|Location:||Monticello, Charlottesville, VA, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||Last quarter 18th/first quarter 19th century. Phasing and mean ceramic dates can be found on the Chronology page.|
In 1981-82, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation’s Archaeology Department, under the direction of William Kelso, excavated the Building o site on Monticello’s Mulberry Row. The extensive, 1392 square foot excavation exposed the remains of housing for enslaved workers dating to c. 1770-1800, which coincides with the construction and occupation of the first Monticello mansion. There is also evidence for a post-1800 occupation.
Despite the proximity of the Building o site to Jefferson’s mansion and its original kitchen in the cellar of the detached South Pavilion, the construction and demolition of log cabins on the site received little comment in contemporary documents. A single glimpse is afforded by Jefferson’s 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration:
o. a servant’s house 20 ½ f. by 12 f. of wood, with a wooden chimney, & earth floor. from o. it is 103 feet to E. the stone out house
Because the “stone out house” still stands-now called the Weaver’s Cottage-it is possible to place Building o on the landscape. As recent archaeological analysis using DAACS data reveals, it is likely that the building mentioned in the Mutual Assurance Declaration is the second generation of construction on the Building o site.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
In 1979, in order to track the postholes of Jefferson’s 1809 garden paling, Kelso initially opened a line of excavation units bordering the southeastern edge of the Building o site. Between 1981 and 1982, he extended the excavation to the northwest, opening forty-two units between the steep embankment above the vegetable garden and Mulberry Row, an area of 24 by 58 feet.
Only in the area bordering Mulberry Row did excavators find evidence of modern intrusion. Twentieth-century road work had cut into the edge of the site. More extensive damage had been caused by the root growth of a flanking Kentucky coffee tree. It had destroyed any evidence of the northwestern foundation of Building o.
Excavators initially laid out a grid of 10-by-10 foot units with 2-foot balks. As work proceeded, removal of the balks and extension of the site resulted in the excavation of quadrats varying in size from 2 by 2 feet to 8 by 8 feet. Recovery of artifacts in all units employed a method of careful troweling without the use of screens. Some lapses in stratigraphic control occurred. Notably, a portion of the contents of the large sub-floor pit was removed with the occupational level surrounding it. Although excavators recorded opening and closing elevations for most quadrats, these measurements are not related to a known, fixed datum point.
Summary of research and analysis
Analysis of the Building o site has been periodically revisited since excavation in the early 1980s. Recent recataloguing of the assemblage by DAACS and related reanalysis of the site stratigraphy by the Monticello Department of Archaeology has provided new insights into the history and dynamics of the site.
Prior to DAACS reanalysis of the Building o site, interpretation assumed that only one building event had occurred at the Building o site and that event was captured by Jefferson’s 1796 description of Building o. Kelso (Kelso et al. 1984; Kelso 1997)-based on his calculation of mean ceramic dates-estimated that enslaved house servants occupied the site between 1770 and 1800. An overlay of artifact-rich fill, which he dated to c. 1810, sealed the occupation context. Because of the type, quality, and quantity of artifacts, Kelso concluded that the inhabitants of Building o enjoyed a standard of living significantly above that of other enslaved people living on Mulberry Row; for example, in comparison with Building l. The results of Crader’s faunal analysis (Crader 1990) agreed with this conclusion.
Kelso interpreted all the architectural features as representing fragmentary evidence of the 20.5-by-12 foot, single-room, log cabin specified by Jefferson; the three surviving stone wall segments formed part of a continuous dry-laid foundation underpinning the structure. The unaligned stones outside the northeastern gable end located the base of the “wooden” or wattle-and-daub chimney. Kelso argued that a small, brick-lined storage pit had been inserted into its hearth. The larger, stone-lined pit occupied much of the floor space and, therefore, must have been covered with planks creating a wooden floor. Brick paving in the northwest corner may have been the base of a corner stair or a doorway, or both. In support, Kelso used structural evidence from a standing, antebellum log cabin at Bremo Recess, a nineteenth-century plantation thirty miles south of Monticello.
Sanford, field supervisor during the excavation, included Building o in his doctoral dissertation (Sanford 1995). He concurred with Kelso’s analysis of the structure. Sanford extended the discussion to include the features in the cabin’s flanking yards and suggested their potential for understanding activities on the site. Each yard contained a shallow depression filled with occupational debris. He proposed that a 6-by-6 foot area of brick and stone paving on the northwest side may have been the base of a small shelter, possibly used for dairying. Extending down from the southeast corner towards the garden was a drainage ditch. Sanford noted that its fill contained higher amounts of iron and metal-working debris than any other domestic quarter on the Row.
Shumate, who joined the Monticello field crew in the mid-1980s, subsequent to the excavation of Building o, tangentially touched on Building o in his master’s thesis (Shumate 1992). He observed that the configuration of wall fragments suggested that more than one building episode could be represented at the site. He urged that additional stratigraphic and artifactual analysis be undertaken; reliance on a single document-the Mutual Assurance Declaration-tended to prejudice interpretation and obscure the rich depositional history.
Recent reanalysis using DAACS data bears out Shumate’s suspicion (Arendt 2003; Arendt and Sawyer 2002; Galle and Neiman 2002; Grillo 2002; Hill 2002a and 2002b; Neiman et al. 2003). The three surviving fragments of stone foundation walls represent two distinct episodes of construction. Based on ceramic dates, the first log cabin went up in the 1770s. This earlier structure had been destroyed by the early 1790s and replaced by the 20.5-by-12 foot Building o Jefferson described in 1796. Construction and use of the second cabin obliterated almost all features of the first dwelling. Building o had a large, 5-by-8 foot sub-floor pit, suggesting use by a single family or closely related group of people (Neiman 1997). The placement of the contemporaneous brick-lined pit implies that the eastern gable end contained the heat source.
As Kelso noted, a layer of subsoil fill encapsulated the features associated with Building o and its predecessor. The source of the deposit, however, is more likely the excavation in 1801 of the hillside between the mansion and the South Pavilion for the construction of the south dependency wing rather than the later garden excavation. The early nineteenth-century artifacts contained in the fill might have been deposited with trash onto the site. An alternative explanation is that they represent the remains of a third log cabin, which rested directly on the ground and has left no architectural trace.
The fine-grained recataloguing of the Mulberry Row assemblage under DAACS prompts researchers to readdress previous conclusions and formulate new questions. Comparison of the assemblage of Building o with Buildings l, r, s, and t reveals a complex picture of the behavior of slaves living on Mulberry Row. Preliminary studies suggest that the surviving objects at Building o do not appear to be of superior quality or quantity than other Mulberry Row sites, but are different. Variation in the kinds of artifacts (for example, buttons and ceramics) at each site appear to be a function of both changes in the offerings of the market place and the motivation of the choices made by slaves. (Arendt 2003; Heath 2003; Neiman et al. 2003; Olson 2003).
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Things you need to know about Building o before you use the data:
- The entire site was carefully hand-troweled and screens were not used for artifact recovery.
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- Building o was excavated using the “Wheeler Box” excavation system of 8-by-8 foot quadrats with 2-foot baulks. Unit size varies from 8-by-8 foot and 2-by-2 foot quadrats to 4-by-10 foot quadrats.
The original excavators of the Building o site did not assign numbers to individual features. DAACS staff has assigned feature numbers using the original excavation records. Feature Numbers assigned by DAACS have a F-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. F01 equals Feature 1).
Excavated contexts that belong to the same depositional basin (e.g. a posthole and postmold or the layers in a single pit) have been assigned a single feature number. In addition, single contexts have been given feature numbers when the original field records indicate that the excavators recognized a context’s spatial distinctiveness from surrounding contexts.
Feature groups are sets of features whose spatial arrangements indicate they were part of a single structure (e.g. structural postholes, subfloor pits, and hearth) or landscape element (e.g. postholes that comprise a fenceline). Feature Groups assigned by DAACS have a FG-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. FG01 equals Feature Group 1).
|F04||Paving, brick||524F, 542AB, 524AB|
|F05||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||402F|
|F06||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||410AA, 410AB, 410AC, 410AD, 410AE, 402AB, 402AC, 402AD, 402AE|
|F14||Posthole, possible||546D, 546E|
|F16||Posthole, possible||403G, 538C|
|F20||Posthole||186G, 190D, 190E|
|F08||Unidentified||405C, 406C, 408E|
|F09||Pit, unidentified||540AB, 546AB|
|F10||Pit, unidentified||530AB, 548AB|
DAACS Seriation Method
DAACS staff developed a frequency-seriation based chronology for the Building o site (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). DAACS seriated ceramic assemblages, with more than five sherds, from individual excavated contexts and from stratigraphic groups — groups of contexts that field records indicate were part of a single stratigraphic layer or deposit. DAACS assigned such contexts to the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups have a SG-prefix, which precedes the group number (e.g. SG01 equals Stratigraphic Group 1). For example, at Building o, two portions of a single layer, described by the excavators as “orange clay with greenstone,” spanned two adjacent quadrats (536 and 537). The two layer segments were excavated as 536C and 537B. DAACS assigned these contexts to a single stratigraphic group (SG13). Not all contexts have stratigraphic group assignments.
DAACS chose to base the seriation chronology for the Building o site on ceramic assemblages aggregated at the level of contexts and stratigraphic groups, and not at the level of features. This is because most contexts and stratigraphic groups on the site were not parts of features. For the relatively few cases where seriated contexts and stratigraphic groups were parts of features, the relevant feature numbers and descriptions are included in the seriation chronology table below.
DAACS computed the frequency of mean-ceramic-date (MCD) types in each stratigraphic group and each individual context that had no stratigraphic group assignment. The seriation chronology is derived from a correspondence analysis of these MCD-type frequencies. Seriated stratigraphic groups and contexts were assigned to phases. Phases are groups of assemblages that have similar correspondence-analysis scores and are therefore inferred to be broadly contemporary. Phases assigned by DAACS have a P-prefix that precedes the phase number (e.g. P01 equals Phase 1).
The stratigraphic relationships among stratigraphic groups and unassigned contexts are summarized in the Harris Matrix for the site. Phase assignments from the seriation are shown on the Harris Matrix in color, facilitating comparison of the seriation chronology and the stratigraphic chronology of the site.
Building o Site Phases
Based on the correspondence analysis, DAACS divided the Building o site occupation into five phases. Mean ceramic dates for the five Building ophases are given in the table below. The table also includes two estimates of the TPQ for each phase. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the MCD-types in the assemblage. The second estimate — TPQp90 — is the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates among all the shreds in the assemblage, based on their MCD-types. This TPQ estimate is more robust against excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might have introduces a few anomalously late sherds in an assemblage.
The phases are massively time averaged. This is the result of both site formation processes and excavation and analytical errors, which may have combined, in a single context or stratigraphic group, deposits from different time periods. Each phase represents deposition over many decades and there is considerable overlap between the periods represented by successive phases.
Phase 1 includes a pit (F10, SG04) dug into a buried-A horizon (SG10) that the excavators referred to as “the occupation zone.” Although there were no artifacts associated with it, the southeast-corner foundation segment (F01) may also date to Phase 1. Phase 2 is comprised of assemblages from contexts associated with Building o, as described on the 1796 Mutual Assurance Plat for Monticello. This structure (FG02) is represented by the southern and western wall segments (F02, F03), the brick paving (F04), and two subfloor pits (F06, F05). Only the larger of the two subfloor pits (F06, SG09) contained a sample of ceramics large enough to be included in the seriation. Most artifacts from Phase 2 occur in the buried-A horizon (SG10) that surrounded these features. Phases 3, 4, and 5 include assemblages from layers that overlay SG10. Phase 3 includes the displaced subsoil (SG13) that was probably excavated upslope in connection with construction of the south dependency wing of Monticello mansion in 1801. Phases 4 and 5 contain significant amounts of post-Jefferson era material.
A Seriation Chronology for the Building o Site
The following table presents a seriation chronology for the Building o site. We use the indefinite article to signify that it is not the only chronology possible, nor even the best one possible.
Building o Harris Matrix
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff has identified as part of the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups and contexts are represented as boxes, while lines connecting them represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
Stratigraphic groups, which represent multiple contexts, are identified on the diagram by their numeric designations (e.g. SG10) followed by the original excavator’s descriptions of them (e.g. “occupation zone”). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 622A).
Boxes with color fill represent contexts and stratigraphic groups with ceramic assemblages large enough to be included in the DAACS seriation of the site (see Chronology). Their seriation-based phase assignments are denoted by different colors to facilitate evaluation of the agreement between the stratigraphic and seriation chronologies. Grey boxes represent contexts that were not included in the seriation because of small ceramic samples.
See Building o Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information.
This Harris Matrix is based on data on stratigraphic relationships recorded among contexts in the DAACS database. It was drawn with the ArchEd application. See http://www.ads.tuwien.ac.at/arched/index.html.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [186.82 KB PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with excavation units and features labeled.
Arendt, Beatrix , Fraser D. Neiman , and Jillian E. Galle
2003 Model Consumers? Clues to Ceramic Acquisition at Slave Quarter Sites in the Greater Chesapeake. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
2003 Acquire This: A Study of Ceramic Stylistic Variability at Monticello, Mount Vernon, and Stratford Hall. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Crader, Diana C.
1990 Slave Diet at Monticello. In American Antiquity 55(4): 690-717.
Galle, Jillian E., and Fraser D. Neiman
2003 Patterns of Tea and Tableware Consumption of Late Eighteenth-Century Slave Quarter Sites. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Galle, Jillian E., and Fraser D. Neiman
2002 An Elemental Approach to Ceramic Stylistic Analysis. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Mobile, Alabama. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Grillo, Katherine M.
2002 Building o: An Archaeological Reanalysis of a Mulberry Row Slave Quarter. Unpublished senior thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Harris, Edward C.
1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London, England.
Heath, Barbara J.
2003 A Comparative Analysis of African-American Adornment Practices in the Chesapeake. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
2002a Summary of Archaeological Excavations by Site. Mulberry Row Project. Unpublished report on file at the Jefferson Library, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville Virginia.
2002b Summary of Archaeological and Documentary Evidence for Excavated and Standing Buildings on Mulberry Row., Mulberry Row Project. Unpublished report on file at the Jefferson Library, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville Virginia.
Kelso, William M.
1986a The Archaeology of Slave Life at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: “A Wolf by the Ears.” In t Journal of New World Archaeology 6(4): 5-20.
Kelso, William M., Sondy Sanford , Diana C. Johnson , Anna Gruber , and Douglas W. Sanford
1984 A Report on the Archaeological Excavations at Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1982-1983. Submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Appendix A (D. Sanford), Appendix B (Crader), Appendix C (S. Sanford), Appendix E (Gruber). Manuscript on file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Kelso, William M.
1986b Mulberry Row: Slave Life at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. In t Archaeology 39(5): 28-35.
Kelso, William M.
1997 Archaeology at Monticello: Artifacts of Everyday Life in the Plantation Community. Monticello Monograph Series. Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Neiman, Fraser D., Jillian E. Galle , and Derek Wheeler
2003 Chronological Inference and DAACS. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Neiman, Fraser D.
2008 The lost world of Monticello: an evolutionary perspective. Journal of Anthropological Research 64(2):161-193.
Olson, Heather L.
2003 ‘Constantly Employed’: Chronological and Regional Differences in Tool Use at Seven Slave Sites in the Virginia Chesapeake. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sanford, Douglas W.
1995 The Archaeology of Plantation Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: Context and Process in an American Slave Society. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Sawyer, Jesse , and Beatrix Arendt
2002 Following the Yellow Brick Road: The DAACS-Munsell Color Range System. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Mobile, Alabama. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Shumate, M. Scott
1992 Georgian Worldview: Its Definition, History, and Influence on the Material World of Thomas Jefferson. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee.