|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.|
|Excavator(s):||Dr. William Kelso and Dr. Douglas Sanford.|
Excavation in 1984-85 of the 1192 square foot Building t site exposed features associated with two phases of slave quarter construction on Mulberry Row. As expected, mechanical removal of early 20th-century roadwork revealed evidence (F05), albeit scant, of the easternmost of three log dwellings built in the mid-1790s and recorded by Jefferson on his 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration as Building t. The unanticipated discovery of a cluster of four sub-floor pits (F01-04) representing an earlier barracks-style quarter, named the Negro Quarter, offers a rare insight into the conditions of enslaved laborers living on Mulberry Row between the 1770s and 1790.
In January of 1773, Jefferson purchased three slaves, Ursula and her sons, Bagwell and George. He probably also bought her husband Great George about this same time, but no record of the transaction survives (Bear and Stanton 1997:334). Their third son Isaac Jefferson, born at Monticello in 1775, recalled in 1847 that “the feedin’ place [for Jefferson’s deer park] was right by the house whar Isaac stayed” (Bear, ed. 1967:21-22). This house could well have been the Negro Quarter, located 200’ from the Park gate of the 1770s and 1780s (Jefferson: N131, N132, N221, N130). If Isaac did live there, archaeological evidence tells us that his family shared these quarters with as many as three other families, each with access to their own sub-floor pit (F01-04).
On his 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration, Jefferson described three buildings on the south side of Mulberry Row between the new log stables and the extant 1770s stone Workmen’s House (now called the Weaver’s Cottage):
r. which as well as s. and t. are servants houses of wood with wooden chimnies, & earth floors, 12. by 14. feet, each and 27. feet apart from one another. from t. it is 85 feet to F. the stable [subsequently replaced by the stone stables, which still stands at the eastern end of Mulberry Row]
These three log cabins were constructed no earlier than the winter of 1793-94 and formed part of Jefferson’s preparations to rebuild his house after his first retirement in 1794 (Hill 2002a and b).In September of 1792, Jefferson wrote from Washington to his overseer Minoah Clarkson:
Five log houses are to be built at the places I have marked out, of chesnut logs, hewed on two sides and split with the saw, and dove tailed…They are to be covered [i.e., roofed] and lofted with slabs…Racks and mangers in three of them for stables. (Boyd et al. 1950, vol. 24:412-414)
In August of 1793, his son-in-law Thomas Mann Randolph wrote Jefferson that work on the “two houses for the servants are not yet built” but declared his intention to begin construction “as soon as the fall of the leaves commences” (Boyd et al. 1950, vol. 26:667). By 1796, Buildings r, s, and t were evidently in place: three dwellings, rather than the two originally planned.
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
Exploration of the presumed location of Buildings r, s, and t began in the spring of 1983 with the mechanical removal of the modern overburden: a 1934 paved parking lot; a layer of furnace detritus; and rubble from a 1925 parking lot (Sanford 1995:196). Archaeologists plotted the probable locations of the three buildings using measurements provided by Jefferson’s 1796 Mutual Assurance Declaration. Kelso treated each projected house site and its surrounding yard as a separate excavation. He undertook work on the Building t site last, in 1984-1985.
Four features (F01-04) discovered at the Building t site provided a surprising revelation. These shallow, partially graded, depressions contained fragments of ceramics dating to c. 1770-90, wood, ash, charcoal, and brick. Based on his experience at sites in the Chesapeake Tidewater, Kelso determined that these were the remains of sub-floor pits (F01-04) and evidence of an early, previously unknown slave quarter, which he named the Negro Quarter based on a notation in a Jefferson document (Jefferson: N87, N88).
Exposure of the Building t site revealed that 20th-century roadwork had graded away most of the architectural evidence of Building t. Only the lower portion of its sub-floor pit (F05) remained intact, along with four post holes (F13-16) of the 1809 garden fence. The dating of this fence is well documented, as is the activity of enlarging and leveling the vegetable garden which immediately preceded its construction (Betts 1976: 359-382).
In 1984, excavation proceeded within a 10′ X 10′ grid oriented on axis with the Monticello mansion. Quadrats of 8′ X 8′ were opened initially, leaving 2′ balks on two sides. Subsequent removal of the balks resulted in the excavation of units of varying sizes, from 2’ X 2’ to 2’ X 10’. Within units, excavation proceeded in natural levels. Opening and closing elevations were recorded, but measurements were not related to a fixed datum point. Excavators used a method of careful troweling to recover artifacts, but they did not use screens.
Summary of research and analysis
Excavation of the Building t site recovered not only the anticipated remains of the documented mid-1790s single-family slave dwelling—Building t—but also features associated with an earlier, undocumented multi-family quarter, which Kelso named the Negro Quarter. DAACS completed recataloguing of the Building t site assemblage in early 2003, but reanalysis of the data has not yet been undertaken.
In addition to the sub-floor pit (F05) associated with Building t, excavation revealed a cluster of four sub-floor pits (F01-F04), which Kelso recognized as the remains of an earlier, barracks-style slave quarter. Ceramics recovered from these sealed contexts bracket the occupation of the Negro Quarter between the early 1770s and c. 1790 (cf. 1776/78-1790 acc. Kelso et al. 1985:37; Sanford 1995:180). Numerous lumps of fired clay and fragments of burnt wood indicate that, by intention or accident, flames destroyed this log dwelling. These artifacts also provide clues about the manner of its construction. Burning preserved pieces of chinking that bear the impressions of the debarked trees used to construct the house’s log cribbing. Once in place, builders apparently crammed clay from the inside against riven clapboards applied to the exterior. Marks of the fingers of enslaved workmen and the reverse mold of overlapping sheathing boards are evident on several large fragments of chinking. Many pieces of burnt clapboard were recovered from the sub-floor pits, including a recognizable portion of a tapered or ‘feathered’ end (Hill 2002a and b).
Kelso presented his conclusions about the appearance of Building s and, by extension, Building t, in an isometric drawing published in 1997 (p. 60, fig. 21). It illustrates a 12’ x 14’, one-room cabin crafted of logs squared off on four sides. The windows of s are depicted with wooden shutters. However, window glass from the sealed context of the sub-floor pit of Building t (F05) and the 1809 postholes (F13-16) indicate that the structure had glazed fenestration during the first ten years of its occupation (Hill 2002a and b). In Kelso’s rendering of Building s, a single door stands in the northern gable end opposite an exterior wattle-and-daub chimney. The sub-floor pit (Building s site, F01) is centered in front of the hearth. In contrast, the sub-floor pit of Building t appears to have been placed off-center within the building. These deviations suggest that, although Buildings r, s, and t may have begun life together, they had distinct occupational histories.
Twentieth-century road work graded away nearly all the structural evidence of Building t. Only the lower few inches of a 3’ X 3’ 6” sub-floor pit (F05) survived. Consequently, conclusions about the appearance of Building t rely on inferences based on the better preserved features of Building s. The Jefferson documents noted above strongly link the timing and manner of the construction of these two dwellings. Sanford (Kelso et al. 1985) initially dated the destruction of Building t to c.1810, twenty years earlier than Building s. He based his estimate on ceramics that had been recovered from the adjacent garden bed excavation prior to the work at the Building t site (p. 24). He later revised his estimate to 1820 (Sanford 1995:181). Preliminary DAACS analysis extends the date of occupation forward another decade to the early 1830s.
Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Things you need to know about Building t 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 t was excavated using the “Wheeler Box” excavation system of 8-by-8 foot quadrats with 2-foot balks. Unit size varies from 8-by-8 foot and 2-by-2 foot quadrats to 2-by-8 foot quadrats.
- Much of the Building t site had been disturbed by the construction activities relating to 1925 and 1934 parking lot construction episodes. Only the lower portion of Building t’s sub-floor pit [953H] remained undisturbed. The living surface and foundation of both the dwelling and chimney had been destroyed.
- Underlying Building t is the “Negro Quarter,” an early slave quarter associated with the first period of Jefferson’s occupation at Monticello. This quarter is defined by four sub-floor pits. No other associated building elements were recovered during the 1984 and 1985 excavations. The dating of the “Negro Quarter” is based on its associated artifacts and its stratigraphic relationship to Building t. All four pits underlay the occupation layers of Building t. Destruction of the building preceded the documented construction of Building t in the 1790s.
The original excavators of the Building t 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).
|F01||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||963D, 963E, 946D, 945G, 983C|
|F02||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||947J, 966D|
|F03||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||970F, 984C, 984, 984D, 984E, 984F, 984G, 984H, 953J|
|F04||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||948L, 948M, 948K|
|F05||Pit, subfloor(< 28 sq.ft)||953H|
|F06||Ditch, other||969B, 970A, 956B, 945D, 952A, 946B|
|F07||Tree hole||963A, 945B, 946A|
DAACS Seriation Method
This page summarizes a frequency-seriation based chronology for the Building t site that was developed by DAACS (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). DAACS seriated ceramic assemblages, with more than 5 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. Stratigraphic groups have a SG-prefix, which precedes the group number (e.g. SG01 equals Stratigraphic Group 1). For example, at the Building t site, two portions of a single layer, described by the excavators a single fill deposit in a ditch, spanned several adjacent quadrats (945, 946, 952, 956, 970, and 969). The fill segments were excavated as 945D, 946B, 952A, 956B, 970A, and 969B. DAACS assigned these contexts to a single stratigraphic group (SG22). Not all contexts have stratigraphic group assignments.
DAACS chose to base the seriation chronology for the Building t 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. There was one exception. Artifacts from the 10 stratigraphic groups (SG08 through SG17) that comprised the deposits filling 4 subfloor pits (F01, F02, F03, F04) associated with the “Negro Quarter” (FG01) were combined into a single assemblage. These SGs were combined for the seriation because the common alignment of the pits attested to their broad contemporaneity. Where other stratigraphic groups and contexts 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 the 4 “Negro Quarter” subfloor pits, the other stratigraphic groups, and in individual contexts, when those contexts had no stratigraphic group assignment. The seriation chronology is derived from a correspondence analysis of these MCD-type frequencies. Seriated assemblages 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 t Site Phases
Based on the correspondence analysis, DAACS divided the Building t site occupation into 4 phases. The ceramic assemblage from the 4 subfloor pits beneath the early “Negro Quarter” emerged in the correspondence analysis as an outlier in relation to the other assemblages, signaling its distinctive composition, and justifying its placement in a separate phase (P01). The anomalously late mean ceramic date for this assemblage is a function of the 55 sherds of American Stoneware – most or all from the same vessel – found in three of the pits (F01:SG12, F02:SG14, F03:SG8). The Phase 2 assemblages represent the occupation of Building t, shown on the 1796 Mutual Assurance Plat, up to Jefferson’s death in 1826. The fill in the single subfloor pit beneath Building t dates to this phase (F05: SG25). Phases 3 and 4 contain successively greater amounts of material (e.g. whiteware) that postdate Jefferson’s death in 1826. The assemblage from the ditch (F06: SG22) on the northern edge of the site falls into Phase 3.
As is the case for all the Mulberry Row sites, the Building t site 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.
A Seriation Chronology for the Building t Site
The following table presents a seriation chronology for the Building l site. We use the indefinite article to signify that it is not the only chronology possible, nor the best. DAACS encourages users of Archive data to help explore improvements.
Building t Harris Matrix
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff have 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. SG02), followed by the original excavator’s descriptions of them (e.g. “Garden terrace construction fill”). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 947G).
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.
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.
See Building t Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [100.24 KB PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan compiled by DAACS from original field drawings.
CAD site plan in .dxf format.
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.
Betts, Edwin Morris
1976  Thomas Jefferson University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Boyd, Julian , Barbara Oberg , John Cantanzariti , Charles T. Cullen , and Lyman Henry Butterfield
1950-2008 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. [35 volumes to date]. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
1991 The Archaeology of Slave Life at Thomas Jefferson. In Quarterly Bulletin of the Archeological Society of Virginia 46(1): 2-9.
1990 The Archaeology of Mr. Jefferson. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Winterthur Program, University of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware.
Harris, Edward C.
1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London, England.
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.
1776a Monticello: outbuildings and garden (study), circa 1776-1778. N87; K56. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org
1776b Monticello: outbuildings, circa 1776-1778. N88; K57. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
1778a Monticello: timber zone (plat). N130; K94e. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
1778b Monticello: south field (plat). N131; K94f. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
1778c Monticello: south field (plat). N132; K94g. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
1808a Monticello: park (plat). N221; K168j. Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA. http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/
Kelso, William M., Diana C. Johnson , Ann M. Smart , Anna Gruber , and Douglas W. Sanford
1985 Monticello Black History/Craft Life Archaeological Project, 1984-1985. Progress report. Submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities. 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.
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.
1968  Thomas Jefferson, Architect. Original Designs in the Coolidge Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society with an Essay and Notes by Fiske Kimball. New Introduction by Frederick Doveton Nichols. Da Capo Press, New York, New York.
Neiman, Fraser D.
1998 Modeling Social Dynamics in Colonial and Antebellum Slave Architecture: Monticello in Historical Perspective. Unpublished paper presented at the Slavery Housing Conference at the International Center for Jefferson Studies, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Neiman, Fraser D.
1997a Sub-Floor Pits and Slavery in 18th- and Early 19th-Century Virginia. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Corpus Christi, Texas. 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.
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.
Nichols, Frederick Doveton
1995  Thomas Jefferson’s Architectural Drawings, Compiled and with Commentary and a Checklist. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.
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.
Stanton, Lucia C., and James A. Bear , Jr.
1997 Thomas Jefferson Two volumes. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 2d. Series. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.