Piecing together History


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. Comparing the items different households owned between quarters in the house, field, and crafts complex will provide critical information on how each was able to take advantage of opportunities or in turn oppressed by plantation labor. Here is a brief glimpse of the range of artifacts we recovered this season.

Architectural Items

Combined with the architectural features we have found at the site we have found a range of architectural artifacts that provide important details on the structures present in the South Yard. From window sash hardware to door hinges and fasteners, these artifacts will be used to determine the appearance of the structures. The iron artifacts shown on the right have been conserved by staff archaeologists in the archaeology lab.

Clothing Items

Some of the more personal items we found in the South Yard come from the clothing the enslaved residents owned, repaired and wore on a daily basis.

Personal Items

Like clothing, personal items allowed individuals to express their personal identity. Therefore, clothing offers valuable insight into the lives of the people who lived and worked in the South Yard. These items include beads worn on clothing, jewelry, smoking pipes, and even marbles that represent childhood games.

Ceramic and Glass Sherds Some of the most frequently found artifacts are fragile items which enter the archaeological record when they are broken rather than lost. These items offer a greater challenge for analysis as not only do these to be washed but also mended. These include ceramics for both the table and teawares, bottles, and other items we need to mend back together to restore the ceramic and glass items back to their original form.

If you are interested in taking part in this process of restoration, look into taking part in this year’s ceramic work shop.

To see more artifacts we have recovered from our previous work in the South Yard see the following post.

Handle for clothing iron.

Iron strap hinge.

Iron window sash weight.

Brass Navy coat buttons.

Brass hook and clasp used for securing clothing.

Bone button recovered from South Yard.

Glass beads from South Yard.

Clay tobacco pipe stem fragment.

Brass rowel for a spur.

Chinese Export Porcelain fragment.

Glass pharmaceutical bottle base.

Hand painted teaware (bowl-Straffordshire England).



Montpelier Staff