Unearthing a Slave Community

Location: Orange, Virginia, United States

Sunday, March 16, 2014 to Saturday, November 1, 2014

Session dates: 
Session #1: March 16-22,Session #2: April 12-19,Session #3: April 27-May 3rd,Session #4: August 3rd-9th,Session #5: August 10-16,Session #6: August 17-23,Session #7: September 7-13,Session #8: Sept 21-27,Session #9: October 5-11,Session #10: October 19-25

Application Deadline: 
Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flyer: 2013_expedition_packet-11.pdf

Program Type

Field school


Montpelier Foundation

Project Director:

Matthew Reeves, Director of Archaeology

Project Description

Over the next several years, we will be examining a number of different archaeological sites. What makes Montpelier a wonerful property for surveys and excavations is its relative undisturbed condition. All of the sites we excavate have never been plowed--and most were abandoned in the 1840s, leaving the archaeological features in pristine condition.
In the Spring of 2014, we will be excavating a sereies of outlying quarters for field slaves as part of our on-going ensalved community study.  This project has been sponsored by the National Geographic and involves excavations of 18th century quarters on remote sections of Montpelier's wooded property (click here for more information)
Starting in the summer, we will be excavating sites in the mansion yard--one being a series of 18th century outbuildings that were razed in 1810 and buried under landscape fill and the second being the potential site of an early 19th century dairy that was buried in the 1840s.  All of this is part of a larger study to understand the 18th and 19th century landscape at the mansion.  The goals of this project are described here: click here for more information.
The Archaeology Expedition program has been operating at Montpelier for a decade-and-a-half, with many of the same volunteers returning year after year. We are, however, keen to add new faces to the program. All of the scheduled programs are designed to give participants actual excavation experience on an archaeological site working side-by-side with trained professional archaeologists. We have a staff of seven archaeologists who work with participants both in the lab and in the field, which means you have personal interaction with archaeological staff and this allows you to work on sensitive features, artifacts, and deposits that normally one would not get to handle. You are treated as a member of the research team and we step you through the entire excavation process. While you are here at Montpelier, you will be engaged in lectures, take tours of various archaeological sites on the property, and of course get a tour of the mansion.
We also host two month-long university archaeology field schools.  For more information on these, please see our field school web page.
For project updates please see our archaeology blog.
For more information contact Matthew Reeves at mreeves@montpelier.org

Period(s) of Occupation: Colonial and federal period

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 week

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Participants in the Montpelier Archaeology Expedition program stay at Arlington House, an antebellum home located on the estate's historic grounds. At Arlington House, Expedition Members have access to two kitchens and laundry facilities set within a large home featuring a dining room, living room, screen porch and eight large bedrooms and five full bathrooms. Sleeping facilities are dormitory style with two rooms reserved to accommodate couples. Participants will be responsible for preparing all of their meals.
(for pictures of Arlington House see: http://montpelier.org/archaeologyprograms/expeditions)

$700 for the 1-week expedition programs

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
State University of New York at Plattsburgh
Number of credits offered 1-6
$200 per credit


Contact Information
Matthew Reeves
PO Box 67
Montpelier Station
540-672-2728 x160
Recommended Bibliography: 
  1. 1.      A Brief Landscape History of Montpelier.  This provides a brief outline of the landscape history for the mansion as well as a summary of various excavation seasons at the mansion grounds. 
    2.      Slave Housing at Montpelier.  This article describes some of the slave homes we have uncovered at Montpelier over the past two years.  This article also provides a context for the larger work landscape at Montpelier. 
    3.      Guide to Recording Archaeology Deposits. This guide is provides detailed instructions for filling out paperwork in the field.  It is recommended that you skim this, but it will make a lot more sense once you have spent a couple of days in the field.  Print and bring!
    4.      Field Methods at Montpelier.-This guide provides detailed instructions for the various procedures we carry out in the field.  It is recommended that you skim this, but it will make a lot more sense once you have spent a couple of days in the field.  Print and bring!
    5.      Laboratory Guide. Another detailed guide, but this time for the lab.  Print and bring!
    6.      Restoration of the front landscape. Details regarding the findings from excavations in the front lawn of the mansion.  The results from these excavations led to the restoration of the Madison-era fence and carriage road (see pages 21-30 for the pertinent details)