Today was my first day at Ferry Farm! I arrived in Fredericksburg yesterday and got settled into my dorm at the University of Mary Washington. It’s a very nice area and I’m grateful to have received housing so close to Ferry Farm. My roommate and good friend, Victoria and I got to the site at 8am this morning and met the other 22 students who we will be working with for the next 5 weeks. Once everyone arrived we heard a lecture about the history and preservation of Ferry Farm, and then took a tour of the site and learned about all of the amazing features it holds. Everything from the visitor’s center to the flood plain has a story behind it, and it was fascinating to not only hear them, but to be able to see and touch where they took place. David Muraca, the director of archaeology at Ferry Farm, said that “it’s a special place” because it has been the crossroads of so many incredible historical periods. He then took us to the place where George Washington’s home once stood. The excavation work that was done there has since been filled in, but the corner boundaries of the house are marked with stone. I will be posting pictures of this and other parts of the site as the week progresses!
After the tour we took a lunch break and then moved on to the most important part of the day- the excavation! The current project is taking place directly to the east of the Washington house, and the goal is to find other features (buildings/structures) that are related to it. There is also a current fascination with wig curlers at Ferry Farm, as more and more are being discovered around the home.
The digging had already begun, but there were still plenty of fresh ground for us to start working on when we got there. We were told to split into groups and retrieve shovels, dustpans, trowels and a clipboard from the storage box. Once that was done, we were given our first paperwork, which I somehow ended up with the privilege of filling out. Our field directors explained that we were going to be excavating 5×5 foot test units (square holes) and then proceeded to tell us how. There was a lot of information and it was terribly overwhelming and intimidating at first, but as soon as we started I began remembering everything I learned in class and it suddenly seemed very easy and natural to me. Victoria set up our unit by tying string around the boundaries, and I recorded the elevation, coordinates, and context, which our other two partners helped to determine. I had to ask for help about a hundred times in the first ten minutes, but everyone assured me that it is better to badger them with questions than to do it wrong because you’re shy. Once the unit was ready and properly documented, it was finally time to dig! We used our shovels to establish the walls of the unit, and then to start cutting out squares of topsoil, but as soon as we got about half of it cleared, the sky opened up and it started pouring rain. It had been wet, cold and cloudy all day, so a storm was somewhat anticipated, but none of us really knew what to do when it happened. In order to save our work we were instructed to dump all of the soil that we had just removed back into the unit, store the equipment, and cover everything up as fast as we could. It was hectic and crazy, but kind of fun.
We were all sent home early due to the increasing severity of the weather, so my first day was cut short, but we’ll be back again tomorrow morning! I’m really excited to get into the layers below the surface and see what we can find. Let’s just hope that the weather is a bit more cooperative for the rest of the week!
(Field Director Laura Galke and other archaeologists working on our site!)