Week One Update
2012 Field School Photos and Activity Summaries
Week One Update: Dina Meller
The first week of the archaeological field school at Poplar Forest started on Monday, June 4. This year six participating students will help test and open up new excavation units as they try to find the remains of several important Jefferson-era landscape features, including the stables and vegetable garden.. Documentary evidence suggests the existence of stables flanking the plant nursery with Jefferson’s vegetable garden also standing nearby. The location of the nursery was confirmed by a previous excavation, and can be read about here - http://www.poplarforest.org/sites/default/files/PFArchaeologyIMLS.pdf.
As an introduction to Poplar Forest, Monday began with a lecture about the history of the home and the landscape surrounding it. We were also given a brief overview of the fundamentals of excavation and set out to sift through piles of Virginia red clay dirt from the vegetable garden site. Those piles yielded a few artifacts such as a nail, pieces of warped glass, and sherds of ceramic. We will focus more on this site later in the field school.
On Tuesday the group had a tour of the restored Poplar Forest House by the Director of Architectural Restoration, who explained the process of "excavating" a standing structure and restoring it to its former glory. The building will be exhibited unfinished, much as it was during the years Thomas Jefferson dwelled in it. We then continued screening soil trying to locate the vegetable garden, and began digging new test pits on the ridge of a low hill in an attempt to locate one of the stables.
We spent Wednesday at Monticello - Jefferson's famous mountaintop home. We visited the archaeology lab there, and had a tour of their excavation sites and a tour of the house itself. Afterwards, we walked around the grounds, enjoyed the ornamental gardens and vineyard, and visited Jefferson's grave.
Thursday started out with a lecture about material culture as a preamble to what we will need to know in order to professionally handle and recognize artifacts in the field or in the lab. We ended the day by finishing our second shovel test pit for the stable survey site.
On Friday morning we had a lecture on historical ecology that discussed the ways humans shaped the landscape and how. the landscape itself often shaped the way the people lived and worked in this part of Virginia. We also had a walking tour of the Poplar Forrest plantation grounds and all the archaeological sites and excavations on it. Later we continued to dig the test pits at the stable survey site. The students excavated 25 test pits total. The results will be discussed in the second week.
Field school students shovel testing along the ridge south of the plant nursery.
Screening the soil from one of the test pits.
One of the many rocks encountered in the test pits.
Meet Claire and Caitlin
Meet Micheal and Brittney
Meet Cheyenne and Dina