Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Archaeology at the Stable Quarter–Part 2

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 archaeology 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.

Source from : http://montpelier.org

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