The archaeologists have been hard at work excavating one of the Montpelier slave quarters. After a month-long field school and three expedition programs, we have a lot to show! The Stable Quarter is located between the South Yard (quarters for house slaves) and the Montpelier Visitor Center.
Our knowledge of the Stable Quarter Site (located between the visitor center and the South Yard) continues to grow in leaps and bounds. Last post, we reported we established the slave quarter we were excavating originally was a log structure with a stick and mud chimney based on the single hearth and several clay borrow pits we had located. Since that time we have made two exciting discoveries: a second hearth that has provided the dimensions and potential layout of the structure and 2) a sub-floor pit in front of the large hearth we discovered in August.
The James Madison University field school has had a fantastic run at revealing the secrets of the quarters for field slaves just below Montpelier’s Visitor Center. We have opened up close to 50 units and are slowly developing an idea of how this set of homes was laid out.
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.
This past week twelve metal detector experts from Minelab Americas attended a week-long metal detecting program to help archaeologists search for plantation sites across the property. The program also provided the participants an opportunity to learn about how archaeologists use metal detectors to discover and define archaeological sites.
In honor of African American History Month, objects once owned by Montpelier slave Catherine Taylor are currently on display in the Joe and Marge Grills Gallery, joining archaeological objects from the recent South Yard excavation.
The archaeology department recently finished its field season in the South Yard and just began an analysis of all the artifacts recovered during the nine-month excavation season. The analysis of the household items recovered from the South Yard will be very important for our overall archaeological study of Montpelier’s enslaved community.
This week we are putting the South Yard to bed for the winter after a long and productive season. We opened up an area 85′x45′ (approximately 180 5ft. x 5ft. units) and completely exposed two house areas in the South Yard. The South Yard is the site for the homes and work areas for the Madisons’ house slaves.
As we approach Thanksgiving, we thought it would be fun to share with you an appropriate find for this time of year when “sumptuous” feasts are on everyone’s mind. As mentioned in a previous post, we are completing our excavations in the South Yard where we just recently located a linear trench that is 2.5 feet wide and runs for at least 12 feet.
Throughout the Madisons’ retirement years (1817-1836), visitors to Montpelier were often surprised “at seeing [Madison's] negroes go to church [on] Sunday. They were gaily dressed, the women in bright-coloured calicoes; and, when a sprinkling of rain came, up went a dozen umbrellas.”1 This past Sunday, visitors to Montpelier also donned their much-needed umbrellas to pay homage to the generations of enslaved African Americans who lived and labored at Montpelier.