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Scientific Gardens

The Woodlands, Philadelphia


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gardens Botany Woodlands


In colonial America, Philadelphia was home base for a community of ardent plant enthusiasts who came together on the banks of the Schuylkill River. There they competed to cultivate exotic specimens, fostering an Enlightenment-era spirit of inquiry that eventually led to the discipline of botany. At the Woodlands, a private estate built between the 1760s and 1780s, wealthy collector William Hamilton amassed what was possibly the largest collection of flora in the country and constructed a state-of-the-art greenhouse known to have been visited by Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton, with the help of his friend and neighbor, seed dealer William Bartram, created a garden dedicated to aesthetics and to building a scientific collection of plants from around the world.


Gardens Botany IllustrationAccording to archaeologist Sarah Chesney, who identified and excavated the Woodlands’ greenhouse, the structure is an example of Hamilton’s fervor for this project. “You have to be committed to pour resources and time into what was really a non-essential building,” she says. “Its remains are now valuable physical evidence of this remarkable and transient exchange of plants and ideas.” After Hamilton’s death, the estate was eventually sold and the gardens gave way to a public cemetery in the 1840s. “We have a nineteenth-century cemetery superimposed on an eighteenth-century estate,” explains the Woodlands’ executive director Jessica Baumert. “The company used as much of the infrastructure that was already in place as they could to design the cemetery, and that will provide us with a template as we seek to learn more about the Woodlands’ rich garden history.”

Royal Gardens

Seoul, South Korea


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gardens Royal Korean


The front yard of a Korean home was traditionally left empty, while the backyard, which sometimes led to small nearby mountains, was cultivated as a garden. This held true for palace gardens as well. A pond and a pavilion from which to take in the surrounding landscape were considered vital elements. Such is the case at Hyangwonjeong in Gyeongbokgung Palace. Hyangwonjeong, which means “a pavilion from where scent spread,” was created between 1867 and 1873 on a small island constructed in the middle of a pond. Hyangwonjeong is currently being excavated by the Ganghwa National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. Archaeologists have found that the bridge that connects the pavilion to the land, at more than 100 feet, was the longest wooden bridge in its day. This bridge was destroyed during the Korean War and has now been reconstructed. Sadly, this is also near the spot where Queen Min (or Empress Myeongseong) was assassinated by the Japanese in 1895, one of the preludes to Japanese colonial rule of Korea.

Food and Wine Gardens

Pompeii, Italy


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Gardens Pompeii FrescoEvidence continues to reveal much about the quality of life of the residents of ancient Pompeii. The city created an intricate and robust system for the local production of food and wine. Researchers have long been aware of frescoes, found in many surviving houses and villas, depicting plants and the pleasure of eating and drinking. Remains of triclinia, or dining rooms, and of food stalls, bakeries, and shops selling the fish sauce garum are abundant.


Gardens Pompeii Rake BreadGarden archaeology as a discipline was pioneered in Pompeii in the 1950s when archaeologist Wilhelmina Jashemski began to excavate areas between the remaining structures. She discovered that homeowners planted flowers, dietary staples, and even small vineyards. “From the oldest type of domestic vegetable garden, the hortus, to ornate temple gardens,” explains Betty Jo Mayeske, director of the Pompeii Food and Wine Project, “you see evidence of cultivation in nearly every available space in Pompeii.” It appears that both grain and grapes were grown in small, local contexts. “There was a bakery on practically every single corner and the mills were there too, as well as a counter room and large ovens,” she says. “The whole production process took place there, and there are also several similar examples of small-scale vineyards.” One of Jashemski’s innovations was to apply the practice of making molds of the dead, known since the 1860s, to making molds of individual plants. “Casting had been done in cement and plaster on human remains for years,” Mayeske says, “but Jashemski used that technology to cast the plants’ roots, which helped definitively identify all of these gardens and vineyards.”