Skip to main content

Alexandria, Virginia Ship Project

timbers of the Alexandria Virginia ship as excavated


In January of 2016, a mid-18th century ship was discovered during the construction of a new hotel on the waterfront of Alexandria, VA. The ship was documented and disassembled as part of the recovery excavation, and the waterlogged timbers were stored in fresh water vats at a nearby municipal facility until June 2017, when they were carefully packaged and shipped to the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University for stabilization. Additional documentation of the timbers will include high-definition laser scanning, modeling, X-ray analysis, and wood degradation analysis before they are conserved using a process involving polyethylene glycol and vacuum freeze drying.

The Process

Excavation (City of Alexandria website)






The Conservation Research Laboratory (CRL), directed by Dr. Donny L. Hamilton, is one of the oldest continuously operated conservation laboratories that deals primarily with archaeological material from shipwrecks and other underwater sites. Operating under the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation, CRL plays an important role in the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University (TAMU), and works closely with all of the excavation projects of the TAMU-affiliated Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The CRL provides nautical archaeology students, working alongside senior conservation staff, the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in the conservation of a wide variety of cultural heritage materials.

Alexandria Archaeology, a division of the City of Alexandria, Virginia’s Office of Historic Alexandria, is dedicated to preserving and studying Alexandria’s rich archaeological heritage and fostering within residents and visitors a connection between the past and present while inspiring a sense of stewardship and adventure. Through its museum and programs, this community archaeology program has been engaging the public for more than three decades.
Alexandria Archaeology is also responsible for administering the Alexandria Archaeological Protection Code, which allows the City to preserve archaeological resources and information that would otherwise be lost to ground disturbance and large-scale development projects. The excavation and recovery of the Alexandria ship was made possible by this Code.



Process Stages

Stage 1: Excavation
Stage 2: Shipping
Stage 3: Documentation
Stage 4: Conservation