Archaeology & Landscape Restoration

Archaeologists play a major role in our understanding of Poplar Forest. Through the years, the house and landscape at Poplar Forest have changed from Jefferson’s time. Archaeological discovery and research is conducted to uncover new knowledge about Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved community at Poplar Forest, to understand how to authentically restore the house, to share new insights with the public, and to continue restoring Jefferson’s landscape.

Uncovering History

Archaeology is ongoing at Poplar Forest. Many of the elements of the Poplar Forest landscape are referenced in letters by and to Jefferson, but no documents record their exact locations. The Archaeology Department has worked diligently the last 10 years to locate and restore elements of Jefferson’s landscape from the Carriage Turnaround to trees planted in rows and clumps around the house. Archaeology can also provide information about the materials used in buildings, how long they stood, and what went on within them, as well as the arrangement and longevity of plants in the grounds.

Even when documents do exist, Jefferson’s designs were not always executed as planned, and some decisions were changed on-site. Archaeology can provide clues to challenge or flesh out the “official” record. This is especially true when studying slavery, where the perspectives of the enslaved are often absent from documents.

As the investigation continues, the full story of Poplar Forest will be revealed.

Apply to the Archaeology Field School.

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Discover the internship opportunities available at Poplar Forest.

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With your generous support, we can more fully explore Poplar Forest's landscape, to reveal the history of Jefferson's time in even greater detail.

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