City of Alexandria, VA
Page updated Nov 3, 2011 1:26 PM
Archaeology & Preservation in Alexandria, VirginiaAlexandria Archaeology reviews development projects to determine their impact on archaeological resources, and administers the Archaeological Protection Code of the City of Alexandria, Virginia, included in the City’s Zoning Ordinance.
Archaeology in Alexandria began with community preservation efforts in the 1960s at the Fort Ward and King Street Urban Renewal projects. The Alexandria Archaeological Commission (AAC) – the first of its kind in the United States – was established by City Council in 1975, and City archaeology staff soon followed. In the 1980s, when increasing development threatened the city's archaeological resources, the AAC partnered with the private development community to advocate for and draft the Archaeological Resource Protection Code. It passed in 1989 as the first such code in the nation.
The Code requires the evaluation of all development projects for which site plans must be filed, to determine the potential for impacting archaeological resources and whether there is a need for preservation action prior to site development. This sometimes necessitates that the applicant to the review process hire an archaeological consultant to conduct research, survey, and excavation. This procedure reduces the loss of sites and objects of antiquity that represent the cultural heritage of the nation, the commonwealth, and the city.
Archaeological Protection Code
Alexandria Archaeology reviews all building permits and other code enforcement permits that involve ground disturbance. On projects which do not require site plans (such as small additions to private homes), we may ask property owners to allow City archaeologists and volunteers to excavate prior to construction or to monitor the site during construction. Alternatively, we may ask that the owners call us if artifacts or features are found.
Metal Detecting Code
Metal Detecting and removal of property of any kind is ILLEGAL on public land, including City, State and Federal parks and property. Illegal activities on public lands include collecting artifacts along the shorelines and streambeds and removing plants, as well as metal detecting and excavation. The Alexandria City Code prohibits metal detecting, digging, or removal of objects on City property.
The Metal Detecting Code is included in the Code of the City of Alexandria Chapter 1, Title 13 Section 13-1-40
City of Alexandria Master Plan: Historic Preservation
The Alexandria Master Plan was adopted by the City Council on June 24, 1992. The Master Plan is made up of 15 small area plans (SAPs) covering neighborhoods throughout the City; and chapters on topics of citywide relevancy, such as Historic Preservation, Urban Design, and Open Space.
Reports of Preservation Projects
Investigations produce reports, which include the technical results of the projects and their interpretation, as well as artifacts, preserved as part of the City’s Alexandria Archaeology Museum collection. Other archaeological inquiries in Alexandria not initiated by the Code also yield reports and artifacts, most of which are part of the collection. Thus, while not all sites are protected, they do live on through their information and material culture in spite of the passage of time and persistence of development.
The use of GIS improves the efficiency and accuracy of the review process, thus enhancing Alexandria’s historic preservation efforts. Historical maps and aerial photographs are scaled to serve as layers within the City’s Geographical Information System in order to predict topographical locations of Native American occupation and to identify the locations of historic sites on the contemporary maps. Alexandria Archaeology is working with the Center for Geospatial Information Technology at Virginia Tech, and with the City of Alexandria’s GIS Division in the Department of Planning and Zoning, to develop historical map layers.
As a result of the archaeological review process, many sites have been investigated, and a wide variety of important information has been made available to the public. The kinds of sites and resources explored and preserved as a result of the Code include Native American camps, tenant farmsteads, Civil War encampments, plantations, cemeteries, African American homes, and businesses, including a sugar factory, a ropewalk, grist mills, potteries and glassworks.
How can you be a good caretaker of your archeological site? This article provides steps for owners and occupants of historic properties. The Right Way to Dig at Home: Working together to preserve Alexandria’s past, Pamela J. Cressey and Keith L. Barr, appeared in the June 1989 issue of Preservation News, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Archaeology at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Both State and Federal laws and procedures require that significant archaeological sites be identified and considered in a variety of public projects. As the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), VDHR assists state and federal agencies in meeting their responsibilities.
Federal Laws and Regulations on Archaeological Preservation
For more information about Federal laws, and on archaeology and preservation programs of the Federal government, visit the National Park Service website.
Archaeologists in the Washington, DC Area