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VCU Archaeology

Revisiting Ferry Farm, Fredericksburg, VA

Friday, December 2, 2011

When we revisited George Washington’s boyhood home of Ferry Farm, instead of nightmare weather, the morning provided us with a sparsely traveled interstate and glistening, frost-covered grass.  Dr. Means warmly greeted us and we set quickly to work, all feeling more comfortable around Sir-Scans-A-Lot than on our last trip here, as we’ve gotten to know him better since then.

Civil War bullet, Ferry Farm


The first artifact we scanned was a Civil War bullet made of hard metal (not lead) that may be a Whitworth hexagonal.  Named after its English designer, Sir Joseph Whitworth, this bullet was shot from a state of the art rifle designed to increase accuracy, with up to a range of 1000 yards.  There are claims of fatal results with this weapon of up to 1500 yards! These were expensive rifles, but each infantry brigade usually had one or two, meaning there were most likely only between 36 and 72 of them in service by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. As this was a sharpshooter’s weapon, this bullet was probably intended for a specific target.


Next we attempted to scan the bone tambour hook again.  We were hoping for better results, but no luck.  During the conservation process, this unique artifact was coated, and has a slight glossiness.  Sir-Scans-A-Lot does not like shiny things, and sadly, the scan was not successful in picking up any of the bird or floral motives carved onto the bone handle.  We were however, able to successfully scan an extremely thin fragment of a fan blade.  The detail on this was captured beautifully. We continued on to scan a mid 18th century molded clay stag pipe made in Liverpool, England.

Tobacco pipe bowl


While the pipe was scanning, we had the opportunity to wander the grounds of Ferry Farm on what had turned into an unseasonably warm day.  We were able to see where the original house had stood, and hear stories of Clint’s field school experiences.  The land is beautiful, and being so close to the river, it is easy to imagine why this site was chosen as a homestead.

Our last scan of the day was of a small item, resembling Middle Archaic Poverty Point objects.  We couldn’t determine if it was stone or pottery, and are hoping to remedy that with the possible use of DHR’S portable XRF spectrometer.

Unidentified Ferry Farm Object

The day was a success. We were able to rescan an object, enabling us to hone in on specific limitations of the scanner, and utilize this knowledge when approaching future scans.

We were able to show Becca Eaton, Education Associate and Volunteer Co-ordinator, a 3D model of the Masonic pipe she found during an earlier excavation.  Louise Morton, Special Events Coordinator for the George Washington Foundation, stopped by and we discussed a future demonstration of the scanner with her.  We were also able to see the amazing gingerbread house contest, which is on display through December 30th!

Click HERE to view Ferry Farm Travel Photos!

Many thanks again to Laura Galke (for shocking efficiency of all tasks put before her, and a lovely cup of tea!), Dave Muraca, Louise Morton, Becca Eaton, Melanie Marquis and everyone else at the George Washington Foundation.  We look very forward to our continuing work with you all!



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