Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Montpelier Archaeology Department Brief Progress Report 2004-2005

Madison Agricultural Complex (Home Quarter). Over the past two years, the Montpelier Archaeology Department (with assistance from the 2004 and 2005 James Madison University Field School) has made an unexpected discovery of the core Madison-era agricultural complex (1770s-1844).

It is located just down the hill from the new Visitor Center and in its day consisted of three slave quarters, a tobacco barn and work area, a crafts complex (workshops for carpenters and coopers), and encompassed over 15 acres.

What makes the craft complex such an important archaeological find is that since it has been abandoned in 1844 (when the Madisons sold the property) it has been completely undisturbed -- no plowing or 20th-century disturbances -- and used for pasture. Below 2-3 inches of sod, Montpelier archaeologists have uncovered the collapsed remains of slave cabins and the potential remains of a tobacco barn mentioned in an 1871 visitor account. This vast array of work and living sites is the only known example of an unplowed complex for field slaves in Virginia. Our initial archaeology excavations have been completed and we are seeking funds to interpret the sites with information panels. What makes this discovery very exciting for our interpretive program is this complex of sites is located less than 250 yards walking distance from the new visitor center -- making it an accessible destination where visitors can learn about the working heart of the Madison plantation.

This past fall, we completed intensive archaeology excavations at one of the quarters in this complex, known as the Tobacco Barn Quarter. Archaeology excavation units revealed a borrow pit, the location of two structure locations, and an extensive yard complex. Analysis of the finds from this quarter are currently underway.

Archaeology Excavations
in the Mansion Basement. Over the past year and half, Montpelier archaeologists have completely an extensive archaeological investigation of the mansion cellar. Archaeologists discovered a wide array of deposits dating to the Madison era ranging from room partitions, evidence for floor treatments, and seven sub-floor pits that slaves used for storing vegetables, hearth ash (hearth ash was used for a variety of household uses in the 18th and 19th century including making soap and lye), and personal items. This archaeological evidence has provided important information to assign room use for five main areas of the cellar -- Dolley's kitchen, Nelly's kitchen, the servant's hall in the 1763 core, the Wine Cellar in the 1760 core, and the storage and servant hall in the 1797 addition. As in other areas of the house, the duPont's alterations in 1901 resulted in the preservation of all of these deposits -- in this case the entombment of the archaeological deposits vis-a-vis the pouring of a concrete floor over the 4250 square feet of space. Over the past two years, archaeologists jackhammered, hammered, and chiseled this concrete floor away and painstakingly excavated, recorded, photographed and drew all the features encountered beneath the concrete (click here to view an Adobe .pdf file with illustrations, and click the browser "back" button to return).

First Home of the Gilmore family at the Gilmore Farm. In July and August of 2005, the Montpelier Archaeology Department (with assistance of the 2005 State University of New York at Potsdam Field School) discovered what we believe is the first home built by the Gilmore family (George Gilmore being a former slave of James Madison). Evidence for the structure appears in a 1920 photograph of the cabin and back yard. When archaeologists placed excavation units in the area behind the cabin they found evidence for the chimney base for the structure and evidence for a chimney for a Confederate hut. Based on the archaeological finds, archaeologists believe that the when the Gilmores first moved onto the land in the late 1860s they might have disassembled a confederate hut and used the timbers and stone to build their initial residence. Once the Gilmore saved enough money to purchase the timbers for the present Gilmore Cabin, they disassembled the chimney of their initial home and used the stones for the present chimney at the cabin. Plans are being made to complete excavations in the back yard and reconstruct the Gilmore's initial home (which in later years was used for a workshop or a kitchen).
Confederate Camps. Over the past four years, the Montpelier Archaeology Department has been busy studying and interpreting a series of Civil War camp sites that were occupied by Confederate troops during the Winter of 1863 and 1864. In 2005, the Montpelier Archaeology Department completed extensive surveys funded by the American Battlefield Protection Program. These surveys involved archaeological staff conducting close interval walk-over surveys of the properties 1700-acre woodlots to identify Civil War camp features. In these surveys, we identified nine regimental camps (containing over 1200 hut features), nine sites that were likely used for supporting the large number of troops occupying the property, and a military road laid out during the encampment. Last year we opened an interpretive walking trail that links one of these regimental camps to the Gilmore Farm -- telling the story of the harsh living conditions in a Confederate winter camp and the transition that slaves made after emancipation.).

Source from Great Site : http://www.diaspora.uiuc.edu

archaeology excavations
archaeology excavations
archaeology digs

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