Archaeological Field School at Work


The 2009 Field School in Historical Archaeology is currently exploring the field near the Oval excavations in hopes of locating additional structures associated with the farm site there. Thirteen students from the University of Mary Washington’s Department of Historic Preservation are participating in a five-week summer school class to learn basic archaeological skills under the direction of Dr. Doug Sanford and two seasoned crew members. While students master excavation techniques, Stratford also reaps the rewards of their efforts–information about the landscape when the Lee family lived here.
From 2001 to 2008, previous field schools concentrated on the grassy Oval area just south of the main house, finding evidence of a complex of buildings on the site. These structures ranged from a 16 by 20-foot earthfast building with adjoining 8 by 16-foot building with brick-lined basement to a large 20 by 40-foot earthfast structure probably used as a barn. This farm complex of utilitarian structures dating from the mid-eighteenth century would have presented an aspect quite different from the present pristine view from the main house.

The excavation units opened so far have produced a wealth of artifacts–including a tremendous amount of crumbled brick. A variety of ceramics and building materials such as window glass have been found, along with prehistoric artifacts that are routinely discovered throughout the plantation. A final update on the findings of this year’s field school will be posted in a few weeks.