THE GREAT BASIN DIG 1983-85


During three different phases of construction of the James Center Plaza and adjacent properties between 1983 and 1985, a fascinating series of archeological discoveries were made as Richmond's Great Turning Basin was excavated. Roughly 30 feet below street level and entombed for 95 years under a railroad yard lay the remains of about 60 boats, many of which were James River batteaux. From this construction site in the heart of downtown Richmond, interests as diverse as the National Geographics magazine and representatives of the American Canal Society gathered.
Thanks in part to the exposure provided by about three weeks of prominent media coverage by the Richmond Times Dispatch and others, and dedicated volunteers from the Virginia Canals and Navigations Society and related groups, Virginia once again focused attention on its batteau era.
 
The field drawings in this section of the manual were prepared during the course of this excavation. Thanks to a 3-week stay of construction, archeologists, historians, hobbyists and others were learn enough and dream big enough to spark the James River Batteau Festival, beginning in 1986. First, however, they spent literally days down in the pit unearthing, examining, measuring, photographing, brushing and sketching their
findings. Although most of the archeological evidence was shortly thereafter lost forever, a few remnants of boats were carefully removed and stored under water in Richmond's Old Pump House. Selected field drawings from this dig have been inserted in Section 5 of this manual to provide you with some sense of discovery process as seen by those most directly involved .

 

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