Archaeology has shaped our knowledge of George and Martha Washington's life and the daily experience of the enslaved community at Mount Vernon.

Archaeologists use diverse bits of evidence to learn more about how people shaped the landscape of Mount Vernon, and in turn how the landscape shaped the interactions of people with each other. This evidence is incredibly diverse in form and age. Everything from a building foundation to a small seed bead used to adorn a dress, a several thousand-year-old stone tool to coins dropped by a tourist twenty years ago, can be encountered by our staff on a daily basis. But large or small, ancient or new, each piece of evidence is valuable as a window into a moment in time.

Mount Vernon’s archaeological holdings are an extremely valuable resource for the study of eighteenth-century plantation life in the Chesapeake region of the United States. Major excavations include the house for families slave quarter, slave cemetery, Washington’s Distillery, the south grove midden, and the upper garden. An archaeological survey identified more than 100 archaeological sites documenting almost 4,000 years of habitation on the estate’s 425 acres.  

Archaeology Update

Archaeology Update

Every year our staff works on multiple projects where we use physical evidence unearthed from the ground to learn more about how the estate has changed over the course of its long history. There are a number of digs across the estate planned for the coming year.

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Boiling, Baking, and Curling 18th-Century Wigs

Boiling, Baking, and Curling 18th-Century Wigs

Archaeologists interpret artifacts by exploring the form and origins of objects, then attempt to situate such objects within broader social functions, and finally begin to untangle how those broad social contexts can inform our interpretation of object used in daily life.

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Kitchen Excavation

Kitchen Excavation

During this excavation we hope to explore one of Mount Vernon’s great mysteries – what did Mount Vernon look like before the Revolutionary War?

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Researching Slavery

Researching Slavery

At Mount Vernon we use George Washington's words, combined with archaeology and oral history with descendants, to piece together the stories of Mount Vernon’s enslaved community.

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