Archaeology at Kenmore

Archaeology at Kenmore began in earnest in 1990 with the excavation of the kitchen garden and formal gardens. Since then, digs conducted in and around the main house have uncovered the remains of several outbuildings including a smoke house and a milk house. In all, over 141,000 artifacts have been found. These objects are part of the fabric of Kenmore's long and important history. They help tell the story of the ups and downs of everyday life, especially the conflict-laden reality of a slave-based labor system and the disruptions caused by the Civil War. Among the most telling of these finds are artifacts once owned by slaves, soldiers, and day laborers.



Dice are the oldest and most common gaming implements known to man and have been found all over the world. In ancient Thebes, dice were funeral gifts. Franciscan Friar Johannes Capistranus Hand holding small pair of diceis believed to have given a sermon in 1452 on the evils of gambling with dice, resulting in the public burning of 40,000 dice.

These dice, found alongside dominoes under the East Porch, are poorly made. The smaller one measures only 3/8 inch across. Its ivory surface shows wear indicating extensive use.


Dominoes smaller than a  US quarter Domino sets have been found at such diverse sites as King Tut's tomb, ancient Chinese sites, and Inuit sites. They made their way from Italy to Britain in the 18th century and became wildly Soldiers playing dominoes
Soldiers relaxing with a game
popular in the nineteenth century. The word domino is French for a priest's winter hood, which was black on the outside and white on the inside.

Three miniature ivory dominoes were found under Kenmore's East Porch, probably dragged there by rats. The size of the dominoes - 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch - suggests they were part of a Civil War soldier's travel set.


Marbles are found almost universally. They have been unearthed at ancient Egyptian, ancient Greek, and Roman sites. Stone and clay examples have been recovered on American Indian and Colonial American sites. Many of the marbles found on colonial sites were manufactured in Germany, but, by the nineteenth century, several American companies were producing marbles including the Frazery Pottery in Ohio.

Various marblesAt Kenmore, archaeologists have found marbles made of baked clay ranging in size from 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Most are the natural color of clay, but a few were made from white pipe clay. These would have been used as targets in a game of marbles, but at least one marble in our collection is a shooter with two colors of clay mixed together.

Doll Parts

Fragment of porcelain doll's face This sweet little doll face is just one of the dozens of doll pieces found at Kenmore. Made of unglazed porcelain, this doll features molded hair, a closed mouth, and painted eyes. Her fat cheeks are painted red to indicate robust health. A hint of blue is all that remains of the molded bonnet that once adorned her head. Called "Bonnet dolls," this style of doll reached the height of its popularity between 1880 and 1920. In addition to this face, Kenmore's doll parts include arms, legs, and other head fragments.



The word token comes from the Anglo-Saxon word tacen meaning a sign or symbol. Tokens are metal discs that resemble coins. They were issued privately as a substitute for money that could later be redeemed for goods or coin.

Metal token reading Braxton Mason and Co., 1 dayFrom the 1880s through the 1930s, trade tokens, called checks, chips, due bills, rabbit money, scrip, or pucks, were often used to pay eastern Virginia's farm workers, such as vegetable pickers or tomato peelers. Typically these tokens had monetary denomination or a "good for" value, and workers routinely exchanged their tokens for goods at a nearby company store. This system relieved the issuer of bookkeeping chores and facilitated paying workers by the job.

The issuing company usually stamped the token with its name and the worth of the token. In the case of the tokens found at Kenmore, the denomination was for one day of work, and the issuing company was Braxton Mason & Co. These tokens employ a hole along their edge, as a way to store or collect them on a string or chain.

21 tokens have been unearthed at Kenmore. Most of these have been found around the mansion's back porch, suggesting that after a day's work, laborers reported there to exchange their hard earned tokens for real cash.

Chesapeake Pipe

This tobacco pipe found at Kenmore is truly a fish out of water.Fragments of clay pipe It was made at least 40 years before Fredericksburg's charter date of 1728 and 100 years before the first brick was laid at Kenmore. Now known as "Chesapeake" pipes, these smoking devices were manufactured mostly in Maryland and Virginia out of local clays, which give the pipe its brown color. While common throughout the Chesapeake during the seventeenth century, these pipes almost never found their way onto 18th-century sites, much less a site as late as Kenmore.

An experienced craftsman made this handsome pipe. It was hand-shaped using a form, decorated, fired, and then burnished. The regular spacing of the decoration suggests that, instead of being applied free hand, a specially made tool called a roulette was used.



Round shot and minnie ballsBullets are the most common Civil War artifacts found at Kenmore. Some were unfired, some were fired but missed their intended targets, while others successfully smashed into their targets. So far, two complete cannonballs and several fragments of exploded cannonballs have been found at Kenmore. A 12-pound solid shot was found above the dining room, and a Bormann 12-pound shell was discovered in the attic. The shrapnel from exploded case shot was found throughout the yard around the mansion.

In addition to bullets and cannon shot, Federal and Confederate uniform buttons are regularly found at Kenmore.


Confederate Button
The Confederate buttons are from Virginia militias and feature the Virginia state motto of Sic Semper Tyrannis under an image of Virtus standing over a defeated Tyranny. Button
Federal Button
The buttons also feature thirteen stars representing the eleven states that made up the Confederacy and the two states that the Confederates hoped would eventually secede, Missouri and Kentucky.

Federal buttons feature two early symbols of the United States - an eagle and a shield. Of particular interest is this small button. Made out of newly patented hard rubber by Goodyear, this button was non-reflective, an innovation that may have extended the life of its camouflaged owner.


Small metal stencil There are rare instances when it is possible to link an archaeological artifact to a particular person. This stencil, belonging to Corporal Charles R. Powers, Company G, 19th Maine Regiment, is one of these finds and serves as a grim reminder of the bloody days when Kenmore was caught up in the clashes of the Civil War's two great armies.

The soldiers of both armies used stencils to mark their usually meager personal belongings. They also served to identify fallen soldiers on the battlefield. Corporal Powers was wounded at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road (near Petersburg), June 22, 1864, and was likely treated at the field hospital at Kenmore on his way to NY Harbor. He died July 22nd at David's Island, NY Harbor. It is unclear how his stencil came to be left behind in Kenmore's gardens.