A guest post by Victoria Falcon, an up-and-coming preservationist who tried her hand at archaeology this summer
With no real plans for the summer, I took to the internet to find an opportunity for hands-on preservation experience and stumbled upon the Adventures in Preservation website and found their joint project with The Fairfield Foundation. Without thinking about it too much, I signed myself up for both sessions at Fairfield.
Dave Brown, co-founder of The Fairfield Foundation, had contacted all of the participants in advance to let them know that there would be a smaller than average group on site in June but this would allow us each to focus on our interests. I then explained to Dave that I had little knowledge of archaeology, that my main interest was preservation but that I was interested in learning as much as I could. And learn we did. Throughout the week, if I, or Callie or Kelly showed interest in doing something, we were given the opportunity to do so.
I began my first week at Fairfield, digging through Layer C, the rubble layer outside the house. With no archaeology knowledge I was a bit worried, but with excellent teachers like Dave, Thane and Anna, my concerns soon faded. By Tuesday afternoon, we had removed enough of the rumble to see a fallen wall section that needed to be mapped. Given my interest in technical drawings, I was paired with Colleen, a Fairfield Foundation intern, to map in the fallen wall.
Documentation work at Fairfield Plantation. Photo: The Fairfield Foundation
Wednesday morning offered a nice break from our digging with a field trip to Colonial Williamsburg to work with Jason Whitehead, head of the colonial brick yard. Not only did we tour the brick yard and receive a full explanation of the brick- and mortar-making process, we were able to jump in and mix clay with our feet.
With everyone in agreement, we chose to forego any additional adventures Wednesday afternoon and head back to Fairfield: the call of the fallen wall segment was too strong to resist. The mapping took the rest of the day and by Thursday we were able to begin removing the bricks from the fallen wall section. By end of the workday on Friday, it was hard not to be impressed by the amount of progress we had made during the week. From a rubble layer that was difficult to work on, to a flat surface that exposed the burn layer from 1897.
Examining the burn layer at Fairfield. Photo: Victoria Falcon
My second week at Fairfield began with exposing more of the burn layer (Layer D). Working in the burn layer, I found more artifacts in mere minutes than I had found in my entire previous week. After cleaning the burn layer, we moved onto documenting it through drawings and photographs. Given my previous experience documenting the fallen wall section (and my interest in doing so), I teamed up with Emma, a Fairfield intern, and we spent our time carefully mapping out the burn layer in preparation of removing it to expose the 1897 soil.
Following our Wednesday morning spent at Colonial Williamsburg, we took the ferry across the bay to visit Bacon’s Castle in Surry County. Bacon’s Castle is a Jacobean style home, built in 1665. Bacon’s Castle is one of only two standing structures featuring the diagonally set chimneys stacks that Fairfield also featured. To be able to stand and look at a building, that was smaller in size than Fairfield, and marvel at the grandeur, was amazing. We could only imagine how impressive a house Fairfield had been.
Brickwork and diagonal chimney stacks at Bacon’s Castle. Photo: Victoria Falcon
After a long workday on Thursday, we all agreed that it was worth the short drive to visit Rosewell. Rosewell suffered a fate similar to Fairfield and would burn in 1916. The ruins are Rosewell are much more intact than those of Fairfield and the structure has been preserved to a point in which the standing walls are stable enough that you can venture inside of the home. It had a haunting glory to it that I won’t soon forget.
Victoria Falcon is a senior completing a bachelor’s of fine art in studio art at University of Tennessee at Martin, with an emphasis in art history, and a bachelor’s of science in business management. Upon graduation she plans to attend graduate school to receive in her master’s in preservation. She hopes one day to work for a non-profit organization focusing on preservation.
2016 Archaeology at Fairfield Sessions