Archaeo-Physics, LLC - geophysical survey and subsurface mapping

Case Study

Falling Creek Ironworks

An Early 17th century industrial site, Chesterfield County, Virginia


Colonial ironworks resistance / resistivity survey
Resistance Survey


Colonial ironworks magnetic gradiometer survey
Magnetic Survey

  Colonial ironworks ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey
GPR Survey

During the years 1619 to 1622, the Virginia Company attempted to establish an ironworking facility on Falling Creek, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, now on the outskirts of the city of Richmond. The Falling Creek Ironworks were the first iron production facility in North America. The ironworks were to produce iron from local ore deposits. According to Virginia Company records, the ironworks was able to produce some quantity of iron, although it is not clear whether it had begun full production. In 1622, war with the Powhatan Confederacy of tribes put the operation of the Falling Creek Ironworks to an abrupt end. An attack by Native American forces left the all but two colonists at the Ironworks dead, and the facilities destroyed

Previous archaeological investigations had identified a terrace located at the foot of the lower falls of Falling Creek as the site of the 1619-1622 ironworks, but conventional archaeological testing during the course of these investigations found no conclusive evidence of structures or domestic areas.

Electrical resistivity, magnetic field gradient, and ground penetrating radar surveys were conducted over the site of the 17th Century ironworks to locate features prior to subsurfce testing. Linear and rectangular anomalies that appear in the resistivity data may be caused by architectural features, possibly shops or domestic structures associated with the ironworks. Several low-amplitude magnetic anomalies that appear in the data appear to be cultural in origin, and may be caused by features associated with the ironworks. A number of high-amplitude magnetic anomalies appear in the magnetic field gradient data that are thought to be associated with iron production, including extensive slag deposits and the possible location of the blast furnace. Ground penetrating radar data shows an anomalous reflection in the vicinity of the suspected blast furnace, which is partially beneath the modern roadway.

The geophysical investigation was performed by Archaeo-Physics LLC. Archaeological investigations at the Falling Creek Ironworks are under the direction of Lyle E. Browning, Browning and Associates, Ltd working through the Chesterfield County Department of Parks & Recreation. The project was sponsored by the Falling Creek Development Committee, Chesterfield County, Virginia

See also: for an account of ongoing archaeological investigation at Falling Creek


Jones, Geoffrey. 2001. A Geophysical Investigation at the Falling Creek Ironworks, an Early Industrial Site in Virginia. Archaeological Prospection, 8, 247-256

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