Archaeology & Landscape Restoration

Current Excavations

Poplar Forest’s Department of Archaeology and Landscapes has recently launched a multi-year investigation of a brick building known as the 1857 Slave Dwelling. This triplex is the only standing quarter for enslaved workers from the plantation era at Poplar Forest. As we work to research and restore this important structure, we will collaborate with our African American Advisory Group as well as restoration craftsmen, architects, engineers, other experts and community members to more fully illuminate the lives of those who lived and labored at Poplar Forest in the 19th century and beyond.

Currently, Poplar Forest’s archaeologists are working on the first phase of excavations for the 1857 Slave Dwelling project. This phase supports long-term stabilization of the structure and involves two components. First, archaeologists are digging around building’s footprint, extending approximately 5 ft. outwards from the building’s base, to assess the entire potential impacted area prior to stabilization. Our team is also excavating a line of 5×5 ft. units extending east from the southeast corner of the dwelling in advance of a new drainage line. With the 2023 summer field school students, archaeologists uncovered exciting artifacts and several archaeological features, or stains in the dirt that represent postholes, plantings, or other evidence of past activity, spanning from the period before Jefferson’s retreat to modern times. Marbles, harmonicas, shoes, broken plates, and an unbroken slate promise future discoveries as we continue to dig in preparation for stabilization.

We will continue fieldwork and lab work in support of this project throughout the year. You can keep up with the latest research by following us on Facebook (Poplar Forest Archaeology) and Instagram (@pfarchaeology). Our Archaeology Blog also features in-depth posts from archaeology staff and field school students. Finally, while we are building a webpage for the entire 1857 Slave Dwelling project, you can visit us in the field Monday-Friday or join us for one of our many tours, lectures, or public dig days.

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