Archaeology at Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University maintains an active research program in archaeology. We conduct field work every year, usually in the spring and sometimes in the summer as well. Faculty, students, and researchers from outside the university study artifacts and records in our collection year round at the Anthropology Laboratory.

Students have been participating in field schools with university faculty since 1974, beginning with excavations at the site of Liberty Hall, a late 18th-century predecessor of Washington and Lee that after 1803 operated as a plantation using enslaved labor. 

In the 1980s, W&L archaeologists investigated early industries in the Valley of Virginia, particularly pottery kilns. Beginning in the 1990s and early 2000s, our work focused on sites at the Longdale Mining Community in Alleghany County, Virginia. Later efforts included excavation at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello on the Edmund Bacon Site and at Morven Farm near Charlottesville, Virginia.

More recently, W&L archaeologists and students conducted research on the Washington and Lee University front-campus site of Graham Hall, a dorm/academic building (c. 1804-1835), which was replaced by Robinson Hall (built in 1841). Other recent research includes archaeological testing of domestic and commercial structures at Jordan’s Point in Lexington, and research on the McDowell Cemetery near Fairfield, Virginia.

Since the Spring-Term of 2014, the focus of our current research has been a return to the back-campus site of the Liberty Hall Academy Campus (1782-1803) and the Liberty Hall Farm, which operated on the site until the early 20th century.