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Archaeology at Monticello, Home of Thomas Jefferson
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After sampling a large area using a stratified random sample, we returned to the location where we found the greatest density of early-19th-century artifacts and dug the majority of our squares. You can see that area in the center of this shot. We were on the hunt for any evidence of architectural features that dug into the subsoil, such as posts for a building.
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Overglaze Chinese porcelain rim, likely from a plate. We found this piece in plowzone during excavations on the north side of the Mountaintop. while we have other similar pieces at Monticello, this piece has the best preserved colors.
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Over the past couple of weeks, our crew has been hard at work uncovering a cellar in order to identify the structure’s size and information about its construction which will aid in dating and determining the building’s function. To figure out dimensions of the building, we exposed three of its corners, revealing that it measures 11’x11’ square. The walls are built with worked greenstone cobbles and are bonded together with a soft mortar. Portland cement is not present in this mortar, which means the walls predate the late 19th century. The purpose of the structure remains unknown, although we do have several hypotheses. The most probable hypothesis is that it served as a grain silo where silage would be left to cure during the winter months. Square silos were common between 1870 and 1900 and were rarely built thereafter. The round silo gained popularity due to its lack of interior corners which made it difficult to remove silage. This fits our working hypothesis that the cellar was likely constructed sometime between the 1870s and the turn of the century when the Levy family owned Monticello. Close examination of the mortar removed from the cellar walls will help to better define the structure’s date of construction. This structure reminds us of the changes the Levy family made to Monticello once the plantation was sold after Jefferson’s death.
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Congratulations to graduates of the 2015 field school! Thanks for all your help and enthusiasm excavating near the Jefferson Stable. 
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This past Saturday, several Monticello field school students and field crew, along with two spouses and two dads, journeyed to George Washington's Mount Vernon to help with excavations at the Slave Cemetery. One goal of this multi-year project is counting the number of enslaved burials. Our group worked alongside MV archaeologist to further expose grave shafts and test unexcavated areas. We loved the silty soil, and we especially loved our brief time on the 10YR page in the Munsell book! It was a welcome reprieve from Monticello’s clay soil and 2.5YR Munsell page.
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The Monticello-UVA Field School began this week! This year, we’re concentrating excavations in the area west of the 1808 stone Stable where we hope to find evidence of the original 1793 wooden Stable structure. We also hope to learn more about the yard space between servant house t (the reconstructed slave cabin) and the Stable. So far, students laid in quadrats and started removing topsoil. They also washed artifacts from previous excavations at the Stable and learned about ceramics during lab lecture.
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Our final site photos show the entire spatial extent of our fieldwork along the north side of the mountaintop. We enlisted the help of quadcoptors, or drones, to capture the whole area. Thanks to the guys from Aerial Video & Imagery for their help! While we haven't found any features indicating there was a building here, the large amounts of early 19th-century artifacts in the plowzone layer suggest this area may have had an early 19th-century domestic component to it. Stay tuned as we turn to cataloging and analyzing artifacts recovered from the site.
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Since early November, the field crew has been excavating on the north side of the house on the mountaintop. While the area looks to be plowzone, we’ve hit a spot with a surprisingly large amount of early 19th-century artifacts.  We’re unsure whether this was a dump site for early 19th-century domestic refuse or if we’re on the edge of a domestic site. We’ll continue to brave these chilly temperatures to find out more!
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October is Virginia Archaeology Month! 
Monticello’s Archaeology Department hosts its annual open house on October 24th from 10am to 4pm. We will host walking tours of the vanished Monticello Plantation landscape and feature our new interactive dig for archaeologists-in-training. While all the events are free, reservations for the interactive dig are required. Come see our recent discoveries from both the field and the lab!
For more information, please visit
https://www.monticello.org/…/…/events/archaeology-open-house
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The field crew has been busy uncovering a trench feature which parallels the edge of a 20th-century stone retaining wall at the Stone Stables along Mulberry Row. Excavation efforts aim to better understand the purpose of the feature. We originally thought the trench was a builder’s trench for the construction of the retaining wall or a Jefferson-era stable wall. However, we found wire nails (ca. 1890) and bits of plastic and rubber in the fill of the trench, proving that theory wrong. Further, the rocks in the trench are not laid like a foundation. The retaining wall itself exhibits at least two phases of construction. The first phase is the initial construction of the retaining wall on top an earlier c.1808 wall. The second phase of construction appears to be a repair, where smaller stones were used and bonded together with higher quality cement. We know that the stone retaining wall was constructed shortly after a storm which struck Monticello in 1927. Our new working hypothesis is that masons unearthed the older c. 1808 wall after the storm and reused it as a retaining wall. Later masons then dug a trench to repair that part of the wall that collapsed some time in the 20th century. They discarded the rocks from the collapsed wall into the trench dug for the repair. Further excavations along and possibly beneath the two walls may yield the best insight into their construction history and the function of the earlier wall. Stay tuned as we continue to dig!
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Last week, the field school and crew journeyed to the Northern Neck of Virginia to help with excavations at 44NB11, Coan Hall, a late 17th-early 18th century domestic site. To date, archaeologists from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville identified postholes, an H-shaped brick fireplace, two cellars, two fence or palisade lines, and an abundance of 17th and 18th-century artifacts, which they believe came from an earthfast house dating between 1660 and 1720. We loved the sandy plowzone, a nice break from the red Piedmont clay! Check out the project’s Facebook page, Coan Hall Archaeology UTK, for updates on their work. 
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Last week, the Monticello-UVA field school students really dug into their first few quadrats and are applying what they learned in lectures.  The students are identifying the various sediments they encounter and are finding artifacts whose production dates can help date the deposits. This combination will help us understand the use of the space between Servant House t (the reconstructed slave cabin) and the Stable. One of the challenges students face is identifying changes in the sediments and soils of the Piedmont. Our teaching assistants are helping students identify these changes by teaching them to observe subtle texture and color changes. Throughout the week, students also learned about collecting spatial information by producing field drawings and utilizing the Total Station and GPS survey technology to map the newly installed kitchen road.  Tying in our work spatially helps us develop a more comprehensive interpretation of the daily life on the Mountaintop. Students also interpret the site to curious visitors, explaining how we can understand the past through an archaeological framework, and how past interpretations may change based on results of our excavations. We look forward to further discoveries as the dig progresses.
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Explore. Analyze. Discover. The archaeology of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Introduction
The Department of Archaeology is dedicated to studying and preserving Monticello's archaeological record, and to deciphering its meaning through comparative research. Historical topics of special focus in the Department's fieldwork include landscape history and slavery, both at Monticello and in the Chesapeake region. The Department is home to the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, an Internet-based initiative designed to foster collaborative research and data sharing among archaeologists. The Department also houses extensive artifact collections from past and on-going archaeological fieldwork at Monticello.