Archeological Dig on Campus

Students get hands-on experience

One of the many hands-on opportunities Roanoke College students have is the chance to work at an archeological excavation site right on campus. The Tanyard House, located on the southeast corner of the main campus, dates to 1852. At one time, it was a leather tannery. It is now being used as a learning tool in several ways.

Dr. Whitney Leeson, associate professor of history and anthropology, incorporated the site into an Intensive Learning Term (May Term) course, "Historical Archeology." This course teaches students the methods and theories of archaeological fieldwork in a hands-on setting. Students learn about the practical skills of surveying, excavating and recording both at the Tanyard House and at remote locations, including the Blue Ridge Center near Harper's Ferry.

Leeson also uses the site and related research as a focus for students involved in the College's Undergraduate Research Assistant Program. Students in this program pair with faculty mentors to conduct undergraduate research projects, most of which span the students' entire four years. Dr. Jack Steehler, director of student/faculty research, says that these students "graduate with what is essentially a master's project under their belts-and a real sense of accomplishment."

Jasmine Koehn '09 was involved in URAP and worked with Dr. Leeson on the dig project. She focused on the lab work needed to analyze the artifacts, developed a cataloging system and built a display area in West Hall. In addition, she gave several presentations detailing her work.

Dr. Leeson soon will be mentoring a new URAP student in the methods of collecting, cataloging and curating artifacts recovered from the on-campus excavation.