Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Golden Ball Taverns

Golden Ball Tavern Dig Wraps Up With Many Important New DiscoveriesThe month-long excavation at the former Golden Ball Tavern at Old and Market streets in Old Towne Petersburg is about to wrap up, but a number of important new clues about the city’s early days has recently been revealed.
“The last few days we’ve been focusing on digging outside the walls of the first and second Golden Ball Taverns in an effort to determine the economies and life ways of the people of Petersburg during the 1760 – 1820 period (the years of the first tavern) and the 1820 -1944 (the time period of the second tavern),” said Dr. Chris Stevenson, a Virginia Department of Historic Resources archaeologist who is leading the three-year study.
The have recently unearthed a base to a bowl with the inscription “Success to the King of Prussia,” which was removed from a deeply buried layer in the back yard of the 1764 tavern. This Delftware ceramic was manufactured in the early 16th century to the late 18th century in the Netherlands and England. There are several known plates with this inscription, which were issued by the British to commemorate the 7 Years War (1756-1763), and, therefore, the plate would post-date the end of the war by several years. Stevenson believes this plate may have originated from the British visit to Petersburg in 1781, although he states there is no proof as to how it got here.
Additional findings unearthed earlier this summer include two ceramic pieces that may have once formed an early 1900s soap dish and pieces of English and other European pottery.
The excavators have also been able to extend their digging down into the periods before the first Golden Ball tavern, finding evidence of the earlier habitation by both early Europeans traders and Native Americans. Artifacts from this earlier historic period include pipe stems, which provide an excellent means of dating the site. Native American artifacts, dating back before 1600, include pottery fragments and flakes from stone tools.
“The artifacts found will help us to understand the material culture of early residents of Petersburg,” added Stevenson. “This includes eating habits and where items being used were from, either made here in America or imported from Europe. These artifacts include bones and shells, some of which are burned. They also include ceramics, glass, bone handles, iron, pipe stems, and bricks.”
The professional and volunteer archaeologists are spending the last few days of this summer’s dig also looking for the remains of outbuildings and dependencies to understand more fully how urban dwellers from the Revolutionary period and the 19th and early 20th century were living. Several postholes, a builder’s trench and other possible architectural features have been identified so far.
The three-year project began last summer. This summer more than 25 volunteers from all walks of life are volunteering with the dig from June 17 through July 19. Another month-long excavation at the site next summer will conclude the three-year project.
This summer’s volunteers have come from as far away as New York and Florida to assist on this dig. One young person is working on his Boy Scout Archaeology badge; another young person, an International Baccalaureate student at Prince George High School, is focusing on the Golden Ball Tavern for her yearlong project. Another volunteer is working toward her Master’s degree in anthropology with a focus on historic archaeology. And other volunteers include numerous central Virginia residents and college students.
At the conclusion of this summer’s dig, experts will conduct lab work and research the artifacts. The findings will be put into a presentation that will be used at local academic institutions.
Additionally, Stevenson will give a presentation on the results of the 2009 archaeological dig on November 12, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. at Richard Bland College. Also, on November 14 and 15, 2009 an exhibit on Taverns and Ordinaries, featuring the Golden Ball Tavern, will open at the Prince George County Regional Heritage Center.
The property where an 18th-century Golden Ball Tavern once stood and then a later 19th-century one after the first was burned or torn down, has been a parking lot since the mid 20th century. It now belongs to the Historic Petersburg Foundation Inc., a partner in the archaeological project.
This collaborative project is sponsored by the Prince George County Historical Society, Historic Petersburg Foundation, Inc, Richard Bland College, Virginia Department of Historic Resources and the City of Petersburg, with generous funding from The Cameron Foundation.
For more information on the dig, call HPF at (804) 732-2096.

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