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April-November 2003InteractiveDig Mount Vernon
Dan, Lisa, Jen, and Eleanor map the area around the west foundation wall.
Master Distiller Jimmy Russell explains the process of distilling whiskey before the tasting. (Photo by Patrick MacElroy)
A CNN cameraman gets down and dirty with the archaeologists. (Photo by Amélie A. Walker)
Bill Loob (Food and Wine) helps Lyndsay screen for artifacts. (Photo by Patrick MacElroy)

Photos courtesy Historic Mount Vernon unless otherwise noted. Click on images for larger versions.
by Lyndsay Graham

Stop the Press!

We finally had a full week in the field without rain! Everyone was busy with the three main areas of focus. Along the south wall, Kim's group finished excavating the portion of builder's trench in their units and mapped the foundation and nearby features. One of these features is believed to be an earthen drain running parallel to the south wall foundation. Jen's group, working on the west wall foundation, took out the remaining layers of the 1930s trench and mapped the newly exposed soils. The next step in this area is to explore the foundation itself and the dirt between the cobbles. In the area of the possible malt kiln, Laura's group continued to work on the robber's trench. The feature we think is the malt kiln has been cleaned and photographed. Laura believes she's excavated all the 1930s fill and the remaining soil dates to the ninteenth century.

Probably the most exciting thing for us this week was the media field school. Mount Vernon and DISCUS invited journalists to learn more about our methods, see what we're doing here at the distillery site, and even participate. The group was given a tour of the grounds and Washington's mansion, where they learned how archaeology and historical research continues to guide interpretation and reconstruction. Our excavation of the distillery is part of this process and will determine how the building is reconstructed after we're done. The media was also treated to a tasting of whiskey aged on the Mount Vernon property with Jimmy Russell, the Master Distiller of Wild Turkey.

On the second day of the media event, Esther gave the journalists a quick "Archaeology 101" course during breakfast and paired each with an archaeologist before letting them loose on the site. Reporters scribbled notes while radio stations recorded trowel scrapes and screen shaking, and tv crews zoomed in on our digging. Many joined in the excavation and learned what it's really like to work at an archaeological site! The group then retreated to the lab for lunch and a view of the post-excavation process.

Among those attending our media field school were American History magazine, Business Week, CNN, Food and Wine magazine, Reuters, Richmond Times-Dispatch, NPR, WTOP radio, and ARCHAEOLOGY's own Amélie Walker.

We had a great time chatting with the reporters about what we're learning at Washington's distillery. Every journalist had a different angle to explore, and it was interesting and fun for us to have them participate in the dig for a day.

Stay tuned for more updates. We've just started to gather steam!

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© 2003 Archaeological Institute of America

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