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This year the site that serves as home of the archeology camp is on the grounds of Alexandria's Episcopal Seminary. Research has already provided insight into the property, not only as a religious institution but as a community focus since the mid-1800s. The investigation could enhance knowledge of plantation life at the city's outskirts during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, of the city's role in the Civil War, and of a hospital during the conflict. The campers understand the task's importance. But they're intrigued, too.

"It's fascinating because we're studying how people lived centuries ago," says Gwyneth Gang. "As we go down the layers and dig deeper, we'll be able to see where they lived, what they did, what they ate, and we'll be able to see the differences in living between the groups that lived there." Becky Lord

agrees. "It's a lot like putting together a puzzle."

"The first group has found dozens of artifacts including bones, pottery sherds, a door hinge, and nails. A sketch of the grounds drawn in 1865 indicates that a meathouse used by the Union army formerly occupied the site. How the meathouse actually functioned will remain conjecture until a clearer picture can be drawn.

"We're not entirely clear what the function was," says Fran Bromberg, preservation archeologist and co-director of the camp. "We assume it held smoked or salted meats but we aren't positive yet. [What] the kids find could very well give us a better picture. They really are playing an active role."

Although the camp lasts only two weeks, it provides an excellent starting point for both uncovering the site and an interest in archeology. "I've been fascinated by archeology

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for awhile," says 16-year-old Tanya Warren. "But it's a lot more exciting to be part of the process and to learn about the past. Besides, it's a great excuse to get dirty."

This article was written by Roger Friedman for Federal Archeology Report, vol. 6, no. 3 (fall 1993). Updated spring 2002.Photographs by the author.

For more information go to Alexandria Archeology on the the web.


(photo) Girl working at a site.

Learning to ExcavateUnearthing a Civil War Site