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.
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.
Take a look at the most recent excavation efforts aimed at accurately restoring Poplar Forest to its Jefferson-era appearance.
Letters and others documents uncovered at Poplar Forest help reveal the spirit of the enslaved men, women and children who lived and toiled at Poplar Forest.
Wing of Offices
In 1814, Jefferson’s Wing of Offices was added between the east side of the house and the east mound.
Archaeologists at Poplar Forest are on a continuing search for evidence of the Poplar Forest landscape that existed during Jefferson’s time.
Articles & Publications
Take a look at some of the reports, articles and conference papers that have been developed and delivered by Poplar Forest’s archeological staff.
Ask the Experts
Have a question for a member of the Poplar Forest archeological staff? We’ll do our best to find your answer.
Read up on the most current archeological discoveries at Poplar Forest, helping us better understanding Jefferson’s historic landscape.
"No occupation is so delightful to me as
the culture of the earth,
and no culture comparable
to that of a garden..."