Faculty Publications and Presentations

Publication Date

Fall 10-2022

Document Type



Chemistry | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology


Oral Presentation given at Virginia Archaeology Society Meeting in October 2022 (Williamsburg, VA)


The partially backfilled cellar of Mead’s Tavern (VDHR # 015-0120) a circa 1760’s building in New London Virginia, was studied by orthophosphate (PO43) mapping of the recently exposed, culturally sterile, subsoil floor. Prior studies of the cellar had exposed a hearth along with features that were speculated to be wall partitions for subdivision of the cellar. The full intended purpose for those exposed features is unknown. To further probe that exposed subsoil prior to a major engineering stabilization of the tavern’s foundation, a chemical mapping of surface PO43- levels in the cellar was done. The PO43- mapping technique is less frequently applied to excavated, or disturbed, sites but is known to sometimes correlate with human habitation impact. The cellar was found to have (a) strong indications of human impact on the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike side of the structure, (b) no significant signs of impact near the hearth, and (c) a region of modest impact near a suspected storage shelf location. The observations along the old turnpike side of the tavern may either occur due to many years of excreta from beasts of burden on the adjacent turnpike or could potentially be a trivial result due to potential fertilization that may have been done on flowerbeds near that foundation wall. The low PO43-­­ levels in the cellar hearth region, plus a lack of food remains found there during the prior excavation, suggest that the fireplace was primarily used for heating and not for cooking.