Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Piecing Together History in the Archaeology Ceramics Workshop

Winter brings a nip to the air. It’s perfect weather for sitting inside and working on a satisfying puzzle. At Montpelier, we have the perfect way to fuel a passion for history and winter puzzles: the Montpelier Archaeology Department’s 4th annual Ceramics Workshop, January 23-29, 2011.

The past summer’s archaeological excavations of an 18th-century slave quarter have yielded boxes full of ceramics, some similar to those of James and Dolley Madison and some uniquely from the households of the enslaved people. Workshop participants will work side-by-side Montpelier’s professional archaeologists to piece together Montpelier’s history, one sherd at a time.

During the workshop, participants will get the “behind-the-scenes” view as they work in the archaeology laboratory. They will see how the ceramics go from the field to the display cabinet—from individual fragments covered in dirt, to restored vessels. They will also learn how to catalog and to identify the different types of pottery, whether pearlware, whiteware, creamware, and all of the various decorative patterns including Dolley’s distinctive “Bamboo and Peony.” Participants will also gain a unique understanding of how artifacts are unearthed in an excavation, and what they can tell us about Montpelier’s enslaved community.

Ceramics Workshop attendees will have the unique opportunity to live on the Montpelier grounds in the Arlington House for a week. Just imagine waking up to the same sunrises James and Dolley saw when they lived here!

Join the fun in cross-mending the ceramics in a process that has been described as a challenging jigsaw puzzle, without a picture to work from. For more information on joining the archaeology team for a week, please visit the Montpelier website . See you in the lab!

For more interesting topics related to archaeology, visit archaeology excavations.

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