Additional Explorations in the South Yard

Abstract: During September and October of 2008, the Archaeology Department of The Montpelier Foundation conducted small-scale archaeological explorations in the south yard of the Montpelier mansion, in four particular areas. These four projects are referred to as Northeast House, South Yard Fence-lines, South Yard Depression, and South Yard Visitor Sign. Collectively, these projects are designated the South Yard Explorations 2008 Project. Northeast House was the previous setting of a Madison-era home where enslaved families lived. Excavations were undertaken in the expected location of this structure, based on an 1837 insurance map and previous archaeological results related to other structures indicated on the map. Excavations were undertaken as a preliminary archaeological assessment of the area. Results of three unit excavations did not indicate evidence of the structure, but did identify a 19th-century brick path. This path is believed to be a continuation of one previously noted in several excavation units closer to the mansion. The South Yard Fence-line project was undertaken with the goal of finding a continuation of two Madison-era fence-lines encountered earlier in the year, during the Southeast House project excavations. South Yard Fence-line excavations were separate from the main block of Southeast House excavations, due to the presence of a large cedar tree that prohibited excavation along a 50-ft span of each fence-line. Continuance of each fence-line was confirmed through excavation of eight units; the termination point of each line has not yet been determined. South Yard Depression excavations included a single unit, placed over a surface depression believed to potentially represent the previous location of a well, privy, or other historic feature. However, excavation indicated the feature was the previous location of a tree. This tree may have been a 19th century specimen, as it is not included on any of the 20th-century inventory-maps of the grounds. The South Yard Visitor Sign project included a single excavation unit that mitigated an area chosen for installation of an informational placard. Excavation indicated no significant features and cleared the location for sign installation.