Archaeological Dig at Washington and Lee - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Archaeological Dig at Washington and Lee

Posted: Updated:

Washington and Lee University recently learned you can move forward while looking back.

Renovations were underway on a campus building when archaeologists stumbled upon thousands of artifacts nearly 200 years old.

Washington and Lee is one of the country's oldest universities: it was founded in 1749.

That's certainly going to draw attention from archaeologists, who have unearthed several historical items on campus over the years, but not even they can believe what they recently found outside one building just inches below the soil.

When you're doing construction at one of the country's oldest and most historic universities, chances are you're going to come across some old and historic things in the ground.

That's where Alison Bell and other staff archaeologists at the university come into play. Any time there's digging, they go into the area and look things over.

And in keeping with that routine, Bell recently stopped by Robinson Hall, where crews had removed all the sod.

"I thought I'd stop by for 10 minutes," Bell said. "I think I went by at 10:30 and had an appointment at 11 and thought that would be it."

After just a little bit of digging, she realized she'd have to change her plans.

"It's huge," she said. "We literally rarely put a trowel in the ground there without hitting something."

From 1804 to 1835, a classroom and dorm building called Graham Hall sat on that very site.

Bell and her team believe that's where most of the items they've found came from.

"So that's especially exciting for us to see, if we had been here in 1815, what our daily lives would have been like," Bell said.

Now that they've spent a fair amount of time digging, they're spending a fair amount of time cleaning and figuring out exactly what it is they have.

They've found quite a bit already, everything from pottery that could have been in dorm rooms to writing utensils, pieces of musical instruments, even a bone toothbrush. And they still have a lot to dig through.

"We were sort of laughing that if we had nothing else to do we could probably do it in six weeks," Bell said, "but actually we don't want to rush it. We would like to have different parts of these sediment bags to work on with students in different classes."

They say chances are they haven't even scratched the surface on the site, and they can't wait to see what other unique treasures it may hold.