Broaddus Flats
Assassquin Plantation

Dover Steam Mill

18th Century Cellar

19th Century Kitchen Cellar

Summer Hill
Mehixton Plantation

site design by riverrun enterprises / design & contents copyright 2005, 2004, 2003



Frequently Asked Questions

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 occupied.

What are typical artifacts found at archeological sites?

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 of the
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 your help:

Harry Jeager
Dover Steam Mill, Goochland
(804) 273-0247

Kirby Smith
Rock Castle, Hanover Co.
(804) 672-6524

Tom Hobbs
Broaddus Flats, Hanover Co.
(804) 321-3210

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.

Date posted: 1.10.03