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Montpelier's Hidden Sites of Labor

The larger 2650-acre Montpelier property consists of mostly of woods and fields. Survey has revealed agricultural sites dating to the Madison era that have been undisturbed since Dolley Madison sold the property in 1844. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Montpelier researchers are combining archaeological metal detector survey, traditional archaeological survey methods, archaeological excavation, deed research, historical maps, and historical accounts to identify lost agricultural work sites across the Montpelier property. These discoveries bring to light the labor of the enslaved community and give us a new perspective of these “natural” areas of Montpelier.

Explore Montpelier's East Woods--the Plantation Below the Canopy

For the past five years, the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been using metal detector surveys, LiDAR imagery, and deed research to uncover a early 19th century plantation complex in the East Woods. Prior to these studies, there was no knowledge this woodlot was a vital part of the Montpelier landscape. By engaging in a multi-disciplinary research approach we have begun to uncover this hidden landscape. We have developed a series of web-maps that summarize this work. Click the “Take the Tour” box below to explore the East Woods through videos, photos, and live maps! 

Metal Detector Survey of Barn Site in East Woods

Map Explorer

Below, you will see a series of maps generated from this research that project different elements of land use and change through time, a presentation of the different datasets used in the research, and series of digital stories using Esri’s StoryMaps to present some of the initial discoveries yielded through these technologies. Case study maps combine all the data sets. Explore maps are available for you to peruse the data results on your own. Learn maps are map-based stories to present results and methods.

Explore the East Woods of with Montpelier archaeologists to discover the agricultural complex lost in this woodlot. See how we combine metal detector surveys, LiDAR, and evidence from ancient trees to reconstruct this 1820s farm run by Madison’s enslaved workers.

This map was built using Geographic Information Systems, and incorporates metal detector survey data that has been conducted so far by the Montpelier Archaeology Staff and metal detectorists. This collaborative effort has resulted in survey on a 20 meter grid of a number of areas across the property. The survey is ongoing.

Navigate this map by moving the magnifying glass over the grid, and click on hits to see what was found.

Deed maps were used to gather information about the transition in property ownership from the 1720s to the 1850s. Information on the corners and distances were also recorded. Additional dates will be added to this map as further research is conducted.

Navigate this map by moving the slider at the bottom to see how the land was sold and purchased through time.

Explore the results of the LiDAR Survey map to see the different features on the landscape. Learn more about the results of the LiDAR survey here.

This story map presents the process by which Montpelier uses metal detecting survey to gather data about the plantation landscape through collaboration of metal detecting hobbyists and archaeologists.