Research Fellow Martha Hill conducted a two-year long project aimed at understanding life on Mulberry Row, the 1,000-foot road that was the center of plantation activity during Thomas Jefferson’s lifetime. The examination of written and archaeological findings yielded a wealth of information, including an annotated bibliography recording references to Mulberry Row and an analysis of archaeological excavations.
The study of archaeological artifacts shed light on the structure and contents of the dwellings for the enslaved workers. Hill recognized several hardened chunks of clay as pieces of chinking from an early log building, the residence of several enslaved families. Not only did these remnants show that the house was covered with clapboards, but they also bore the marks of the hand of the man who pressed the damp clay between the logs. While we don’t know who left those fingerprints, they are a clear reminder of the work undertaken and completed by enslaved laborers.
By bringing together both the written and archaeological record this project has brought us much closer to learning who may have lived in particular buildings. We now know the probable dwelling of enslaved woodworker John Hemings and his wife Priscilla, and have identified some of their possessions, including a mirror, a piece of furniture with a lockable drawer, and a Bible. For additional information visit the Monticello Department of Archaeology web site.
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