R-MC Classics Professor Elizabeth Fisher helps
students analyze items found during the dig.
Click on the photo to see a
Randolph-Macon College students spent the summer of 2010 digging for clues about
the past at the historic Hanover Tavern, located on US Route 301 in Hanover County
as part of a course on archaeology taught by R-MC Classics Professor Elizabeth Fisher.
“I was invited to excavate some small areas in the Tavern yard before the Hanover
Tavern Foundation began construction on some new buildings and the addition of a
kitchen garden,” said Fisher. “On historic properties such as this, it’s always
a good idea to have the areas excavated before any additional building or renovation
takes place. It is a small area, so it is very manageable for a field school class.”
David Deal, executive director of the Hanover Tavern Foundation said, “This was
a perfect way for Hanover Tavern and RMC to partner; the Tavern needed archaeology
and Dr. Fisher needed a place for her class to dig. We were quite pleased to have
them here and look forward to the continuation in the fall.“
Fisher’s class introduces the science of archaeology and covers the techniques of
research design, excavation, analysis and interpretation. Prior to the excavation,
the students were assigned extensive readings, essays and discussions about archaeological
ethics. The students believe that the in-class assignments helped them to appreciate
the significance of the excavation.
Brittney Cox ’11, a history major from Mechanicsville, Virginia, said “Being a history
major made it exciting to learn about the science of history as opposed to reading
about it. I learned that history books aren’t always right and that you can learn
new things by digging and seeing for yourself, rather than taking another person’s
point of view.”
Grecia Cosio ’11, a political science and French double major from Stafford, Virginia,
said, “I really loved this experience. I learned that you don’t have to be interested
in archaeology to enjoy it. I was surprised that we used skills learned in trigonometry
and English classes to mark our locations and log our reports.”
Meghan Lech ’12, a business/economics and accounting double major from Middleboro,
Massachusetts, said she signed up for the class because “I enjoy natural science
better than chemistry and biology. It’s really cool to try and figure out what happened
here before the tavern was built. Just by finding a bottle, you can identify a time
period and that helps tell the history of the place.”
Fisher said that she and the students were not looking for any artifacts in particular,
but did find “some nails and bricks, pieces of pottery and an 1887 seated Liberty
dime.” Those items are being cleaned and cataloged and will be sent to the Virginia
Department of Historic Resources. The items are expected to eventually end up back
at the Hanover Tavern to be placed on display. Fisher expects to resume excavation
with a new class during R-MC’s fall semester.
R-MC also has five students participating in an excavation at the Agora in Athens,
Greece this summer. They are under the supervision of Professor John Camp, the Stavros
Niarchos Foundation Professor in Classics at R-MC. Camp and the students are able
to experience this excavation through funding by the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.
The students—along with undergraduate and graduate students from around the world—spent
eight weeks at the Agora, sifting through history and honing their archaeological
skills. Students who participate in the excavation are known as Stavros Niarchos
Foundation Summer Fellows, a distinguished honor among their peers.