Archaeological dig unearths history in Shockoe Bottom

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA. (WWBT) - An archeological dig at the site of a new apartment complex has turned up some fascinating 18th century artifacts. Behind chain link fencing, is the future site of Cedar Broad; a four story development with two hundred apartments. But before the building can go up, archeologists were allowed to dig down.

With the mounds of dirt piling up, at first glance 18th and Broad looks like a construction site, but it's really an archeological dig shaking up a long forgotten history.

Archeologist Lyle Browning is leading the project.  Digging up the past before it's turned into apartments, shops and parking.

"We've had a lot of interest in it. A lot of people have said we're glad you're in here looking at Richmond's history before it gets obliterated," said Browning.

The developers are using federal funds so by law they had to hire an archaeologist and find out if anything on this property is on the national registry for historic places.

This is Summer Chaffman's first job out of college. She's thrilled to be in her hometown.

"We all know how historical this area is so it's very important to learn as much as we can about the history the archaeology before it gets developed," said Chaffman.

The team has unearthed the foundations for two of Richmond's earliest homes.

"This block turned out to be one of the most heterogeneous in the whole city of Richmond. You have factory owners. To free African Americas, to slave traders, to seam stresses," said Browning.

Thousands of 18th century artifacts have been found, from old pieces of jewelry, to buttons and sewing needles.

"We're learning about people who are average people. Weren't necessarily the most important or rich people we need to know about how they lived their lives too," said Chaffman.

The artifacts will be cleaned and eventually handed over to the state's department of historic resources. Construction on the apartments could begin by the end of the year.

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