Robinson Terminal South Excavation Update: Posts and Privies

Archaeologists from Thunderbird continue to uncover pieces of Alexandria’s past at the site of Robinson Landing on Alexandria’s waterfront. So far on just this small corner of the site, archaeologists have discovered more than 50 archaeological features.

Page archived as of March 9, 2019

Note: The information on this page reflects the state of knowledge when this update was written. Information may have changed. 

Posts and Privies

May 2017
Excavations at RTS

This photograph of archaeologists hard at work was taken from the newly constructed  Hotel Indigo -- the site of the  Alexandria Ship and John Carlyle’s 1755 warehouse— and comes to us from local author and historian  Jay Roberts. Archaeologists from Thunderbird continue to uncover pieces of Alexandria’s past at the site of Robinson Landing on Alexandria’s waterfront.

So far on just this small corner of the site, archaeologists have discovered more than 50 archaeological features. This number includes the structures we’ve already shared here like the  stone house foundations along South Union Street, the brick foundation along Duke Street, and  Hooe’s stone warehouse, which in this photo is in the shadow of 2 Duke Street. It also includes slightly less glamorous -- but no less interesting -- brick piers (the architectural kind that hold up buildings, not the maritime kind that you tie a ship up next to) and more than 20 wooden posts or post holes across the site that might be the remains of buildings, fences, piers, wharves, or cribbing used as part of the banking-out process.

As previously reported here, Thunderbird Archaeology has encountered several features which could be either privies or wells. At current count, the crew has identified TWO box privies, TWO barrel privies, and TWO brick-lined privies. Each of these features should contain a treasure-trove of data about everyday life from the 18th and 19th centuries. The waterlogged, oxygen-free environments at the bottoms of these privies help preserve delicate organic matter that would not otherwise survive in the archaeological record and their use as privies means that archaeologists will be able to recover valuable information about diet and health in early Alexandria. Excavations have already revealed shoes, fabric, seeds, and wooden barrel fragments.  

On May 19, the City of Alexandria announced that Thunderbird Archaeology found burial remains appearing to represent two individuals, at the construction site in Old Town where Robinson Terminal South was previously located. The finding is consistent with the use of the site in the 1700s and 1800s, when the deceased were not always buried in cemeteries.

If you walk down Duke Street, you may see a small area just west of 2 Duke Street near Hooe’s stone warehouse that has been roped off. This area contains unidentified features that are fragile in nature and need protection before archaeologists have a chance to excavate and record them properly.

The historic brick building with the 2 Duke address was probably built sometime before 1877 and was extensively repaired after the great fire of 1897. Read more about 2 Duke here.

Stay tuned for more updates from the future site of Robinson Landing as archaeologists continue to document and excavate what has been discovered and as they discover what else is buried on the site.

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