Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project

D.C. Historic Preservation Office takes on Hot and Humid 2016 Day of Archaeology Festival!

Greetings and Happy Day of Archaeology (#DAYOFARCH)! The D.C. Historic Preservation Office (D.C. HPO) is proud to have co-sponsored and participated in D.C.’s Day of Archaeology Festival on July 16th!  This year marked the 5th Annual Day of Archaeology Festival, organized by the local non-profit Archaeology in the Community, and was held at historic Dumbarton House in Georgetown for the 2nd year in a row.  About 30 cultural resource-based agencies, firms, departments, and organizations participated, and over 500 visitors attended!  It was a huge success, and the D.C. HPO is thrilled to have reached out to so many eager children and adults, who now know more about their city’s archaeological past.

Dumbarton House, Georgetown. Photo courtesy of AITC.

D.C. HPO booths. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

D.C. HPO booths. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

It was all-hands-on-deck for D.C. HPO staff, interns, and volunteers- providing no less than four engaging archaeological activities and two archaeological displays. Activities included our staple ‘What is This?’ artifact guessing game, which has since grown to include prehistoric, historic, and faunal artifact categories of materials typically found in the mid-Atlantic region, and specifically from archaeological sites in D.C.

'What is This?' artifact guessing game. Photo courtesy of AITC.

‘What is This?’ artifact guessing game. Photo courtesy of AITC.

We brought along our ‘Mend Me’ historic ceramic mending exercise, where visitors tried their hand at refitting ceramic sherds. We have since added to the mending exercise, creating puzzles with whole images of ceramic vessels.  These have proved a great alternative for those unable to handle the actual ceramic sherds.

Children working on the 'Mend Me' exercise. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Children working on the ‘Mend Me’ exercise. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

We also dusted off our Pinch Pot activity, and brought along quick-dry clay for visitors to make their own pots to take away.  Visitors could decorate their pots similarly to prehistoric Woodland Period pottery, using replica tools including sharks teeth, and cordage wrapped paddles. And, thanks to current District Leadership Program Intern Julianna Jackson, we added a new activity this year- Make Your Own Cordage!  Visitors were able to twine fibers into cordage or string, and then use it to create  a personal bracelet.  In doing so, visitors got a better idea of how prehistoric peoples made their own personal adornments but also how they would create cordage suitable for so many important purposes like fishing lines, snares, etc.

Assistant District Archaeologist Chardé Reid, center, and volunteer Hali Thurber, far right, helping children make pinch pots. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Capital City Fellow Christine Ames, left, and Assistant District Archaeologist Chardé Reid, helping children make pinch pots. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Make Your Own Cordage exercise. Photo courtesy of AITC.

Volunteer Lois Berkowitz making a cordage bracelet with a young visitor. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Volunteer Lois Berkowitz making a cordage bracelet with a young visitor. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Finally, the D.C. HPO had two archaeological displays.  The first was our Woodland Period pottery display, featuring  artifacts from the Barney Circle archaeological project.  Various  types of pottery sherds were on display and, to give the visitor a sense of what an unbroken pottery vessel might look like, we also provided a complete replica Woodland Period pottery vessel, courtesy of the Jefferson Patterson Museum Maryland Traveling Trunk and a 3-D printed scan of one by our colleague Dr. Bernard K. Means of the VCU Virtual Curation Laboratory. In this way, the display tied in nicely to the pinch pot making activity. In addition, the D.C. HPO also displayed a variety of replica containers, also from the Maryland Teaching Trunk, made from organic materials such as gourd, birch bark, reed basketry, and wood. These were commonly used prehistorically, but examples are rarely found in our local archaeological deposits and so we know little about them in comparison to the more durable pottery vessels.

District Leadership Program Intern Julianna Jackson, center, arranging the Woodland Period Pottery Display. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

District Leadership Program Intern Julianna Jackson, center, arranging the Woodland Period Pottery Display. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Our second archaeological display contained a variety of artifacts  from the 2015 Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Project.  The D.C. HPO conducted a community-oriented archaeology project on the former property of Yarrow Mamout, a freed slave who purchased a lot in upper Georgetown in the early 19th century.  The 17,000+ artifacts are still being processed, and while we cannot definitively say yet if any are directly associated with Yarrow Mamout’s occupation, there are many artifacts that are datable to his period of ownership.  Much of the assemblage represents the households of the families that lived on the property following Yarrow Mamout, throughout the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th century.  Artifacts included personal items such as religious pendants, crosses, and buttons, including potential U.S. Navy and Union Civil War-era buttons, and a possible German Imperial WWI-era button.  A D.C. dog tag from the year 1922-1923, porcelain doll parts, a plastic toy soldier, possible gaming pieces, and quite a few marbles made up a rich and relatable exhibit to all.  In addition, a beautiful and complete agate pottery doorknob, a heavily corroded door bolt (identified via x-ray scanning from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab), Chestnut Farms Dairy milk bottle, and Parke-Davis pharmaceutical bottle were also a part of the display.

Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Display. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

Yarrow Mamout Archaeology Display. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

District Archaeologist Ruth Trocolli, far right, talking to a visitor. Volunteer George Riseling, back center, manning the Yarrow Mamout archaeology display. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

District Archaeologist Ruth Trocolli, far right, talking to a visitor. Volunteer George Riseling, back center. Photo courtesy of D.C. HPO.

In all, the D.C. HPO could not have pulled off such a successful Day of Archaeology Festival without its hard-working and amazing volunteer team.  Seven people gave up their Saturday to help us set-up, exhibit, and break-down our booths on a day when temperatures were 99 degrees Fahrenheit with 99% humidity!  Our volunteers have shown nothing but love and support to our archaeology program, and we could not effectively do this type of public outreach without them. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

D.C. HPO Volunteer Team:

Lois Berkowitz

Mia Carey

Hali Thurber

Justin Uehlein

George Riseling

Becca Peixotto

Lauryl Zenobi

D.C. HPO Staff Team:

Christine Ames, Capital City Fellow

Julianna Jackson, District Leadership Program Intern

Chardé Reid, Assistant District Archaeologist

Dr. Ruth Trocolli, District Archaeologist