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By Land or By Sea, Dig a Little Deeper This Month

October is Alexandria Archeology Month!

From left: Emma Richardson, Eleanor Breen, Tatiana Naglasko (All photos: Grace Billups Arnold)

Alexandria, VA – Alexandria may be the only city with an on-call archeologist: Alexandria Archeology. This group of local experts and volunteers has been digging up Alexandria’s past since 1975. Whether a privy or a sunken ship hull, Alexandria Archeology will dig it up and help you dig deeper into its history.

The Alexandria Waterfront used to have a completely different landscape.

Eleanor Breen, Director of the Archeological Division, says she was excited to join the team in 2015 because of “all the close work professional archeologists do with Alexandria residents to work together to discover and preserve our past.”

There are guidelines to follow when you want something removed from your property correctly or simply want to learn more about your property. The first step is calling Alexandria Archeology to assess your situation and provide the proper resources: archeologists, engineers, museum curators, databases, archives, and perhaps more.

In a city with such a rich history, it is crucial for both historical integrity and context that the physical elements of its history be dealt with properly.

City Archeologist and Collections Manager for the Museum, Tatiana Naglasko, says, “Part of my job is working with partner museums in the city, like Lee-Fendall Hosue. Context is important, temporal context, historical context.”

In her work with other partner museums in the city, Naglasko can create an accurate narrative of life in Alexandria from the beginning. When she learns more about African American heritage or industrial procedures and materials, she can incorporate that for a more accurate story.

From bottles, shoes, and clay pots found inside a privy to the four 85-foot ship hulls recently moved from the Potomac River to Ben Brenman Park as part of the SeeWorthy Project (see page X-insert at proofing), Alexandria Archeology has the resources to provide the context around those materials, big or small.

You can see these ship hulls in person and learn about their big move yourself at Ben Brenman Park. Since the start of this project four years ago (I need to fact-check this), Alexandria Archeology has been gathering and displaying data in an exhibit at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Soon, with the completion of the move, they will expound upon that data and state their conclusions. However, these findings are always subject to change as archeological discoveries are made daily.

One of the ship hulls removed from the Potomac River near Robinson Landing.

Naglasko states, “I found at least so far in my career that some of the most interesting questions and stories come from material that was dug up a long time ago and has been curated.”

When people do make discoveries, big or small, every day, it is vital to alert the right people to them. To ensure discoveries are preserved for posterity, the archeological protection code is available for public view at

Students and archeologists can spend time in the museum restoring artifacts like this ceramic.

Every piece of the puzzle, whether physical or statistical, paints a clearer picture. Alexandria Archeology has many ways to help put the puzzle together. In addition to its excavation services, there is an interactive museum at the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union St.), as well as summer camps and educational classes.

Richardson says, “There are field trips here, and we do outreach in schools (which is free for ACPS). We have pre-K through high school programs, including our ship science program, which deals with the archeology that is currently happening along the waterfront.”

Alexandria Archeology Museum, Torpedo Factory, Third Floor, 105 N. Union St.

Information on the museum, events, programs, and volunteering is all available at Every part of Alexandria Archeology, from digging to discovering to dedicating to data collecting, is and has always been a part of Alexandria. Alexandria Archeology is here to make sure it will always be.

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