What is archeology?
Archeology is the study of
how people lived in the past by digging to uncover information.
Ancient objects dug up are called artifacts. These help us
to better study the culture being investigated. Archeologists
also find features, things like walls, foundations, walkways,
wells, filled-in cellars, and even the scant remains of long-rotted
posts. Together, artifacts and features give the archeologist
a much clearer picture of how these particular people lived.
How does it help us to understand history?
Archeology helps to write or
even re-write the pages of history that have been overlooked
or lost to us over the centuries.
Where does archeology stand today?
Archeology stands on the cutting
edge in the study of history today. Since dozens of sites
are lost to development each day, archeology can salvage information
before it is gone forever. Also, new information is being
found almost daily from discoveries on protected sites like
Jamestown and Monticello.
How do archeologists decide where to dig?
Sites are found from two kinds
of evidence: documentary and physical. Documentary can be
old court records, diaries, church records, letters or even
old newspaper articles. Physical evidence is found by excavating
in the ground for artifacts, which are clues also of the activities
on a site. Sometimes, archeologists are lucky enough to find
a few artifacts on the ground surface, and these can be a
clue even before the digging starts as to when the site was
What are typical artifacts found at archeological
If your site was lived on by
Native Americans, archeologists usually find stone and bone
tools and weapons; if the site was colonial or early American,
common artifacts may include bone and shell food remains,
nails, broken pottery called ceramics, broken glass from bottles,
or lost items such as buttons, cuff links or coins.
Why do archeologists keep such careful records?
By nature, archeology is a
destructive science—once a site is excavated, the original
evidence is changed forever. So all features must be measured,
drawn and photographed for future study.
Do you get to keep any of the artifacts?
No, all artifacts are kept
together to be used as a "unit study" by students
and avocational or professional archeologists. To take away
one artifact from the collection would be to eliminate a clue
to the culture of the people being studied. On private property,
all artifacts & records belong to the landowner; on State
property, they go to the Department of Historic Resources;
on Federal land, to the Federal Government.
What happens if human remains are found on a site?
Human remains are never to
be disturbed until the archeologist can do a few things legally.
Permission has to be granted by the county and state departments
responsible. Since permission is rarely given, and since rarely
is much new information gained from excavating a grave, archeologists
often leave a grave undisturbed. If, on the other hand, bulldozing
site is expected, then a burial-removal company should be
hired to move the grave to a safe graveyard.
How did you find the dig site at Broaddus Flats?
Actually, I didn't. My dog,
Baron, sniffed it out when we were walking in the so-called
"river field" in the spring of 1992. He was about
fifty yards away and would not respond to my repeated calls,
so I went over to investigate. It was at that time that I
saw brick fragments, pipe stems, broken ceramics and colonial
nails. I recognized this site immediately as an early 18th
and possibly late 17th century house site. I soon obtained
permission to excavate and
led my first class of archeology students (Mathematics &
Science Center 5th and 6th graders) in the fall of 1992.
How can I get involved in archeology in central Virginia?
Easy. Contact one of these
three members of the Archeological Society of Virginia (Greater
Richmond Area Chapter) to come out to their dig site and volunteer
Dover Steam Mill, Goochland
Rock Castle, Hanover Co.
Broaddus Flats, Hanover Co.
If you are not from the Richmond area, one of us can help
you to get in contact with a chapter member from your area
of Virginia. (We have fourteen chapters statewide.)
Does the ASV meet regularly?
Yes, on the third Thursday
of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the West End Manor Civic Association
building near Lohmann's Plaza shopping center off Broad Street
in the West End of Richmond. We have a fabulous speaker each
month, and dessert is often provided! Membership cost to the
Society is low; applications can be picked up at the meetings
or they can be mailed to you.