August 25, 2013 - This past week we completed excavations at the quarter for field slaves. After over a year's worth of excavations, we have located at least two structures, thousands of artifacts, and a better understanding for how the majority of Madison's slaves lived--in very spartan conditions.  During the final month of excavations, we have been focused on excavating the trash deposits at the site (downslope areas where households threw their broken ceramics and other household waste) and exposing more of the areas surrounding the structure. We located a road bed at the house site furthest from the visitor center--and this serves as a wonderful transition to the archaeology we are doing next at the mansion. While the field work on the field quarter is complete, there is much artifact washing and analysis in the lab that will be carried into the fall. We are hosting a ceramics workshop in November where we will be analyzing all the early 19th century ceramics recovered from the site.

This week, we begin a new set of excavations at the mansion. This fall we are focused on the north lawn of the mansion close to the Temple. We will be looking for the rest of the fence (as it extends across the front of the mansion towards the temple), the old carriage road, and evidence for the Madison-era pine trees in the Temple Allee.  We are interested in finding enough information on the early 19th century features so we can begin to restore these back to the landscape. In addition, we will be exposed the 18th century deposits that were buried in 1808 during the landscaping episode associated with the changes that Dolley and James made to the family home prior to their retirement. In 1808, the Madison workers took down the old blacksmith shop (began by James Madison, Sr. and overseen by the head blacksmith Moses) and buried it below the fill dug from the icehouse pit. It is likely the burial of the blacksmith shops deposits were the easiest way to deal with the prodigious quantities of slag and blacksmithing materials at the site.

Last week we started the survey of the area around the temple with a ground penetrating radar survey carried out by Below the Turf--a GPR company specializing in radar surveys of golf courses and athletic fields. We are hoping the results from this survey will shed light on the carriage road that leads from Red Gate (Willow Gate) to the front dooryard gate.  Come out and see what the expedition groups will be uncovering this fall!


Note (Nov 21, 2013): to see the latest update and finds from our excavations near the temple from this fall, check the following link.

Matthew Reeves