informational links below)
In addition to the individual people and households that
archaeologists study, the entire city can be seen as one large
archaeological site. Most excavations in Washington were conducted prior to
construction of a building, highway, or other venture. Individually, these
excavations tell us about the lives of ordinary people, from Native
Americans to early European settlers to the growing population of the new
capital. Together, these sites tell us how the city as a whole developed
from an idea to a cosmopolitan capital city.
The landscape of
Washington today bears little resemblance to the lay of the land when LíEnfant first developed his plan for the capital city. Since its founding,
Washington has seen extensive changes to its landscape: hills were cut down,
streams were diverted and buried, canals were dug then later filled in, and
the continual march of construction moved beyond the original bounds of LíEnfantís design (Boundary Street is now Florida Avenue) to the edges of
the diamond-shaped District of Columbia.
People often are surprised that artifacts and
archaeological sites still exist beneath a modern city. But wells, cisterns,
sewer pipes, house foundations, former backlots, and old streetcar lines can
all be found preserved here
Each time archaeologists have a chance to
excavate in downtown Washington, we learn more about these changes, how
people responded to them, and the lives they led. Each discovery tells us
more about our nation, our capital city, and ourselves.
Archaeology in Downtown
a walking and metro guide to the past...
was produced cooperatively by the National
Park Service, National Center for Cultural Resources, Archeology and
Ethnography Program; the District of Columbia Office of Planning, Historic
Preservation Office; the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, University of
Maryland, College Park; and the Society for American Archaeology.