300-year-old artifacts found during I-64/I-264 interchange construction

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -- Uncovering the past: That's what happened during construction of the new Interstate 64/Interstate 264 interchange.

Every day, thousands of cars pass South Newtown Road on Interstate 64. They are all unaware what was buried just yards away from the road.

"It's amazing how much history is right beneath our feet," said VDOT Archaeologist Ken Stuck. "We may not realize it."

No one knew what was sitting in the ground, but it had been there for 300 years.

"This was where we recovered an 18th century cellar," Stuck said.

Just before VDOT began construction in 2015 on the multi-million dollar expansion of the I-264/64 interchange, archaeologists found artifacts on the site.

"This was just a huge assemblage of ceramics, glass and animal bones, but what particularly exciting about them was not just the artifacts alone, but the size of the artifacts," said project archaeologist Tom Higgins.

The area was created in the early 1720s. It was a town called Newtown, which at one time, was likely was home to 200 people. Most of the artifacts were found in a cellar that was covered over after everyone left Newtown.

"That cellar was really the find of this site," Stuck said. "It contained almost 20,000 artifacts."

Crews from the College of William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research spent months excavating the ground.

"We have questions," said Joe Jones, director of the center.  "What does the cellar represent? What type of buildings were there? These are unusually large cellars."

Archaeologists were able to piece together what they could. It's one of those times where progress turned by the clock.

"This was our first chance to really catch a glimpse of the town in what really might have been its heyday," Stuck added.

Researchers say the artifacts are now boxed away. They will soon be sent to Coastal Virginia Church, because the church owned the land.

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