All archaeologists have worked upon sites where it seems that you never find any artifacts, and those where you cannot move your trowel for fear of breaking one of thousands of artifacts. In the Front Yard it might be a good day to find 12 artifacts, whereas in Dolley’s Midden it would have been a bad day to find anything less than 120 artifacts (or sometimes even 1,200 artifacts!).
The first section is an introduction, while the second part, accessed by the “Read more” link, goes into greater detail.As you may notice from the title, I’m no longer just referring to the “South Yard” in its entirety. For month of October the Montpelier Archaeology Department has expanded the excavations to encompass the smoke house (structure 2), as well as to chase out the paling face and the formal fence that defined the end of the Madison formal yard.
Winter for much of the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been spent in extensive Phase I (”shovel test pit,” or “STP”) survey of the areas of Montpelier in conjuction with developing long-range plans for the property. These surveys have revealed a new site--a slave quarter dating to the late antebellum period.
In the depths of winter, Civil War soldiers have returned to Montpelier to build hut sites in the woods behind the Gilmore Farm. No, this is not the story of a long-lost regiment of Confederate troops who have found their way back to Montpelier, but the story of a group of reenactors from the 3rd Regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia who used January 24, 2009 as the kick-off to recreate a set of winter huts.
At long last, we are just about finished at the North Kitchen. With the season winding down, we are starting to finally find some resolution to questions that have been plaguing us all summer–chief of which is why we have not been able to locate the hearth for the kitchen!
Since September, the Archaeology Team has been excavating in mansion’s Northwest Yard. This excavation began in hopes of finding artifacts from an 18th-century trash deposit and locating the planting holes from the pine trees that were planted in the 1810s, as part of Mr. Madison’s Pine Allée that led to the Temple. Already, the team has uncovered an exciting new world of Montpelier 18th-century landscape!
After six months of excavation that included two university field schools and seven Expedition programs, most of the puzzle pieces have fallen into place, and we can now share the final outcome of our endeavors. With careful analysis, the tangled web of 50 different soil layers and 53 features yielded some interesting and significant results.
In between snow storms, the Montpelier Archaeology Department completed the Willow Gate excavations. We knew about a Madison-era gate present in this locale from a description by John H.B. Latrobe following his 1832 visit to Montpelier. He described a high red gate hung upon white posts. During Madison’s day, such gates served a practical purpose to keep animals out of the grounds. The gate also distinguished the formal environs of the mansion from the larger working planta
For the past two months there has been a flurry of activity behind Montpelier’s Visitor Center. This area hasn’t exactly been clutter-free either. Every day, visitors have seen tents, flags, and archaeologists making exciting discoveries about the Madisons’ stables.