By Dr. Eleanor Breen, City Archaeologist, Alexandria, Virginia
Featured banquet program at 78th Annual Meeting – Archeological Society of Virginia.
In 2012, City Council approved a plan to revitalize Alexandria’s historic waterfront. Just as Alexandrians sought to transform their sleepy tobacco town into a prosperous port, so too do today’s residents envision an economically viable and vibrant waterside destination.
Because of the unique, 30-year old Archaeology Protection Code requiring excavation prior to certain development projects, Alexandria Archaeology geared up for a period of intensive focus on some of the most historically significant areas within the National Register Old and Historic District. Block by block, project by project, the remains of wharves, warehouses, dwellings, industries, privies, and of course four ships (at the time of this writing) have begun to emerge from the waterlogged depths at the river’s edge.
Even as individual features and artifact assemblages, these finds are highly significant, but when taken together along with a wealth of historical documentary data, a maritime cultural landscape is taking form. This presentation offers a tour of the archaeological evidence of the diverse neighborhoods, bustling wharves, and massive land making efforts that characterized the Alexandria seaport at the turn of the eighteenth century.
Dr. Eleanor Breen is a historical archaeologist with two decades experience on sites in the mid-Atlantic region. As City Archaeologist, Eleanor currently directs the renowned public archaeology program that preserves and interprets Alexandria’s history.
She holds three degrees in Anthropology, a BA from the College of William and Mary, an MA from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and a PhD from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Most recently, Eleanor partnered with Drs. Barbara Heath and Lori Lee to publish the edited volume, Material Worlds: Archaeology, Consumption, and the Road to Modernity. Eleanor lives with her family in a historic neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia.