Gunston Hall is in the midst of a long term-project to make the area around the mansion look as much as possible as it did in George Mason’s day. Archaeologists look under ground for clues concerning what was going on above ground while the Masons and all other people on Gunston Hall’s grounds lived here. The clues found may be as subtle as differences in soil colors or as familiar as objects that people used in their everyday lives.
What does an archeologist do?
Gunston Hall’s archaeology staff and volunteers explore, excavate, conduct on-site lab work, prepare reports analyzing their finds, and of course, educate our visitors. During the dig season, visitors can find them on most Tuesdays-Saturdays, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at one of our dig sites. Archaeology team members are always happy to answer questions from visitors. Ask about what they are finding right now and their past discoveries.
What are we looking for?
At Gunston Hall we use archaeology to help us understand more about how the property was arranged and what activities took place here. By investigating this “landscape archaeology,” we can find clues about how the landscape was laid out. Sometimes we discover old traces of roads, buildings, fences, and plantings.
Often, we find artifacts from the time that the Masons and their enslaved workforce lived here. Broadly speaking, artifacts are buried objects that people who walked the grounds before us had dropped, placed, or discarded and can be picked up and put in a bag.
Tangible artifacts help us understand the everyday objects of people of the past. Landscape features help us understand how people used the buildings and the land. Both kinds of discoveries give us insight on the lives of those in the past.
What have we found?
So far we have found nails, slate pencils and fragments of broken slates, cooking utensils, animal bones, various buttons, jewelry, glass bottles, both complete and incomplete, and more.
We have based, in part, our decisions about what to display in the mansion and the outbuildings on the objects we have uncovered.