Poplar Forest was excited to once again host its Field School in Historical Archaeology last summer through the University of Virginia. We welcomed five students who learned the skills and practices essential to historical archaeology as they complete their undergraduate degrees at a variety of schools, including George Mason, Kansas State, Wake Forest and the University of Lynchburg. Students not only gained experience at Poplar Forest as they worked alongside our skilled professional archaeology staff, but also visited historic sites beyond Poplar Forest, traveling to archaeological excavations and laboratories at Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Montpelier.
During the field school, the students continued an archaeological survey begun prior to the pandemic to search for a stable we believe could have been located near the southeast curtilage, based on details revealed in Jefferson’s documents. While the students recovered many artifacts this summer, very little of the material was horse related. Instead, these artifacts are more likely related to an early-19th-century slave quarter occupied during the time that Poplar Forest served as Jefferson’s retreat. Materials found include architectural remains, such as window glass, wrought nails and brick, as well as domestic artifacts, such as a fork and a variety of ceramics. The students also found archaeological features dating from this time period, laying the groundwork for future excavations designed to shed light on this important place where people lived and worked within the larger landscape of Jefferson’s retreat home and plantation.