Archaeology Field School

A Unique Learning Experience at Thomas Jefferson’s Retreat
Field School Dates:  June 1 – July 10, 2015

mountains.sub-medium Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and the University of Virginia are pleased to offer the Twenty-Seventh Annual Summer Field School in Historical Archaeology. The field school provides a foundation in current methods and theories of historical archaeology, and offers a solid introduction to the practical skills of site survey, excavation, recording, and laboratory procedures. Students will also actively participate in our ongoing interpretation of archaeology to the public. In the summer of 2015, field school participants will excavate sites associated with Poplar Forest’s enslaved residents as we attempt to better understand their lives by looking at the places they worked and lived. These sites may include slave quarters, barns, a blacksmith’s shop, and other activity areas associated with the operation of a plantation. The sites will span the late 18th century through the mid-19th century, allowing us to track changes in the landscapes of the plantation over time. The study of these sites will provide new information for Poplar Forest’s interpretive efforts that can be included in signage and tours that help our visitors better understand the lives of the many people, both free and enslaved, that lived on this plantation.

What Would I Do at the Poplar Forest Field School?
Students will spend 40 hours a week at Poplar Forest, with most of the time split between the excavation site and the archaeology laboratory. Strenuous daily activity will require physical endurance and good health. Participants will have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art equipment and software, including a total station for recording field information, GPS receivers for collecting spatial data over large areas, a database system containing both the archaeological artifact and context records, and a complete inventory of over 1,000 historical documents relating to Poplar Forest.

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Field School Schedule

The program includes weekly readings on topics in historical archaeology; lectures by staff and noted authorities covering such topics as landscape history, plantation life, nineteenth-century material culture; professional opportunities in historical archaeology; and the role of public archaeology. As part of the program, students will also participate in a half-day workshop on architectural restoration and preservation philosophy. On-site work is supplemented by field trips to sites where historical archaeology is underway. Students will be asked to observe and evaluate strategies used by these sites to incorporate archaeology into their public interpretation.

Week 1 Orientation to Poplar Forest, instruction, initial excavation, discussion of readings, field trip

Week 2 Field and lab work at Poplar Forest, guest lecture, discussion of readings

Week 3 Field and lab work at Poplar Forest, overnight field trip, discussion of readings

Week 4 Field and lab work at Poplar Forest, guest lecture, discussion of readings

Week 5 Field and lab work at Poplar Forest, discussion of readings

Week 6 Conclusion of field work, field trip, summation of activities


What if I’ve Never Studied Archaeology or Been on a “Dig”?
The Poplar Forest Field School is designed for the beginner. While some will bring previous experience, for most participants, this will be their first archaeological field school.

DSCN8994.smallWho Should Attend?
Graduate and undergraduate students in anthropology, archaeology, history, or historic preservation; museum volunteers and staff; public and private school teachers in social studies and related subjects; individuals interested in pursuing archaeology as a career; individuals interested in archaeology, history, and early American Southern culture; students of Jefferson, African-American, and early American history. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and have finished high school.

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University Credit
This field school in historical archaeology carries six credits from the University of Virginia’s School of Arts and Sciences. Students who do not attend the University of Virginia should check with their degree-granting institution to verify transferability of credits.

Tuition & Scholarship Assistance
All participants accepted into the field school will receive a scholarship from Poplar Forest. This is a tuition grant that covers half of the tuition charge for six credit hours. With this scholarship assistance, Virginia resident undergraduates will pay $1,047 and Virginia resident graduate students will pay $1,176. Out-of-state undergraduate students will pay $3,741 and out of state graduate students will pay $2,382. The university also charges a $120 off-grounds administrative fee to all students.

DSCN7611 (adjusted).sub-mediumAccommodations
Air conditioned accommodations are available at Lynchburg College. Estimated cost is $35 per day. Students are responsible for their own meals and transportation to the site each day. Students are free to make other housing arrangements as well.

Special Needs 
If your attendance requires any aids or services as addressed in the Americans with Disabilities Act, please inform us at least two weeks prior to the course. Call the University of Virginia School of Continuing and Professional Studies at (434) 982-5294.

Poplar Forest Archaeology Instructors
Jack Gary, Director of Archaeology and Landscapes
Mr. Gary’s research interests include plantation landscapes, the material culture of slavery, environmental investigations of historic landscapes, and the applications of GIS to historical archaeology.

Eric Proebsting, Ph.D., Senior Research Archaeologist
Dr. Proebsting’s research interests include nineteenth-century North America, landscape archaeology, environmental archaeology, and historical ecology.

Jennifer Ogborne, Ph.D., Laboratory Supervisor
Dr. Ogborne’s research interests include foodways, labor relations, industrial archaeology, historical ecology, zooarchaeology, and topics related to Virginia plantations and nineteenth-century material culture.

Contact Jack Gary, Director of Archaeology and Landscapes
(434) 534-8105

Please submit your application by filling out the form below and attaching your résumé. A statement of personal and professional reasons for participating is required.

  • Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx.