Public Invited to Participate in EKU Archaeology Days at White Hall State Historic Site

A number of students at Archaeological dig at White Hall State Historic Site

Have you ever wanted to dig deeper (literally) into Madison County’s rich history?

On four weekends this fall, the public – all ages – will have the opportunity to observe or join in an ongoing archaeological dig at White Hall State Historic Site just off I-75 at Exit 95.

Eastern Kentucky University’s Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work will conduct “Archaeology Days” at White Hall on Sept. 7-8, Oct. 5-6, Nov. 2-3 and Dec. 7-8 (all Fridays and Saturdays) to allow the public to see firsthand how archaeology is done and, for the more adventurous, actually get their hands dirty in uncovering local history. The event is being held in conjunction with the university’s year-long series of events marking the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War in Kentucky.

Entire families are welcome to join in the free fun from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on any or all the days. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

“People can come and just look and ask all the questions for as long as they want, or they can work with me and my students as volunteer excavators,” said Dr. Jon Endonino, the faculty member directing the work. This past summer, 11 EKU students joined Endonino for four weeks at White Hall; the work will continue throughout this fall.

Digging tools and instructions will be provided; any participants will need to bring their own water, lunch, and sunscreen.

Already, Endonino and the students have unearthed numerous artifacts, mainly from the mid to late 19th century. These include ceramics, jars and other glass items, as well as animal remains.

White Hall, a restored Italianate mansion built in 1798 and remodeled in the 1860s, is the former home of Cassius Marcellus Clay -- abolitionist newspaper publisher, a founder of the Republican Party, ambassador to Russia during the Civil War, state legislator and a close friend of President Abraham Lincoln. Endonino said the site holds great potential for archaeologists, but there are missing links in information due to a fire that burned many of Clay’s papers.

Anyone planning to join in the dig, or needing more information, should contact Endonino in advance at Friday field sessions canceled due to inclement weather will be rescheduled. Any canceled Saturday field sessions will meet instead in EKU’s archaeology laboratory in the Moore Building.

Endonino said Kentucky Parks staff, including White Hall Manager Kathleen White, “have been very helpful” throughout the archaeology project. “We’re hopeful we can increase the visitation to White Hall itself.”

For more information about EKU’s Civil War Sesquicentennial series, visit

Published on August 22, 2012