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Washington Dined Here - Volunteer Opportunity for Hands-on Archeology at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Archeologists at work.

Volunteers at work on the project last summer. NPS photo.

If you've ever had a desire to get involved in some hands-on archeology, here's an opportunity in a prime location. Valley Forge National Historical Park is looking for volunteers this summer to help excavate an area at Washington's Headquarters that has "great potential" for important discoveries.

The program is a continuation of an effort that began last summer, when over 60 volunteers joined archeologists at the park, excavating behind Washington’s Headquarters and looking for evidence of the log dining structure that was erected during the encampment adjacent to the building.

What was "Washington's Headquarters," and what new items might be found there after all these years? According to the park,

General Washington located his headquarters (the “Pentagon” of its time) in a small house in the village of Valley Forge. The General and his military staff worked and lived in the house. Mrs. Washington also joined him there for several months of the winter encampment.

With up to 25 people living and working in the house, it was crowded. What to do? Build an addition. We know from letters and other documentary evidence that a log structure was erected adjacent to the building for eating and meeting. Limited excavations in 1973 and 1986 uncovered possible evidence of this structure and associated encampment-era archeological deposits.

Building on that earlier work, archeologists made some intriguing discoveries in 2009. Of particular interest were two refuse pits that date to the last quarter of the 18th century, "at least one of which was almost certainly in use during General Washington’s occupation of the Potts House."

The items recovered last year included "a French gunflint, the type commonly used by the American troops, as well as many fragments of glass, bone, metal and ceramic. Some of the most interesting ceramics include pieces of a porcelain teapot, hand-painted in red and black, and a creamware cherub face that probably once decorated a fancy soup tureen or other serving piece. These objects are things that would have belonged to the elite classes; no enlisted soldier in a hut would be using such beautiful pieces. These objects were almost certainly used by General Washington and his officers."

Archeologists believe the remaining unexcavated 18th century ground holds "great potential for containing intact features, including, perhaps, evidence of General Washington’s dining cabin." This is the area where the archeologists will be concentrating their work in 2010, and they can use some volunteer assistance.

There is a long tradition of public archeology at Valley Forge National Historical Park, and volunteers are active participants in the project. This summer’s work will run Tuesday through Saturday from June 8th through July 17th. If you're interested, contact Liza Rupp by e-mail at [email protected] to sign up, or to get additional information.

You'll also find considerable information about last year's project, including some photos of items unearthed at the site, on the "Washington's Headquarters Blog."

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