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Archaeological Research

Colonial Williamsburg's archaeologists use remains uncovered during excavation —combined with laboratory work, documentary research, and oral histories— to reveal information about the past.

Current Projects

Custis Square

Our archaeologists are in the middle of a 5-year exploration of Custis Square, the 4-acre pasture on across from the Art Museums where the 18th-century home and gardens of John Custis IV once stood. Learn more.

First Baptist Church

Colonial Williamsburg archaeologists are also beginning an excavation of the site First Baptist Church, one of America’s oldest churches founded entirely by Blacks, under the guidance of the congregation. Learn more.

Visit the Archaeologists

Come behind the fence for a closer look at current excavations, tour our labs where much of the discovery takes place, or find out more about what our latest projects have revealed.

What Our Archaeologists Do

Digging is just one aspect of how archaeologists learn about the past, its people, and its places. Our archaeological researchers are a multidisciplinary team that includes field archaeologists, anthropologists, curators, and environmental specialists.

Field Research

Archaeologists Adam Macbeth (left) and Cheyenne Johnson work in the trench at the Custis Square Excavation.

Archaeologists continue to explore Williamsburg's 301-acre Historic Area more than 85 years after the first excavations began at the site of the Capitol. This work fuels new research, producing the data to examine 17th- and 18th-century life from fresh perspectives.

Our archaeologists can be found in the field year-round, but most frequently during the summer.

Lab Research

Most iron artifacts excavated at Colonial Williamsburg are x-rayed in the archaeological conservation lab, creating a visual record of the objects as well as helping with identification when fragments are otherwise enveloped in soil accretion and corrosion.

Once out of the ground, artifacts are taken to the archaeological lab where they are washed, cataloged, analyzed, and interpreted. In addition to their focus on artifacts from recent excavations, our curators return frequently to previously excavated sites to ask new questions. Zooarchaeology and environmental studies are important components of our lab research program.

Located on the edge of the Historic Area, Colonial Williamsburg's archaeological lab is home to a collection of more than 60 million artifacts—and counting. This collection is a valuable resource for Colonial Williamsburg staff, archaeology students, and outside scholars.

Areas of Investigation

Today’s archaeologists can learn a lot from those who came before them. These artifacts, recovered from the excavation of Custis Square in the 1960s, are stored in the archaeology building.

Together, Colonial Williamsburg's archaeological lab and field staff examine topics that take us beyond the boundaries of individual sites. These areas of research are dynamic; they shift and expand as new questions arise. Some of the general areas in which our archaeologists have focused are:

  • Archaeology of the enslaved
  • Foodways research
  • Environmental archaeology
  • 17th-century settlement
  • Garden archaeology

Learn More

Archaeology Opportunities

Connecting with the Past

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