I keep thinking that development along the Potomac River in Washington DC has all but erased the archeological record, but said development continues to gobble up little untouched portions. The latest is the Kennedy Center’s expansion along the banks of the Potomac River. This is a big project and thus required an environmental/cultural impact study. The “Preservation and Historical” consultant for the expansion project is listed as Robinson and Associates, but the work seems to have been carried out by Stantec (subcontracting subcontractors is a great method to avoid accountability!). Stantec’s Phase 1 Archeological Investigation stated the obvious in its conclusion – “Given that the terrestrial portion of the Kennedy Center Expansion project APE has a high potential for Native American and Historic period resources, and that there is a potential that fill has capped and protected those resources, additional archaeological investigations are warranted if final plans for the proposed project indicate excavations will continue below the currently documented depths of fill.”
The so called “geoarcheo boring measurements” provided by Langan Environmental and Engineering Services, Inc. suggested the fill ranged on the site between 19 – 29 ft. In a report presented by the NPS/National Capital Planning Commission the impact on archeological resources is negligent because:
- GIS elevation change modelling and geotechnical borings indicate:
- 19 feet or more fill along west and south portions of project area
- 29 feet along I-66
- Construction plans indicate removal of:
- 18 feet or more along west and south portions of project area
- 28 feet along I-66
- Conclusions About 1 foot of fill could protect any resources potentially present
Here are the incredible coincidences that apparently spared the archeological record of the expansion project.
Note the underground garage that presumably does not cross those thresholds.
You can see a time-lapse of the excavation here.
More recent photos:
I wonder about the incentives for archeological non-discoveries. Obviously, an archeological firm that has a track record of finding nothing would be much sought after by developers. This fact, coupled with the tacit approval of government agencies (DCHPO, NCPC, NPS) leaves little chance for archeological discovery.