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

Featured Today at the Virtual Curation Laboratory: George Washington’s Boyhood Home, Jamestown, and Monongahela Villages

by Bernard K. Means, Director of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

Bernard K. Means scanning the cellar feature at Ferry Farm.

Bernard K. Means scanning the cellar feature at Ferry Farm.

I just walked in from the field where I 3D scanned a Colonial-era cellar feature at George Washington’s Ferry Farm, continuing a busy week that will end tomorrow, July 11, 2014 in a Day of Archaeology Festival in Washington, D.C. sponsored by Archaeology in the Community. This is not the first feature that I have scanned at Ferry Farm using the Sense 3D scanner. A couple of weeks ago, I scanned this cluster of Colonial-era features at Ferry Farm–and one shovel test pit from a 1990’s archaeological survey (the square hole).

Animated Colonial-era feature from Ferry Farm.

Animated Colonial-era feature from Ferry Farm.

More typically, at Ferry Farm and other locations, I use a NextEngine Desktop 3D scanner to create artifact models.

Masonic pipe dating to the George Washington-era occupation at Ferry Farm.

Masonic pipe dating to the George Washington-era occupation at Ferry Farm.

The Virtual Curation Laboratory creates printed replicas of the digitally scanned artifacts and features, which are painted by students at Virginia Commonwealth University for public programs, teaching, and exhibition.

Becki Bowman (left) and Lauren Hogg painted printed artifact replicas.

Becki Bowman (left) and Lauren Hogg painting printed artifact replicas.

Some of these painted replicas were featured in a public archaeology program held on Independence Day (July 4)  just one week ago.

A young visitor in Colonial garb examined a chess set created using scanned artifacts.

A young visitor in Colonial garb examines a chess set created using scanned artifacts, as well as other artifact replicas.

The Virtual Curation Laboratory works with many partners in the cultural heritage community dedicated and devoted to protecting and presenting the past.  We have a particularly fruitful relationship with Historic Jamestowne, where we have 3D scanned a wide range of artifacts that are incorporated into public programs.

Becki Bowman holds up a freshly painted replica of an ivory compass dating to the early 1600s from Jamestown.

Becki Bowman holds up a freshly painted replica of an ivory compass dating to the early 1600s from Jamestown.

Ivory compass from Jamestown

Ivory compass from Jamestown

In late June, with help from Jamestown Rediscovery’s Danny Schmidt, we scanned this partially excavated bread oven at Jamestown, from a cellar where the cannibalized remains of a young woman dubbed “Jane” were found.

Animation of cellar from Jamestown.

Animation of cellar from Jamestown.

Lest it be thought that we only work on historic-era sites, we also pursue research on pre-Contact sites, including Monongahela villages that once existed across southwestern Pennsylvania and adjacent states. We work closely with the Westmoreland Archaeological Society, a group of avocational archaeologists in Pennsylvania that are actively excavating the Consol site, a multi-component Monongahela village.

Ceramic vessel from the Consol site.

Ceramic vessel from the Consol site.


Basin-shaped feature from the Consol site.

Basin-shaped feature from the Consol site.

For more about  the Virtual Curation Laboratory, you can visit us here. Other animations can be found at the Virtual Curation Museum, including this mummified opossum.




2013 Day of Archaeology Festival Thank You!

The D.C. Historic Preservation Office (DC HPO) would like to thank everyone who came out and supported the 2013 Day of Archaeology Festival!  Thank you for stopping by our table and participating in our activities, we really enjoyed having you.   We would also like to thank Archaeology in the Community, for hosting the D.C. festival. 

It was a very successful event!

For those of you who wish to learn more about the DC HPO, within the Office of Planning, please navigate to our website.

The DC HPO presented on Prehistoric Pottery and Historic Ceramic assemblages, found in DC archaeological sites.  Displays were complete with signage and artifacts.  Visitors were engaged in a variety of activities, such as the “What is This?” game, where visitors had to guess the identity and function of artifacts on display.  The Stratigraphy Exercise, where visitors matched artifacts to associated soil contexts.  And, finally, the Pinch Pot making station, where visitors make their own clay Pinch Pots using prehistoric-themed tools and techniques.  It was a huge hit with the kids!

Scroll down to view photos!

Photos and Captions Blog Photos and Captions


DC Day of Archaeology Festival!

 Day of Archaeology_DCHPO flyer


Saturday July 27th 2013

10 am to 3 pm

Turkey Thicket Park

1100 Michigan Ave., NE

Washington, D.C. 20017


The District of Columbia Historic Preservation Office (DCHPO) will be participating in the second annual Day of Archaeology Festival, Saturday, July 27th from 10 am to 3 pm at Turkey Thicket Park located at 1100 Michigan Ave, NE. Some parking is available; the nearest Metro stop is the Brookland-CUA station, on the Red Line.  The event is free to the public and open to people of all ages.


Part of a worldwide celebration of archaeology, the D.C. festival will be hosted by Archaeology in the Community, a District-based nonprofit educational organization.  Archaeology organizations from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia will be present.  The public will be able to talk to archaeologists in person and learn about the science and art of doing archaeology as well as volunteer opportunities in the field.  There will be engaging activities for children, including mock-excavation, hands-on artifact displays, crafts, and lectures.  The archaeology of local prehistoric and historic inhabitants of the area will also be featured.  Visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy live music, face painting, and visits from some of D.C.’s best food trucks.  Both local and worldwide participants will be featuring the event live, across Facebook and Twitter (thedayofarchaeology and @dayofarch, respectively).


For more information on the festival, please call DCHPO at (202)-442-8800 or email historic.preservation@dc.gov or ajones@archaeologyincommunity.com

Participants include: The DCHPO Archaeology Program, Mt. Vernon, Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning, the Urban Archaeology Corps of the National Park Service, the Virtual Curation Laboratory of Virginia Commonwealth University, the Environmental Programs Division of the National Guard, the Society for American Archaeology, and the festival host, Archaeology in the Community.

I hope to see you there!

Mount Vernon Interns

At Mount Vernon, we have reached our final day (sad face) of an 8 week internship program devoted to different aspects of the Archaeological Collections Online initiative.  Our interns came from prestigious universities around the country to take on individual research projects pertaining to the material and social worlds of planter elites like George Washington and the enslaved community upon whose labor these genteel lifestyles were based.

Here’s what our interns have to say about their work!

Katie Barca: Today I am in the process of entering decorated or marked pipes from the South Grove Midden as Objects in the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS). In the future, images of these pipes will be posted on the  Mount Vernon’s Midden website.

Joe Downer: Today I am transcribing store accounts from an 18th century Virginia merchant, Alexander Henderson.  By transcribing Henderson’s ledgers, researchers are better able to understand what colonists were purchasing in Northern Virginia before the Revolution, and have a greater insight into pre-revolutionary material culture.

James Bland: I’m also transcribing the Henderson store accounts, but for Alexandria instead of Colchester.  Henderson worked for John Glassford and Company, who together were the Scottish Tobacco Kings of the Chesapeake region.  Their records show an emerging class of non-elite consumers that didn’t exist in the early colonial period.

Page from Henderson's store account, 1763.

Leah Thomas: I am currently writing the report for my summer project, which involves research on 18th century dining objects as represented in museum collections.  I am also looking into the possibility of a connection between dining vessel and utensil form variety and the Rococo art movement in the American colonies.

Sophia Farrulla: This day of archaeology has been packed with thoughts of items related to tea, coffee, and drinking chocolate.  Twinnings tea in hand, I’m finishing a final write up on exotic beverages amongst the 18th century elite.

Tea cup decorated with Aesop's fables found in the midden.

Julia Kennedy: Squirrels and Bamboo and Grapes, oh my! I’m working on drawing a small rodent decoration that appears on Washington’s (George’s or perhaps his elder half-brother Lawrence’s) Chinese export porcelain plates. Each plate was hand-painted, therefore making each curious critter unique.

Squirrel, tree shrew, or other googly-eyed rodent on Washington's Chinese export porcelain.

Jennie Williams: I’m researching George Washington’s purchases from England between 1754 and 1772.  Eventually, these data, gathered from Washington’s orders and invoices, will be available to the public through an online, searchable database.

Anna Dempsey: Today, I am working on my paper for the research I’ve done on lead shot in the archaeological and historical record. I’m also writing an entry about picking 1/16” material, including lead shot, for our blog.

Interns ponder how their projects will appear on the Mount Vernon midden website!