Initial Archaeological Investigations of the East Smokehouse in the South Yard

Abstract: During September and October of 2008, the Archaeology Department of The Montpelier Foundation conducted archaeological investigations in the south yard of the Montpelier mansion, in an area that includes the previous setting of a Madison-era smokehouse. This outbuilding is the easternmost of two smokehouses indicated on an 1837 insurance plat. The archaeological project was designated Smokehouse East 2008. Results of the investigation include identification of intact 19th-century deposits potentially associated with the smokehouse. Especially significant deposits include a trench that may be related to a wall, a concentration of charred wood that is possibly evidence of a centralized smoke-pit, and a rubble-filled pit that may be the former location of a pier. The archaeology conducted in 2008 was a preliminary exploration of the area. The discovery of important Madison-era deposits indicated the potential benefits of additional excavations conducted at the site. Pertinent research topics potentially addressed by future archaeology include explorations of the lives of the enslaved African Americans who were the primary 19th-century actors within the site area. Furthermore, details applicable to restoration objectives will be discovered. These details will likely include specific object identifications relevant to the furnishing of space interiors, as well as information applicable to smokehouse reconstruction. Results indicated in this report should be considered to be preliminary. Further archaeological investigation is needed to test any hypotheses presented here, so that an accurate understanding of the site may be achieved.