set the boundaries of our units (always into 5’x5’ blocks), and we made some headway on our topsoil layer.

Allen and Ashley demonstrate how to establish unit boundaries.

Day 2 – 3: Excavation!

My dig-partner Ruth and I finished our topsoil layer on our second day and found some non-plastic artifacts! Having reached the 20th century, we found bits of “utilitarian porcelain”, whiteware, wire and cut nails, glass (blue and green), and large chunks of a sodden shingle.

Rhenish German Stoneware (as identified by Ashley). Our first other-than-plastic find.


By our third day we started to find more significant ceramic wares, more brick (which is worrisome given the amount of brick in the unit just south of us), charcoal, and a few wrought nails. There were a few pieces of bone, but these pretty much fell away to nothing upon discovery. With the earth this saturated, the bone was more like rotted wood, and didn’t survive excavation. These were very likely faunal remains, and nothing to get too excited about.

Day 4: Wakefield

Naturally, we visited George Washington’s birthplace. Amy Muraca, our guide from the National Park Service, gave us a very thorough tour of the grounds and explained the archaeological processes that went into making Wakefield a memorial site. While there is a standing structure on the grounds, it is a representation of the original home that Washington was born in; the supposed outline of his home is laid in gravel to illustrate its location. We were also directed to the grave sites for the Washingtons, and took our lunch on a beach by the Potomac river (where I picked up many shells was given a faunal ulna).  We also were given a tour of the collections stored at Wakefield, where Ashley and Professor Means demonstrated 3-D printed archaeological artifacts that were scanned at the facility before our arrival.

Prof. Means and his digital microscope





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