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June 9, 2006

New archaeology dig in CW's Historic Area unearths early 18th-century site owned by Thomas Ravenscroft

Colonial Williamsburg’s Department of Archaeological Research has opened a new exhibition dig in the Historic Area at the intersection of Botetourt and Nicholson Streets. The excavation site is open to the public 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday – Friday through August, weather permitting.

Archaeologists, including undergraduate and graduate student participants in the joint Colonial Williamsburg/College of William and Mary Archaeological Field School are investigating a late 17th or early 18th century site named for one of the property’s first owners, Thomas Ravenscroft. Cross-trenching excavations in 1954 uncovered evidence of two structures including a brick cellar measuring 14 by 16 feet, generally thought to be too small to be a complete footprint of a structure. One goal of the current project is to discover evidence for the rest of this building. Archaeology conducted in 1998 adjacent to the current dig uncovered postholes and an 18th-century trash midden, the contents of which inspired interest in re-opening the site.

Summer Field School participants also are digging two other sites in the Historic Area. Excavation will continue at the Peyton Randolph property near Robertson’s Windmill, and in the Wren Yard of the historic campus at the College of William and Mary. The Randolph archaeology, which will conclude on June 30, is searching for workspaces, fence lines and gardens that may have occupied the northernmost portions of Randolph’s urban estate. The current dig marks the latest chapter in a 24-year investigation and reconstruction of the property. The site will be open for public interpretation 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, weather permitting.

The field school’s excavation in the Wren Yard – a garden archaeology project – will search for ephemeral evidence of formal gardens described and depicted in historical documents and will attempt to assess the West garden which provided food for students during the college’s early years. This project will run July 3 – Aug. 4 and will be open to the public 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday, weather permitting.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Department of Archaeological Research, in cooperation with the College of William and Mary, conducts yearly archaeological field schools in colonial archaeology for graduate and undergraduate students. The Department also oversees the largest colonial-period archaeological collection in the United States, consisting of several million objects and fragments recovered during more than 60 years of excavation; extensive comparative historic-period faunal and archaeobotanical collections; and the Martin's Hundred collection of early 17th-century material culture.

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281