Excavation History

In 1948, members of the Mount Vernon grounds crew excavated a large hole in the area known historically as the south grove, located 80 feet south of George Washington’s Mansion, in order to plant a mature holly tree. Numerous artifacts dating to the eighteenth century were recovered, suggesting that the south grove area contained midden deposits formed from the disposal of kitchen and Mansion refuse during George Washington’s lifetime. 

South Grove Midden Plan view

In the spring of 1990 during construction of an irrigation system in the south grove, the grounds crew once again encountered eighteenth-century deposits.  Mount Vernon’s archaeologists, after informing the diggers that they had to find another spot for their sprinkler, marked off a 10x10 foot unit (328) near the hole, beginning systematic study of the feature.  During the summers of 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994, excavations expanded to include an additional 8 units (308, 309, 310, 329, 330, 348, 349, and 350) and an area 30 feet square, fully exposing the midden and excavating the feature’s strata.  Volunteers and students aided Mount Vernon’s professional archaeology staff in revealing several interconnected pits, each less than two feet deep, cut through by intrusions, modern and historic.  The team collected thousands of artifacts representing a remarkably rich array of household items that spanned several decades of the eighteenth century.  It remains the single largest collection of domestic artifacts related to the Washington households so far excavated at Mount Vernon.

1990 Field Crew

1990 Field School Students

1991 Field Crew

1991 Field School Students

1992 Field Crew:

1992 Field School:

1993 Field Crew:

1993 Field School:

1994 Field Crew:

Italics: Hired after completion of field school