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Sandusky Kitchen Archaeology Update

By Jessica Gantzert, Principal Investigor, Hurt & Proffitt

In the 2021 kitchen excavation, a subfloor pit was discovered. It was utilized by the enslaved people who lived and worked in the kitchen for personal storage. Archaeologists left the pit intact at the time and resumed excavations in Fall 2022, aided by student volunteers from the University of Lynchburg. The original plan was to save all soil removed and wet screen it in a process called floatation¸ however once the excavation began, archaeologists discovered that the pit was much deeper than previously assumed and that the first 2.5ft consisted of rubble from when the kitchen was torn down in the early 20th century. This soil was removed and screened with traditional means, and a shallow layer of soil from when the kitchen was occupied was found preserved beneath the destruction fill. This occupational layer was removed for floatation.

Floatation was conducted at Historic Sandusky during Summer 2023 with an experimental “Green Archaeology” machine design. Archaeologists collected the plant remains (light fraction) that floated to the surface in one screen, and artifacts that sunk (heavy fraction) in separate screens. Students from the University of Lynchburg are currently working to sort these artifacts into categories based on material and use. These microartifacts help us understand the lives of the enslaved individuals that called Sandusky home.

Some of the artifacts found so far include fish bones and fish scales. We have many records on what the Hutter family ate, and fish was not part of their diet. These remains were likely part of the dinners that enslaved families were cooking for themselves. Many eggshell fragments were also found. Poultry was also not a common food source for the Hutters, but chicken was a staple for Black and enslaved families in the south. These food items likely belonged to the enslaved family that lived in the kitchen and give us a glimpse into what they were preparing for themselves to eat on a regular basis.


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