Field Slave Quarters Excavation Begins

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The Archaeology team has begun its excavations at the quarters for field slaves, located just below the visitor center. We are searching for the remains of the homes for farm slaves who lived in this area from the late 1700s-1844. Back in 2002. when we were planning for the construction of the visitor center, we located a very well preserved farm complex dating back to the Madison era. Spread over 15 acres, metal detector and shovel test pit surveys allowed archaeologists to locate half a dozen slave homes, a barn (mentioned in an 1871 magazine article), and several work areas. As part of our larger four-year archaeological study of the Montpelier slave community, we are excavating several homes of the farm workers located in this area.

So far, we have opened nearly a dozen units and are finding lots of artifacts dating to the early 19th century–cut nuts, English refined ceramics, wine bottle glass, and animal bone. Our goal is to establish the location of the structure(s) in this area and the density of artifacts suggests we are close. The most likely house form at the farm complex was a basic log structure with a stick and mud chimney. Other than the hearth (an area of burnt clay), these structures are incredibly elusive, so it will likely take some exploration to begin to locate the exact position of these homes. We have a lot of work to do this summer, so please visit us in the field. We have two Expedition programs over the next two weeks. If you are interested in attending a program to help us find these slave homes, please contact us at mreeves@montpelier.org!

In other news, with all of the timber-frame structures complete in the South Yard, we installed a path leading from the rear lawn of the mansion, through the South Yard, past the hands-on tent, and back to the visitor center. The path is composed of recycled tires that are dyed to resemble mulch. It is bound with a polyurethane binder similar to what we used for the stone paths at the mansion. This path is laid directly above the existing root mat, and protects the underlying archaeology. In the South Yard, we have arranged the new signs that provide background on the enslaved community along the paths.

Over the next three months, we will host two university field schools at the quarters for field slaves. Please stay tuned to see our progress, and if you are in the area, please come by for a visit. In addition, we are still looking for participants for our August-October Expeditions. By July we will begin excavations on the new site we located during our metal detecting program we held with Minelab this past spring. Take a week-long excavation vacation and help us rediscover the Madison plantation!

Slave quarters at Montpelier.

 

Archaeologists started excavating at the quarter for field slaves just below the Montpelier Visitor Center.

New interpretive path through the South Yard leading from the rear lawn to the Visitor Center.

 

 

Montpelier Staff