Programs & Events at Alexandria Archaeology
Discover Alexandria’s diverse cultural history on a guided bicycle ride or walking tour with Alexandria Archaeology. Past themes for walking tours include African American archaeology, the history of the waterfront, and the Civil War Defenses of Washington.
Explore on your own with self-guided tours.
- Self-Guided Tours of Historic Alexandria. Explore Historic Alexandria with self-guided tours. Walk or bike with the guidance of brochures, maps and cue-sheets, cell tours, podcasts or apps. Staff and volunteers of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum created many of the tours.
- The Alexandria Heritage Trail, covering 23-miles, has been designated as a part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
- African American Waterfront Heritage Trail tells about African American history through an online StoryMap and can be experienced in-home on your computer or on your smartphone as you walk the trail along the Potomac River.
Alexandria Archaeology hosts a variety of informative lectures throughout the year. Some recordings are available for free online, such as the 2021 Celebrate Juneteenth Along the Waterfront webinar and others listed below. Others can be booked as virtual or in-person lectures. Each lecture is designed to be one hour in length. A $250 honorarium is suggested for in-person lectures.
Archaeology in Alexandria
Alexandria's archaeology program spans over 40 years. Learn more about the history behind the City's unique urban archaeology program and the role it plays in Alexandria today. This lecture is always changing because it covers the latest discoveries and projects throughout the City.
Adult Field Trip: Behind-The-Scenes Lab Tour
Alexandria Archaeology curates 3 million artifacts from over 250 sites across the city. Join Dr. Tatiana Niculescu to see examples of Alexandria stoneware, find out how archaeologists use these artifacts to study the past, and learn about the Alexandria stoneware industry and the free and enslaved laborers who worked in these potteries. This tour and lecture has a 15 person maximum and must take place at the Alexandria Archaeology Museum and Public Lab, 105 N Union Street.
The Early History of Seaport Alexandria: New Insights from Archaeology
Dr. Eleanor Breen will discuss the recent discoveries on the Alexandria waterfront, describing the process that led to these findings and providing a fascinating glimpse into what life was like in the 18th-century town. Block by block, project by project, the remains of wharves, warehouses, dwellings, industries, privies, and of course four ships have begun to emerge from the waterlogged depths at the river’s edge. Even as individual features and artifact assemblages, these finds are highly significant, but when taken together along with a wealth of historical documentary data, a maritime cultural landscape is taking form. This presentation offers a tour of the archaeological evidence of the diverse neighborhoods, bustling wharves, and massive land-making efforts that characterized the Alexandria seaport at the turn of the eighteenth century.
The Logbook of the Schooner Enterprize
Four 18th and early 19th century ships discovered along the Alexandria waterfront are evidence of the City’s maritime history. Dr. Benjamin Skolnik’s research of the 1803-1804 logbook of the Schooner Enterprize, based in Alexandria, offers a glimpse into the world of which these ships were once a part. The story of this ship can be retold through its logbook, as well as historical newspapers, maps, customs records, and other sources. Follow the ship on four voyages as it encounters bad weather, a leaky hull, yellow fever, and French privateers.
Cartography of a Port City: the History of Alexandria, Virginia as told with 15 Maps
Dr. Benjamin Skolnik, Archaeologist for the City of Alexandria, presents a new take on the history of the city as told through fifteen seldom-seen maps. From Native American representations of social space to 21st-century Geographic Information Systems (GIS), this talk examines the map as a cultural artifact that can tell archaeologists much more than just the locations of buried treasure. Dr. Benjamin Skolnik is an archaeologist for the City of Alexandria specializing in landscape archaeology, digital mapping, and GIS.
The 46 Petitioners: Social Justice in the Age of Nat Turner in the City of Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria had one of the largest free Black populations in the country during the first half of the nineteenth century, but their neighbors, customers, and family members included enslaved and white individuals. After the Nat Turner uprising in 1831, 46 free Black residents of Alexandria published a petition in the local newspaper asserting their loyalty to the “authorities of the town.” Dr. Garrett Fesler, will share his ongoing research into the residents and signers of the petition, and how this adds to a better understanding of free Black Alexandria during that time.
1315 Duke Street: The Alexandria Slave Pen
This presentation discusses the history of the building at 1315 Duke Street and the infamous slave jail complex that once stood there in the City of Alexandria, Virginia. This four-story brick building, which heavily modified, is the only portion of the slave jail that survives into the present. Dr. Benjamin Skolnik draws on a range of primary and secondary sources to present our current and best understanding of the history of the building and the property, which was once one of the country's largest centers of the domestic slave trade.
Exposing the Alexandria Slave Pen: Historical Photographs, Engravings, and Illustrations of 1315 Duke Street
Now the Freedom House Museum, 1315 Duke Street was once the location where several 19th-century dealers trafficked enslaved men, women, and children to the Deep South. Dr. Benjamin Skolnik takes a deep dive and looks at period photographs and illustrations of the building and shares what they tell us about the site and the businesses which operated from 1315 Duke Street.
The Archaeology After Dark series took place in 2021. Each evening brought together professional archaeologists and historians for informal lectures on topics relating to the rich archaeological heritage of Alexandria and the surrounding area. View past recordings of the Archaeology After Dark series.
- Archaeology After Dark: Nat Turner and the 46 Petitioners
- Archaeology After Dark: the Logbook of the Schooner Enterprise
View more videos online:
The public is invited to observe archaeologists at work, and to learn first-hand the steps to excavating a site. Check our calendar – tours are usually scheduled during the late spring and early fall, or when the excavation schedule allows.
At the Alexandria Archaeology Summer Camp, campers age 12-15 spend a week helping City archaeologists excavate a real archaeological site. Campers learn professional excavating, recording, and artifact processing methods to uncover Alexandria’s buried past while protecting the City’s valuable historic resources.
Archaeology Adventure Lessons
Schedule an Adventure Lesson, designed for grades K-12. The hands-on activities incorporate actual artifacts excavated from archaeological sites in Alexandria to examine various topics associated with the archaeological process and the city’s history. Adventure Lessons are by appointment only. They are given for a small fee and are free for Alexandria City Public Schools. Adventure Lessons are designed for school groups, scouts, summer camps, and other small groups. Outreach lessons are also available upon request to accommodate larger class sizes.