Archaeology Blog

Field School 2016

by Caitlyn Johnson, Summer Research Intern

Monday June 6 marked the start of the 2016 Poplar Forest Archaeology Field School. This year’s field work focuses on what is possibly a slave quarter from the 1830’s to 1850’s. The site was discovered during archaeological survey work conducted in preparation for building a new visitor entrance and access road into Poplar Forest. The concentration of this field school is on locating the boundaries of the site and pinpointing the exact location of the structure that once stood here. During the first two weeks we began excavations in the southern end of the site. Our first three units yielded a minimal amount of artifacts compared to other areas of the site. This provides a boundary along the south end and suggests that any building remains are likely located further to the north. Upon learning this, we shifted our focus approximately 50 feet to north of these first units in an area where we had previously found a concentration of nails.

In our second week we began excavating two new units which have begun to yield a concentration of artifacts, including ceramics, bottle glass, and one of our most exciting finds has been a padlock key. To learn more about keys and locks, check out our blog post here: We will continue to open up units in this area looking for structural features, such as post holes, hearths, or in-ground storage pits.

Our field school students have also been helping out elsewhere. Early morning on June 9th the field school traveled to Botetourt County to aid in the excavation of the Greenfield Preston Plantation. Although unassociated with our focus site, this opportunity allowed the students to develop their skills as archaeologists and helped to perfect their troweling, screening, and overall excavation techniques. During this excavation several interesting and exciting artifacts were found! Butchered animal remains, ceramics, and buttons, just to list a few. This experience helped to build the students confidence while also creating better bonds between them and creating new and unique memories.

A good portion of Friday, the 11th, was spent in the archaeology lab working on the cleaning, labeling, and organizing of discovered artifacts due to a rain storm. After a lecture by Jack Gary on Jefferson and Ceramics, students learned to wash and properly record artifacts and their association with sites. Through the cleaning and logging of the artifacts we take an important step towards a more accurate and developed understanding of the site and the analysis one is capable of making, not only on these artifacts, but of the features found within the site.

Field School 2016