The Foundation of Meaning

Author(s): Philip Levy

Year: 2013


Sometime in the 1870s, a small set of subterranean stones became an object of importance and pilgrimage. Promoters, travel writers, and visitors claimed that the stones were the original foundations of George Washington’s boyhood home near Fredericksburg Virginia. The site was already well known as the site of Parson Weems’s famous Cherry Tree parable, but as the landscape recovered from the Civil War, residents look for other ways to have a less troubled American past. Washington provided the answer. This paper looks at how a discourse of historical pilgrimage formed around these stones, and significantly, how this discourse centrally used the images of excavation in new and creative ways. The stones present an early popular cultural and tourism-based version of the idea that the ground carries a truer truth than can stories while at the same serving as an example of what James Cook called an "artful deception." 

Cite this Record

The Foundation of Meaning. Philip Levy. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428264)


Temporal Keywords
1730s - 1920s

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 320