The Site
Excavation Units
Written Records


How do archaeologists discover, record, analyze and interpret archaeological evidence? What kinds of things can they discover and learn?

Let's start to answer those two questions by exploring a single archaeological site: the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (called Whitehaven) in St. Louis, Missouri which was the nineteenth century home of Grant and his wife, Julia Dent Grant.

The archaeological finds at Whitehaven shed light on all the people who lived there during the period just before and during the Civil War (1860-1865). They tell us about the lives of rich and famous people (President Grant and his wife, Julia) as well as their family members, farm workers, and enslaved Africans.

Three professional archaeologists have excavated at Whitehaven: Virgil Noble in 1991 and 1992 (Noble 1997), and Jim Price and Mark Lynot in 1995 (Price 1998). The 1991 excavation at Whitehaven was conducted during 3 weeks and was designed to:

  • estimate the date of construction of the different buildings on the estate of Whitehaven, home of Julia Dent Grant; and,
  • determine if two open grassy areas could be used for parking areas without harming buried historic artifacts.

The archaeological work in 1992 used special techniques called remote-sensing to document portions of the park. The specific techniques included magnetometry and soil resistivity. Small excavation units were dug to verify the results of the remote-sensing project.

The archaeological excavation conducted in 1995 by Mark Lynot (National Park Service) and Jim Price (University of Missouri) was designed to gather "ground truth" information in the form of artifacts and food scraps that would fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle concerning how people lived at Whitehaven. The two-month excavation was designed for one major purpose: to help the park rangers provide the most accurate interpretation to the visitors who come to the site. Some of the questions the archaeologists set out to answer were:

white Haven Kitchen
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site
Graphic Reconstruction of the Cellar of the Winter Kitchen Constructed Circa 1838
  • Who used the basement of the house?
  • What kinds of artifacts were left in the basement?
  • Where in the basement were various tasks performed?
  • When were the artifacts left behind in the basement?
  • Why were certain clusters of artifacts buried beneath the floor?

College Students!!!!! Click here to see and read in detail about artifacts associated with the enslaved Africans who lived at WhiteHaven.

Webpage updated 30 December 2005.