Monticello Plantation was home to Thomas Jefferson, his family, and scores of enslaved African Americans and their families from about 1770 until Jefferson's death in 1826. Thomas Jefferson's landholdings in Albemarle County totaled some 5,000 acres. Initially Jefferson grew tobacco at Monticello, as did nearly all eighteenth-century Chesapeake slave owners, including his father. However in the early 1790's, induced by increased local competition among tobacco producers and changes in wheat prices on Atlantic markets, he moved toward more diversified agricultural strategy, centered on the cultivation of wheat for sale on European markets. From the 1770's until his death, the total number of enslaved laborers working at Monticello and Jefferson's Bedford, Virginia plantation, Poplar Forest, fluctuated around 200, with 120 to 140 working at Monticello (Stanton 2000).
Archaeological research at Monticello has a long history, dating back to the 1950's. That history falls neatly into two periods, each with a different spatial focus. In the first period, extending to the mid 1990's, fieldwork concentrated on the areas immediately adjacent to Monticello mansion, the house Jefferson began building in 1770, and especially on Mulberry Row, the thousand-foot long path adjacent to it. The second period of research began in 1997 and is ongoing. Field research is organized around the Monticello Plantation Archaeological Survey, an ongoing project which aims to cover the roughly 2000-acre core of Jefferson's Plantation, currently owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, with a shovel test pits on 40-foor intervals (Neiman 2008). Intensive area excavations target specific sites found during the survey. Data from Mulberry Row excavations, the Plantation Survey and from the site-focused excavations it has spawned are available in DAACS.