Beneath the Three Graces follows the crew of the Sangamo Archaeological Center as they dig into the remains of the small frontier town of New Salem, where a young Abraham Lincoln lived and worked 175 years ago. Today, the place is not only an important archaeological site, but also a replica village, designed to portray the humble beginnings of the martyred president.
For years, millions of visitors to the Illinois historic site have been told that Lincoln owned no property in the 1830s town. Instead, he has been portrayed as a young drifter, sleeping in the back rooms of the stores that he rented. A recently-discovered document indicates that Lincoln actually owned two lots in town. In 2006, archaeologists gathered at the site to conduct excavations on what was Mr. Lincoln’s first property.
The two-month excavation was recorded by a film crew and by the scientists themselves, capturing aspects of an archaeological dig rarely seen by the public. The resulting documentary provides an unfiltered view of the authentic experience of an archaeological dig, with its surprises, frustrations, revisions, bad weather, and unexpected discoveries.
Adding to the surreal nature of excavating pieces of the past, this dig was conducted in the midst of a recreated 1830s village that is visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. Stories of historic figures mix with modern costumed interpreters and vacationing families, and relics of the past are unearthed from beneath replicas of the American frontier.