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June 8, 2007

CW's archaeological projects and programs reveal hidden past throughout the summer

Colonial Williamsburg’s department of archaeological research has resumed excavation on the Ravenscroft site, located in the Historic Area at the intersection of Botetourt and Nicholson Streets. The site is open to the public through Aug. 31 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday – Friday, weather permitting.

Archaeologists, including undergraduate and graduate student participants in the joint Colonial Williamsburg/College of William and Mary Archaeological Field School, are investigating an 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. In 1998 another very limited project uncovered postholes and a large 18th-century trash pit adjacent to the existing dig.

The current excavation, begun in 2006, applies newer archaeological techniques to questions that remain about this cellar: When was it built and for what purpose? What did the building look like? What types of activities were carried out in this structure? And which of the property’s many owners and residents can be associated with it? Among the people linked to the site in the years preceding the Revolution are merchant John Holt, printers William Hunter and Joseph Royle, and a long list of enslaved household members.

Summer Field School participants also are digging at the Wren Yard on the historic campus at the College of William and Mary. This garden archaeology project is continuing to reveal additional evidence of the highly stylized East Garden depicted in historical documents, one of the earliest and most significant Anglo-Dutch formal gardens in the New World. This project will run through Aug. 3 and will be open to the public 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.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 and extensive comparative historic-period faunal and archaeobotanical collections.

In addition to these projects, the program, “Meet the Archaeological Curator,” will allow interested guests to spend a morning in the archaeological laboratory with one of Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeological curators. While there, guests will learn about artifacts, bones or other specialties. Open to the public, the program is limited to 15 people and requires a free reservation. It will run from June 21 through Aug. 30 and takes place every Thursday 10:30 a.m. to noon, weather permitting.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture — stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic tradespeople research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information or reservations, call toll-free 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg on the Internet at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121