Poplar Forest Archaeology

"I have this summer built a wing of offices 110 feet long…"

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January Internship at Poplar Forest

My name is Amanda Phelps, and I am the archaeology lab intern for January 2014. I am a senior at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Museum Studies. After I graduate this upcoming May, I plan on either going to graduate school or working in archaeology, preferably in a museum setting, so Poplar Forest has been the ideal place to do my first internship.

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Field School Week 5: Happy 4th of July!

By: Joshua Ritzman and Anne Poulos

This week we continued working at Sites A and B, the potential location of a slave cabin and a stable. Remains of the building’s structure is evident in the amount of brick and nails that are being found through the course of digging and screening. At Site A we have excavated down to layer C and found a quartz projectile point, a buckle, beads, carved bone or turtle shell, a glass marble, nails, brick, and ceramic. At Site B there was an animal tooth, a white metal button, a piece of porcelain, cobblestones, a paste jewel, more brick, glass, and ceramics. There are also pieces that looked to be burned but we are unsure as to when the fire occurred.


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Field School Week 3

By: Kendell Porter and Andrea Zona

Though Monday morning started off rainy, we were able to get out into the field every day this week. We were all very excited about this since it had rained so much last week especially since this week concludes our final week working at the potential vegetable garden site in the southeast curtilage. We have found a few artifacts from this site and plow scars were persistent throughout.

cleaning the site

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Field School Update: Week 2

By Marissa Sarver and Alex Covert

On Monday the field school began working in the Archaeology lab due to rain. We learned how to clean artifacts and also how to sift through processed flotation samples to find much smaller artifacts. On Tuesday we were back outside and worked on uncovering new units at the Vegetable Garden Survey Site.  Four new units were uncovered and two people were assigned per unit.  Our task was to take off the top layer of soil in order to uncover features.  Hopefully we would find artifacts in the soil as well.  After excavating off the top layer of soil, features were noticeable.  We worked on mapping the features and then excavating them.  One unit had a large mound in it that would need to be evened out and excavated as a feature. Another had a large semi-rectangular shaped feature that needed to be excavated down. One unit had no features in it, and the last unit had a large plant in it so they worked the entire time on taking off the top soil with a trowel and making sure that they took the top soil down far enough around the plant.  Each pair of partners screened the dirt they found.  We found a variety of artifacts such as glass, nails, brick, and ceramics.

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Field School Week 1


Field school student Andrea screening.

Week 1

By: Nathanael Kreimeyer and Helena Gray

On Monday, the students of Poplar Forest Field School began the excavations searching for the precise location of Thomas Jefferson’s Vegetable Garden. The current area being investigated is located behind Site B, southeast of the main house. This garden was mentioned in some of Jefferson’s letters. A vague description was given of being near the stables, but not defined exactly. Screening through the topsoil was the first step, and some very interesting artifacts were found including: pieces of brick, pieces of what is thought to be a candy dish, slag, charcoal, pieces of plastic, a piece of a metal comb, hand-wrought nails, a neck of a wine bottle, and a piece of unidentified metal. So far, the artifacts do not give a definitive answer as to whether the vegetable garden once stood on the spot, but continual excavation could lead to a more definitive conclusion.

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Of Parasols and Umbrellas

In August of 1822, Reverend S.A. Bumstead of Maryland was traveling in the Charlottesville area and happened to see Thomas Jefferson out for a ride. According to the Reverend:

“He was mounted on an elegant bay horse going with speed- and he had no hat on but a lady’s parasol, stuck in his coat behind, spread its canopy over his head…I am told he always rides in this manner during the summer without any hat…” (Notes and Queries 1916: 310-311).

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