History uncovered

by Kim Robins - Posted on Feb 01, 2017 - 01:50 PM

Photo: Archaeology work at VIMS has turned up a number of 18th century artifacts. Here, archaeologist Chris Godschalk displays a nearly complete case bottle found while excavating a posthole feather beneath Spencer Road. Below, brass infantry buttons. Data Investigations photo

Archaeology work at VIMS has turned up a number of 18th century artifacts. Here, archaeologist Chris Godschalk displays a nearly complete case bottle found while excavating a posthole feather beneath Spencer Road. Below, brass infantry buttons. Data Investigations photo

Photo:

Archaeologists working ahead of a construction project at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have uncovered several Revolutionary War artifacts.

The artifacts were recovered last month from cellar fill in an area that had been partially explored earlier. “We knew the cellar was there from archaeology work done in the 1990s. They said at the time they think this is an 18th century feature. We reviewed those maps before we started our excavations,” said Thane Harpole, co-owner of DATA Investigations, the company conducting the VIMS archaeology work. 

“We had already excavated a portion of this cellar,” said DATA co-owner David Brown of work done two or three months ago. The recent digging of a four-foot wide utility trench as part of the construction work returned the archaeologists to the cellar site. 

“We had a number of postholes but hadn’t figured out what they meant,” said Harpole. “And we had questions about the cellar itself. We had found several with brick floors, but this one was bare.”

Photo: Archaeology work at VIMS has turned up a number of 18th century artifacts. Here, a variety of 18th century ceramics were uncovered while exploring a filled in cellar. Data Investigations photo

Archaeology work at VIMS has turned up a number of 18th century artifacts. Here, a variety of 18th century ceramics were uncovered while exploring a filled in cellar. Data Investigations photo

 

As archaeologists began to explore the dense, compacted soil filling the cellar they found a large layer of oyster shells. In the upper shell layer, their findings included a variety of 18th century ceramics and a pair of matching copper knee buckles. The oyster shells themselves were remarkable, with some as large as the archaeologists’ heads.

Two days later, after digging through the dense oyster shell layer, the lower level of the cellar fill turned up datable Revolution-era prizes. They included an assortment of carved bone buttons and brass French infantry buttons from the 7th, 47th, 64th and 85th regiments. “The French troops were documented as being at Yorktown and Gloucester,” said archaeologist Anna Rhodes. 

In the lower level were an English 1773 half penny and a Spanish coin from the 1780s that helped to date the site. There were also butchered pig bones, a large iron handle and a set of tongs.

The lower level of fill additionally held brass furniture hardware, including a drawer pull and a still-locked lock plate, likely from personal belongings, according to Rhodes. There was also a rectangular brass nameplate that read “Lt. Dickson 80th regt”.

Photo: Brass furniture hardware, including a drawer pull and lock plate, were also discovered in the cellar fill at VIMS. Data Investigations photo

Brass furniture hardware, including a drawer pull and lock plate, were also discovered in the cellar fill at VIMS. Data Investigations photo

According to Brown, the 80th Regiment of Foot was also known as the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers, who were organized in about 1778. They were known to be at Yorktown, with some of the men sent to Gloucester Point in 1781 to hold fortifications.