Luck of the finder in Virginia

The Trupbach siblings Sören and Alisa Weinig-Straßer, with the support of the German-American Society Siegerland-Wittgenstein, spent almost four weeks last summer working on the site of the Germanna settlement in Virginia, which was founded by emigrants from the Siegerland region in 1714. On the German side, contact with the Germanna Foundation was established through Prof. Dr. Horst Schmidt-Böcking (Frankfurt), a native of Trupbach, and Sören and Alisa’s mother, Yvonne Straßer, who is a member of the board of the Trupbach Heimatverein. On the American side, Tim Sutphin from the Germanna Foundation, which had been looking for volunteers to help with archaeological excavation work on the historically significant site, helped. The two young people from Siegerland found a warm welcome at the home of the Visitor Center’s Office Manager, Barbara Bounds, and her husband Gary.

Alisa and Sören became archaeologically active at the underground remains of the former house of the representative of the British troops on the site. Only fragments of the cellar vault still exist from the once stately home. Also, the so-called “Enchanted Castle” can only be identified as a ground monument, since it burned down completely. The extensive grounds also contain remains of trenches constructed during the American Civil War.

V. Schüttenhelm (l.) with Alisa and Sören Straßer.

Among the finds secured are pottery, glass, fired roof tiles, and adobe bricks near the Rapidan River, whose name is a compound of ‘rapid’ and ‘Anne,’ which in turn indicates a fast (rapid) flowing river. The syllable ‘An’ is a tribute to the first British Queen Anne (reigned 1707-1714). Virginia, then a much larger territory than the U.S. state of the same name today, was a British colony until 1775, emerging from the territory settled by the Virginia Company from 1584.

Excavations were made to a depth of about two and a half meters, and in some places to a depth of about 5 meters. All excavated objects were scanned with the help of a net and subjected to a first scientific classification. The two young Germans quickly got a feeling for the relevance of the finds. The excavation work there is done to a large extent with volunteers. Besides Sören and Alisa, 7 students from Richmond were involved in the excavation work. The supervision was done by three trained archaeologists who are employees of the Germanna Foundation. The excavations are the central topic there. Artifacts are on display at the Archeological Center on the site. The site is located between Culpeper and Fredericksburg on a rural road, but very much off the main transportation routes. It is not accessible by public transportation. Alisa and Sören were fortunate that their host parents provided them with an old Ford Ranger to drive to the dig site.

For the two young Germans, a meeting with the board of Germanna was also made possible. They also had the opportunity to visit Fredericksburg, which has a beautiful old town. Here they also experienced a 4th of July parade for the national holiday. A day trip to the capital city of Washington, DC, about 90 km away, was also on the agenda. Overall, Sören and Alissa felt very well taken care of The Germanna Foundation is financed by membership fees, donations, entrance fees and the sale of merchandise. Incidentally, US astronaut Buzz Aldrin, whose maternal ancestors came from Trupbach, visited the Foundation’s premises in 2014.

DAG SiWi would like to regularly provide financial support to young people from the Siegen-Wittgenstein and Olpe districts if they decide to do an archaeological internship in Virginia. Specific previous knowledge is not required, but a good command of English is indispensable. The minimum age for a stay in Virginia is 17 years. Students up to the completion of a Bachelor’s degree may also apply to the DAG SiWi to assist with excavations and scientific recording of unearthed finds at the site of the former Germanna Fort. Applications and inquiries are being accepted by DAG SiWi Chairman Volker Schüttenhelm at

Applications for the summer vacations can be sent in until April 30 at the latest.