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April-November 2003InteractiveDig Mount Vernon
The new crew is hard at work learning Mount Vernon's excavation methodologies (facing south with the gristmill in the background).
Gwyn works to take down layers along the edge of the southern foundation wall (facing east).
Lisa points to the rubble deposit that needs to be excavated along the southern wall of the foundation (facing southeast).

Photos courtesy Historic Mount Vernon. Click on images for larger versions.
by Daniel Baicy

Rain, Tours, Orientation, and Some Excavation (and Rain)

Eight interns including myself arrived on June 2 to begin employment at Mount Vernon. Rain and orientation kept us away from the site for most of the week. Our first days were spent filling out forms, getting security badges, learning lab procedures (artifact washing, drying, and boxing), and getting to know each other. Our tour of the mansion and grounds put the distillery site into the larger context of a late-eighteenth-century plantation and gave us an understanding of how archaeology at Mount Vernon is presented to the public.

On Thursday we got to the distillery site, where we first had the onerous task of bailing rain water that had accumulated on the plastic tarps. Once the water was removed and the site uncovered, we were given a short tour. The interns and volunteers were then split into three groups, each headed by one of the crew chiefs. We spent a few hours to cleaning up the areas we would be excavating the following day. Several groups of tourists, ranging from families to large bus tours, also stopped by the excavation, something that hasn't happened as much at other sites where I've worked. That afternoon we were off to the National Building Museum in Washington to view Saving Mount Vernon: The Birth of Preservation in America, an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association.

Friday we finally had our first full day of excavations. Returning to our assigned areas, we were given an on-the-job training session in the procedures of opening new levels, bagging artifacts, and general excavation techniques. My group is engaged in excavating the western halves of 786 and 787. Portions of the distillery's western foundation extend underneath the unexcavated parts of both units.

The other groups are also busy excavating. One is working around the southern foundation, units 634 and 684. They're exposing the remainder of the trench associated with the foundation wall, removing rubble deposited when the building was dismantled in the ninteenth century. The third group is working in unit 788 excavating the final quadrant of the feature the staff thinks was the malt kiln (see Laura's post). This group is also digging along the western foundation and the robber's trench, which was filled after removal of the foundation stones during the ninteenth century (see 1999 excavations).

Friday night several of the staff and interns operated the Mount Vernon exhibit at Celebrate Fairfax, a fair and tourism showcase for Fairfax County. That night the booth highlighted Mount Vernon's archaeology program. There were displays detailing the distillery excavation and artifacts, and a couple of archaeologically themed games for younger visitors.

We'll continue in our excavation areas next week, exposing the eighteenth-century distillery surfaces. Click here to ask any questions you might have!

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