Archaeology Blog

2024 Field School Week 2

By: Emily Brophy

This week, the 2024 field school at Poplar Forest is in full swing! Week 2 saw the completion of all of our units for this summer as part of the Stable Survey in the southeast curtilage, allowing field school students to transition and focus entirely on excavations at the 1857 Slave Dwelling. While our work in the field in the southeast curtilage is important to our archaeological understanding of Poplar Forest, students were more than happy to transition to the 1857 Slave Dwelling, where artifacts have been much more prevalent.

There are currently active units along the northern and southern sides of the structure, along with several running through the back yard to the southeast along a proposed drainage line. From late 20th century utility trenches to pieces of rubber shoe soles to a whole axe head, these new units have included a lot of discoveries so far. The air on site is buzzing with excitement for what continues to be revealed with the excavations.

On Thursday and Friday, students were given the opportunity to escape the heat and spend some time washing, bagging, and labelling artifacts in the lab. Many of the artifacts processed had been excavated just a few days before, making it a very fun and well-rounded experience!

Apart from field and lab work, students have enjoyed several very informative lectures from Poplar Forest archaeology staff members Karen McIlvoy and Erin Schwartz on various aspects of material culture and how it informs our work as archaeologists. These lectures, paired with an increase in the number of artifacts present in our units and hands-on artifact experience in the lab, has made for an incredibly exciting week. It is one thing to learn dating techniques for ceramics and the fine differences between creamware, pearlware, and whiteware. It is another thing entirely to unearth or handle a sherd of it yourself!