Liz Kondzella- Summer at Ferry Farm

This summer, I had the pleasure of working with the George Washington Foundation on a Phase 3 archaeological investigation at Ferry Farm. Three recent UMW HISP alumni were also working on the project with me: Mason Schultz, Sam Melvin, and Danielle Arens.

George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm has been the site of archaeological investigations since the early 2000s, and it will continue as such for the foreseeable future. The ultimate goal of the GW Foundation is to reconstruct the property to the way it was when the Washington’s lived there from 1738 to 1772  and interpret it to the public. We spent our 11 weeks this summer uncovering the structural outline of a Washington-era outbuilding. Additionally, post-excavation analysis of the artifacts we found will be carried out in order to determine the function of the outbuilding.

Danielle Arns (2022; right) and me (left)
schitting (aka: shovel skimming).

We found a large number of architectural artifacts: various types of nails, window glass, and brick fragments; but we also uncovered quite a few ceramics and the occasional animal bone. One thing I learned at the beginning of the dig is that there was a wig-upkeep “business” at Ferry Farm during Mary Washington’s occupancy at the farm, likely employing the labor of the enslaved people that lived there. Thus, we were constantly on the lookout for ceramic wig curlers, which were made of white ball clay and would have been used to style the wigs of visitors.

In addition to artifacts, we were also looking for features, or remnants of past activities such as post holes (for structures) and pits. These manifested most often through a spot of darker and differently textured soil. The building, a post-in-ground structure, would have left staining in the soil from the hole dug (a post hole) and from the actual post itself rotting in the ground over time or being removed (a post mold). Previous field seasons had already found a line of 4 post holes, placed exactly 10 feet apart, so this summer we were looking for the other half of the building: a parallel line of post holes to complete the structure. The first sign we found what we were looking for, however, was actually not a post hole! We found a massive flat stone at a right angle and ten feet away from the end post hole of the previous digs. With the help of research archaeologists and architectural historians, it was determined that this stone would have been placed there as either repair or proper support for this structure. This stone was the first clue that we were digging in the right spot and had found the southern wall of our outbuilding. Throughout the rest of the dig, we were able to find and excavate two more post holes along the same line as the stone. Overall, my experience at Ferry Farm was incredible, and I gained equal parts muscle and experience.

Me with Ferry Farm stratigraphy!
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Brooke Prevedel- Summer Field School in the Southwest

This summer, I spent seven weeks in Cortez, Colorado as part of the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center College Field School sponsored by the National Science Foundation Experiences for Undergraduates Sites Program. While there, my nine classmates and I split our time between lab work, field work, archaeological land survey, and our assigned research projects. Four of the seven weeks saw us accompanied by a different one of Crow Canyon’s Native Scholars in Residence each week: Dr. Justin Lund, Mowana Lomaomvaya, Noah Collins, and Kyle Kootswatewa. These scholars went through the program with us each day, sharing their research, perspectives, and mentorship as we navigated archaeology in Native spaces.

Figure 1: Me and my service dog (top), Lauren Bowlin (left) and Dr. Kellam Throgmorton (right, Field Director at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center) analyzing the soil sample and artifacts pulled up from one of our auger tests. Photo courtesy of John High (Dartmouth College).

The majority of our field work was conducted at the Haynie Site, where our cohort conducted routine excavations. My research partners, Ashley Bravo (California State University Northridge) and Lauren Bowlin (West Virginia University), and I spent a week of our field work conducting auger testing as part of our assigned research project (Figure 1). Our research was attempting to identify the location and number of potential pit structures north of the modern house on the Haynie Site and calculate a population estimate based on those results. Our results were inconclusive due to the continual use and reuse of structures that took place on the site, but we identified avenues for future research regarding Pueblo I occupation at the Haynie site. The research poster summarizing our project is currently hanging in UMW’s archaeology lab.

During our lab work days, we studied and performed a number of tasks, including ceramic and lithic analysis, dendrochronology, and flotation sampling (Figure 2). We also spent time working with faunal artifacts—animal bones—and doing zooarchaeological analysis; I was not expecting to discover a love of zooarchaeology at field school, and yet, I most certainly did. In addition to artifact analysis and processing field samples, though, some of our lab work was dedicated to experimental archaeology. In particular, we went through the process of making ceramic vessels, beginning with harvesting our own clay, mixing in the temper, then shaping, slipping, polishing, painting, and firing them (Figure 3).

Figure 2: Me (left) and my lab partner, Olivia Gotsch (right, from Vassar College) while we were timing the soak for a float sample we were doing. Photo courtesy of Kate Hughes (Laboratory Analyst at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center).
Figure 3: The vessel I made, fully slipped, polished, and painted, but not yet fired. Photo by author.

The rest of our days not excavating or doing lab work were spent on land survey. Compared to archaeological survey in the Mid-Atlantic, surveying in the west is much less labor-intensive, as there are hosts of artifacts visible on the surface. For our surveys, we went to several different properties over the course of the program and systematically walked the entirety of the acreage, calling out whenever we spotted an artifact. Wherever there was a high concentration of artifacts, we would stop, analyze the landscape to identify the presence of a site, and map it before continuing. The maps we made in the field were then digitized as part of another group’s research project.

Crow Canyon’s field school was an incredibly valuable experience for me. I learned so much about archaeology as a field and a professional practice, and from that, I have been able to refine my interests and career goals. I hope to return to Crow Canyon in the future as intern, perhaps even as the zooarchaeology intern, but whatever the future holds, I am beyond grateful I was able to attend.

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UMW Students and Native Virginian Tribes Collaborate on New Heritage Trail

Students in HISP 471: Preservation in the Community spent the Fall 2021 semester working on a Native American History and Culture Trail in King George County. This project was a conducted in collaboration with the Rappahannock and Patawomeck Tribes and the King George County Department of Tourism and Economic Development.

More information about the project can be found in the following news stories:

UMW Students Work with Local Native American Tribes to Create Heritage Trail in King George
Front page article in the Free Lance Star, January 2022

New Virginia Trail Will Spotlight Rappahannock and Patawomeck Tribes
TV interview by NBC4, December 2021

UMW Course Preserves Native American Stories
Story by the UMW Voice, December 2021

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Matt Bova- Online Archaeology Conference Offers Interactive Experience

Lab aide, Matt Bova, recently wrote a piece for the university’s newspaper The Blue and Gray Press about his experience attending and presenting at the virtual 2021 Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference.

You can read his article here: Online Archaeology Conference Offers Interactive Experience

You can also explore one of the StoryMaps that he presented at the conference here: Digging into the 19th Century.

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Delaney and Matt – Pandemic Lab work

Amidst the pandemic, we (Delaney and Matt) have been hard at work in the lab. Due to concerns about the virus, we don’t have any student volunteers in the lab to process artifacts. Following MMDC guidelines has forced us to shift our focus in the lab to projects we can work on while practicing social distancing. Without student volunteers, we’ve been able to work on a variety of special projects in addition to our normal duties. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to.


One of our most ambitious projects is creating a series of Esri StoryMaps in order to show the public the sites that the Center for Historic Preservation have been involved with. We are both experienced GIS users (Matt is a double major in Historic Preservation and Geography, and we’re both in the GIS certificate program). StoryMaps allows us to create engaging web displays using our GIS maps along with our other records. Similar to the Out of Sight, Out of Mind StoryMap that the city of Fredericksburg produced, these will showcase some of the sites the Center for Historic Preservation has worked on. These StoryMaps will be made available to the public soon, and Matt will be presenting on this work at the upcoming Middle Atlantic Archaeological Conference, which will be held online in March 2021.

Delaney converted a hand-drawn site map into GIS polygons.

Site Record Scanning

In our lab we have records of every site that the Center for Historic Preservation has been involved in, stored in filing cabinets. Decades of excavation records, maps, reports, student papers, and even emails are all stored physically in the lab. We’ve been going through and scanning and sorting all these files, so that researchers studying these sites can easily request access to them.

There’s a lot of files

Cataloging the Lab Library

Our lab has a ton of books, articles, journals, and other research resources in our collection. Most of these are hidden away behind our white board so its easy to forget they’re there! One of our goals is to create a list of all of the resources in our collection that is easy to navigate and update on the computer. This will allow us to figure out what resources we might already have when tackling a new project as well as reorganize our library. Delaney and Matt have been working on recording each book in our collection and we’re almost done! Soon, we’ll have an updated sheet that’ll make using our library easier.

Books on books on books!


GIS has become an in-demand skill for archaeologists, and fortunately we are both proficient. Delaney is creating a tutorial on the GIS techniques we use in the lab, and we’ve both been working on GIS maps of our active sites. Hosting this GIS data allows us to easily understand the spatial relations of a site, and allows us to share our spatial data with other archaeologists.

Here’s a map showing which parts of a site the artifacts are concentrated around.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the archaeology lab has managed to remain productive during the pandemic. If you would like to learn more about archaeology, consider signing up for HISP 207 or volunteering in the archaeology lab (open in the near future!).

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Matthew Bova- History and Computer Programming at the Library of Congress

A few hours before Professor McMillan’s Summer field school was cancelled due to COVID-19, I received an email from the Library of Congress, accepting me into their Junior Fellows Program. I excitedly accepted it, later finding out the initial offer to work in VR and artifacts had to be shelved in favor of a project that could be done remotely. Instead I was accepting into the Hispanic Division’s project on Visualization and Mapping. After making sure they knew that my Spanish skills were extremely limited, I found I would be working on creating visualizations to represent the presence of Luso-Hispanic (referring to Spanish and Portuguese speaking peoples) culture in the library.

I started working June 1st, beginning by meeting the other fellows and my Project Mentor. After a few days of introductions and writing up proposals, I was given free rein to work on my project. I quickly discovered the LOC’s API or Application Programming Interface, which is a tool a programmer can use to easily draw data from a server. From there, I wrote Python scripts that allow me to automatically draw, count and display data with the push of a button. The charts I made compared materials with Hispanic Division related metadata to the rest of the digitized archive, allowing the Division to see areas in which they are underrepresented. In presenting my work, I wrote a blog article and created a video that can both be found on the Library of Congress’s website.

The data showed huge differences between the Hispanic Metadata and Non-Hispanic Metadata items that are part of the digitized collection. Luso-Hispanic culture appears to be vastly under-represented in the Photography, Manuscripts, and Newspapers that are available to the public through the website. With this, the Hispanic Division can find where they can focus their resources in the digitizing and collection process.

This internship taught me so much in just two short months. In completing this project, I taught myself about computer programming and data visualization. I had weekly meetings with the entire Hispanic Division, and got to attend presentations from several different departments within the LOC. I even received coaching on job interviews and resume building during career development sessions on Fridays. I’d highly recommend the Library of Congress for students looking for an internship. They have several programs for all sorts of academic disciplines, and they are often looking to train future employees through the program.

I hope to be able to bring my programming and data science knowledge and apply it to archaeology and geography. My project entered data into a table similarly to an archaeologist in Excel but automated the process in order to record a few million item records. Understanding basic principles of programming and data science are useful in any profession that involves collecting and displaying data.

I am extremely grateful that the Library of Congress gave me this opportunity. I was able to develop and complete a project of my own design while also receiving support from professionals in the field. As much as I would have enjoyed commuting to DC, this was a fantastic opportunity to gain experience working for the biggest library on earth from the comfort of my own home.

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Summer Archaeology in the Garden State- Rick Altenburg

May 11th, 2019 was a perfect day for digging; it was a warm, sunny day, with a slight breeze coming off the Atlantic Ocean. It was on this day that I had the opportunity to volunteer on a salvage archaeological dig in my hometown of Middletown, NJ. The dig was located at a mid-18th century colonial farmhouse that had recently been purchased by a private developer. Thankfully, the owner allowed the Monmouth County Parks System, in collaboration with the Archaeological Society of New Jersey (ASNJ), to dig a series of test units on the property before the bulldozers rolled in.

            To determine where to dig units, Monmouth County Parks archaeologist Kristen Norbut used a grid of shovel test pits (STP’s) and analyzed the number of artifacts in each hole. It was by a stroke of sheer luck that Kristen put one of her STP’s directly between a row of bricks and a pile of field stones. This curious feature necessitated a closer look, so it decided to dig a five-foot square unit around the STP. Three fellow volunteers and I picked up our shovels and immediately got to digging.

Me on the right. Courtesy of ASNJ.

            There were a ton of artifacts located in our 5×5 square, most likely because the feature was filled in with trash sometime in the early 20th century. Some of the more interesting artifacts that provided us this information were a couple of coins that were found within the midden of trash. One coin was a wheat penny from the 1920’s while the other was an 1897 Barber/Liberty Head Quarter. I personally found the Barber Quarter while sifting—it was one of the highlights of my day.

Barber Quarter. Courtesy of ASNJ.

            Old coins are always fun to find. However, they were far from the only interesting things found in our unit. We also found a 19th century whiskey bottle, an enormous padlock, and several features including a deep hole encircled by a ring of stones. This ring was located within what was clearly a foundation of a structure and therefore led to the hypothesis that we had found either a well or an outhouse. What made us change our idea was the large amount of cut bone and ash deposited in the circle of stones. In light of this evidence, as well as the fact that there was already a well 20 feet away and would not be placed directly next to an outhouse, we came to the conclusion that we found what was most likely a smokehouse.

            I feel very lucky to have been given the chance to actively preserve history in my own hometown. Digging at the Hendrickson House not only taught me a piece of Middletown’s history, but allowed me to connect with it in a real way. Holding artifacts that have not been touched in over 100 years is an extremely surreal feeling. Another part of what makes preservation so special is the people you meet while doing it. An older man from the adjacent property came to talk to us archaeologists about what we were trying to accomplish. He revealed that he had been born and raised in the historic house. Multiple generations of his family lived there, and he was obviously emotional that it was going to be demolished. Nevertheless, he was grateful that archaeology could be done to gather as much historical data on the property as possible. Our conversation is the reason why I want to do preservation in the first place. After all, archaeology is about studying people, not just artifacts.

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An American in Greece- Kyett Salamone

This summer I spent two months on the American School of Classical Studies at Athens’s Agora Excavation. The agora was the ancient marketplace and public gathering space at the heart of ancient Greek city. It housed temples, public buildings, monuments, courts, and other important buildings. This dig has been going on since 1933 and been excavated by students since 1980. The goal of the excavation to uncover and study all the public buildings in the agora, then make them available to the public to visit.

Part of our excavation area, as visible from the staircase down. Due to the long period of occupation, we were digging around 40 ft below street level.
Our Supervisor Cat, who charmed her way into daily feedings and pettings.

This summer, the excavation was focused on four areas of the agora, with the volunteers rotating between them every two weeks. This afforded us the chance to work with different supervisors, who all had different methods, ideas, and experiences. Each area had something unique, like a well, a terracotta processing area, a Roman road, or a friendly site cat. Each was at a different era in the city’s occupation, so we had experience with a wide range of time periods and artifacts: Mycenean (11th-8th BC), late Roman (3rdh century AD), Byzantine (10th-11th century AD0, and late Greek/early Roman (150-300 BC).

Me in one of our trenches with the tools of the trade: pickax, hand-broom, dustpan, trowel. Not pictured is our artifact buckets and the rubber buckets where we put the dirt after it was examined.

While I was working in the Agora, I learned new archaeological field methods. I also got experience working with different tools, such as a pickaxe. American archaeology is usually done with shovels, in addition to trowels.  We also processed pottery differently. After it was washed, it was immediately sorted into diagnostic sherds (those with rims, handles, bases, or lamp fragments), and by type of pottery (Classical blackware, amphora sherd, Roman redware), then it was photographed as a lot on the drying screen before being bagged. In the lab at UMW, we wash the artifacts, then replace them in a labeled bag. The artifacts are usually only photographed if they are visually interesting or important. And of course, in Greece, we only using the metric system. That took some adjusting, especially when it came to complaining about how hot it was in the sun (37 C = 100 F). Each site and each group of archaeologists has different methods, especially when it comes to processing artifacts, and learning different methods is very useful as I look towards my future career.

In addition to the hands-on experience, I spent most my weekends traveling across Greece to different archaeological sites. It was a joy and a delight to see them in person. I really hope to go back next year, but even if I don’t, the experiences I had and the things I learned will stay with me and make me a better archaeologist. This trip was also a wonderful chance to combine my Classics and Historic Preservation majors in a way that I really hadn’t anticipated and hope to continue to do. 

Me before the Cyclopean Walls at Mycenae. This site was partly excavated in the 1870s by one of the most famous (and problematic) archaeologists: Hienrich Schliemann.

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Connecting the Dots with PennDOT- Delaney Resweber

This summer I worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as one of their archaeology interns in Harrisburg, PA. With my internship, I worked on projects for both PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Historic Museum Commission (PHMC).

For PHMC I mostly worked with their CRGIS platform. CRGIS is an interactive map of Pennsylvania’s cultural resources. In CRGIS you can look up a town, county, and other locational markers to view resources nearby to that location and if you know the ID numbers (used internally by PHMC) you can even look up the resource itself!

My coworker, Anna Shoemaker, an undergrad at Millersville University, and I worked on mapping Indian paths into CRGIS. The Indian Paths came from the book Indian Paths of Pennsylvania by Paul A. W. Wallace. These paths are contact period and historic paths that Wallace had described and mapped in his book. Wallace gathered this information through oral traditions, primary resources, and secondary resources. There are about 140 paths in Wallace’s book and luckily, an earlier project by URS in 2013 had already digitized most of these paths. However, over the years, a lot of these digitized trails were corrupted and inaccurate after being converted from different programs, so Anna and I had to review and revise the digitized paths to better fit the trails Wallace originally described. You can read a better explanation of the methodology in a blogpost on the Pennsylvania SHPO’s blog that Anna and I wrote here.

Along with mapping the resource, we also created information sheets for each path that provided more information on each trail. This project was fun because I got to learn a lot about these trails and how some trails had different uses. For example, there were trails used seasonally explicitly for pigeon hunting. There were also trails called “Warrior’s Paths” that were used for warrior’s raids and paths that were “forbidden” for white settlers to travel on. Overall, it felt like a fun little adventure to read the descriptions and try to find their location on the map!

While I mainly worked in the office during my internship, I did have a few adventures outside the office. In June, I volunteered at, and attended the Preservation Pennsylvania conference in Chambersburg. This conference focused on preservation efforts in the state of Pennsylvania and highlighted the work preservationist’s had done at archaeology sites and historic buildings. That conference was fun and I learned a lot about barns.

I also went on a site view with the other environmental review interns. Here, we got to see three sites where the bridges were going to be expanded or replaced as a part of Section 106 compliance. For each site we did some research to predict the probability of finding an archaeology site or if the presence of a historical building to allow PennDOT a better understanding of any mitigation that might need to be done. At each site, a PennDOT archaeologist used an auger to test the soils so he could have a better idea of the likelihood of a site. We also discussed geomorphology of the area and if it was likely that the artifacts were in a wash or if the artifacts were disturbed in any way. To do this we looked at the natural features to see if there were any hills or rivers nearby. We also looked to see if the site could have been altered by people, this could be as simple as noticing fill from construction or the presence of a building or parking lot near the site. When analyzing a site for mitigation recommendations, we also need to consider the impacts a project may have on the site. Even for a simple site, heavy machinery can cause damage. So, we also looked around for possible locations where supplies and machinery can be placed to complete the project. 

Anna Shoemaker and I also got to participate in a dig with the PHAST crew (Pennsylvania Highway Archaeological Survey Team).The PHAST crew are interns working with IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and PennDOT to survey small projects around Pennsylvania. We were able to get out of the office for a few days to help them dig STPs at a site near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This site had a lot of historic artifacts and a brick road was found in one of the STPs. Despite it being hot, it was a great day and I loved being out in the field again!

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Ethan Knick- A Coming Together: Telling the Story of Women in Early 17th-Century Virginia

Most of the household names associated with 17th-Century Virginia, such as John Smith and Christopher Newport, are predominantly masculine, with the obvious exception of Pocahontas. But dozens of other women, most of whose names have been lost to time, contributed as much to the birth of English America as their better-known male counterparts. However, women are seldom mentioned in historical or contemporary renditions of the Pre-Revolutionary Virginia’s past. On April 11th, Special Exhibits Curator Kate Gruber of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation explained to Dr. McMillan’s 1619 class how she pieced together the narratives of women from around the globe who shaped early Jamestown and its environs for an exhibit called Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia. This journey involved much “reading between the lines” of the historical record and pooling together artifacts from around the world.

“If it’s illegal, it has been tried,” explained Mrs. Gruber as she gave the students background about the research methodology she used for the exhibit. By examining the “outliers” who broke the overwhelmingly restrictive laws of the Virginia Company and Virginia’s early royal government, she gleaned volumes of information. In 1610, for example, company officials severely whipped Anne Burras, who they had contracted to assemble several articles of clothing for colonists. After failing to produce these articles to company regulations, she was convicted of negligence. English and American household goods from Europe and Virginia displayed in the exhibit, including beautiful linen jackets like those Burras would have worn when she arrived in Virginia in 1608 as a teenage servant, breathed reality into her story.

Mrs. Gruber explained that the exhibit focused primarily on European women because there is even less evidence to work with regarding African or North American women of the period. However, the influence of these two cultures still found a place in the exhibit. For example, famed anthropologist Helen Roundtree (1998) has demonstrated that women in Powhatan society wielded great political influence through production of diverse commodities and social precedents. Echoing this idea, Mrs. Gruber explained that without Pamunkey women who provide the corn that sustained Virginia colonist during the notorious Starving Time (winter of 1609-1610), Jamestown would have met an early end. Near the exit of the exhibit hangs a shining medallion which embodies the significance of Algonquian women. This pendant was given to female Pamunkey chief Cockacoeske, who signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677 securing the land of the Pamunkey Reservation, which exists to this day (McCartney 2006).

A surviving 1625 muster revealed the appellation of an African woman named Angelo who was likely on of the first “20 and odd negroes,” or African slaves, to arrive in British America in 1619 on the privateer ship Treasurer (Horn 2018). This precious record had traveled from the UK to be displayed in North America for the first time in the Tenacity exhibit. In addition to this world-renowned European artifact, the museum collected common household goods that enslaved servants like Angelo would have recognized, such as earthenware from archaeological sites in Virginia.

Tenacity, therefore, stands as a testament to the fact we can indeed tell the stories of intentionally obscured or unwittingly overlooked historical figures if we are willing to bring in diverse pieces of evidence scattered across the spectrum of the historical or archeological record in what Mrs. Gruber descried as “a coming together.”


Horn, James P. P.
2018     1619: Jamestown and the Forging of American Democracy. Basic Book, New York, NY.

McCartney, Martha
2006    Cockacoeske. In Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, Sara B. Bearss, editor, pp. 321–322.

Rountree, Helen C.
1998    Powhatan Indian Women: The People Captain John Smith Barely Saw. Ethnohistory 45(1):1-29.

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