Digging at an Urban Site

Color photo showing the foundations at the President's House Site, with low brick walls on a dirt floor.
See actual remains of the home where Presidents Washington and Adams lived on view at the President's House Site, 6th and Market Streets.

NPS photo


First, archeologists prepare a detailed background study, followed by research of primary and secondary sources that are found in libraries and archives. Armed with this information, archeologists begin the process of excavating the site for clues about the past. The next step is to test soil samples, which determines the accuracy of the information gathered in the first phase. The project moves into its final phase when archeologists decide what areas of the site should receive additional attention. The areas that have the greatest insight into expanding our knowledge of the nation's past are identified and subject to intensive excavation.

Archeology at urban sites involve a unique set of challenges. Alongside the more traditional tools (including trowels, brushes, shovels, and similar hand tools), the archeologists may use back hoes and bulldozers. They utilized this heavier equipment when excavating the National Constitution Center (NCC) site. Excavation for the NCC proved surprises are always a possibility in archeology, when archeologists discovered the James Dexter site. Excavation at another site - the President's House Site - yielded some unexpected discoveries.

You may be surprised at the number of excavations throughout the park in the last 50 years. Check out the chronology of excavations at Independence.

Last updated: September 7, 2016

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