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April-November 2003InteractiveDig Mount Vernon
Laura and Lyndsay clean unit 691 before mapping the different layers.
Lisa and Kim discuss the eastern foundation area.
Mandy and Scott working in unit 735

Photos courtesy Historic Mount Vernon. Click on images for larger versions.
by Megan Veness

A Field Trip and More Digging

This week we focused on plantation archaeology, and got to dig somewhere else for a change! We took a field trip to Gloucester County in southeastern Virginia to volunteer at Fairfield Plantation, the seat of the Burwell family from 1675 to 1725. We helped co-directors Thane Harpole and Dave Brown excavate units outside the house foundation and one inside the burned house. We also dug a plow zone in the area of a large garden and discovered a post hole from a fence. The sandy soil at Fairfield lets the archaeologists use a mechanical screen that sifts dirt very quickly. We found many domestic and architectural artifacts including ceramics, glass, and one small glass bead.

We returned to the distillery on Tuesday and continued to excavate all over the site. Lyndsay, Laura Seifert, and I went back to the northern units (691 and 741) to dig what remained of the building's north wall and what we think was the cellar. We dry screened the layers we excavated above the foundation and water screened the layers dug from the possible cellar to the south of the wall. Hopefully we'll find some answers here soon!

Leigh finished the robber's trench in unit 739, while Lisa and Kim worked on the same trench in units 588 and 589 along the east side of the foundation. Lacy, Dan, and Jen finished on the south side of the distillery in unit 733, then moved east into unit 683 to excavate more of the millrace outflow. The south-side group is still finding domestic artifacts and structural debris.

Mandy and volunteer Scott Stoermer are taking off the post-distillery layers in unit 735 where they have revealed a brick, mortar, and sandstone feature. Along the eastern side of the building, we'd previously uncovered two similar features we think are locations of furnaces used to heat the stills. The newly discovered feature doesn't show the same fire-reddened soils (evidence of burning), but it isn't yet totally uncovered. I'm sure Mandy and Scott are looking forward to completely exposing this feature next week! Their square also contains a brick pier and a drain. Check back next week to see some photographs.

Questions about our findings so far? Click here to ask us!

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