Stable Quarter Site-- Part II


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.

Up until mid October, we had questions regarding the size of the cabin at the site.  This question was answered when we discovered a second smaller brick hearth about twenty feet from the first.  Both hearths face each other and likely served as “bookends” for the same structure.  The significance of this hearth is it gives us the size for the structure (20 feet in length) and careful examination of the larger hearth revealed potential supports for the structure located 16 feet apart.  With two hearths, it is likely there were two rooms for this structure.  Further, careful excavation of the hearth revealed a charred log still in place on the hearth–likely representing the last fire that the slaves who called this cabin home built before the structure was abandoned!  How this log survived intact, we are not sure, but there is a possibility that the stick-and-mud chimney that stood above the hearth might have collapsed onto the hearth after abandonment or during the removal of the structure.

The second find we made was a square pit located directly in front of the hearth.  Similar pits have been located by archaeologists at other slave quarters in Virginia and have been interpreted as holding root crops through the winter.  These pits would be covered with a plank hatch.  Careful examination of the brick hearth reveals two gaps in the brick paving that might be where a wooden framework was placed to support the hearth.  The sub floor pit we are found was filled with hearth ash, containing animal bone and other debris–suggesting when it was no longer used as a storage pit, it was relegated to an ash bin.  The high amount of animal bone and charred floral material promises to provide us a wealth of information on diet for the slave household members who lived in this structure.  In addition, the presence of only one pit, combined with the different sizes of the hearths, suggests the cabin was a single household rather than a duplex housing two separate households.

We will be completing the excavations over the next couple of weeks.  When we take an overall photograph of the site, we will post this for you to see.  In addition, as we process the artifacts in the lab, we will provide some updates on the wide array of ceramics, glass, tools, animal bone, buttons, beads, and other artifacts we encountered this summer.  In the meantime, we will leave you with an image of a fun little artifact we found a week ago…

Update December 15, 2010
Rather than make a new blog post, we decided to post our latest photograph of the site at the end of this blog entry. We completed the excavations at the site shortly before Christmas.  As a final act at the site, we took an overhead shot of the site to show all the features in relationship to each other.  What this revealed was the size of the yard (as defined by the area between the structure and the borrow pits, and the orientation of the building.  Over the next several months, we will be analyzing the ceramics and artifacts from the site, digitizing the planviews, and analyzing the site stratigraphy.  Adam Marshall will be working on the report during this time and once he produces a draft of the report, he will post this to the blog along with a summary of the site findings.  Also, at the end of January, we will be hosting a ceramic workshop in which we will be analyzing the ceramics from the site.  At that time we will add a post with pictures of the latest mended ceramics.  In the meantime, if you click on the picture to the left, you can see the range of features we located at the site this year.

To read the full report on these excavations, please click on the link below:

Archaeology Report on Stable Quarter

Archaeologist cleaning burnt fire log in hearth

Archaeologist cleaning burnt fire log in hearth.


Main brick hearth with square sub-floor pit.

Main brick hearth with square sub-floor pit.


James Madison wine bottle seal

James Madison wine bottle seal.


Stable Quarter Site December 2010

Stable Quarter Site December, 2010.


Matthew Reeves