|Location:||The Hermitage, Nashville, TN, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||First through third quarter 19th-century|
|Excavator(s):||Larry McKee, Elizabeth Kellar, interns, and Earthwatch volunteers|
|Dates excavated:||1993; 2000|
Located directly behind the Jackson mansion, the building referred to archaeologically as the Triplex was a three-bay brick dwelling with cut limestone foundations measuring 60 feet by 20 feet. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a brick museum building with a stone foundation and a concrete floor overtop of the original structure. Photographs from the construction show chimney base remnants on the gable ends of the structure, as well as one midway along its length, which indicate that each 20 x 20 foot unit had its own chimney. No evidence for communicating doors was found during excavations; it was likely that each unit had a single door to the exterior.
The museum was torn down in 1989, leaving the foundation and concrete floor intact for the purpose of future archaeological work. Excavations of this structure were conducted by the Hermitage Department of Archaeology under the direction of Larry McKee in 1993 and 2000. During excavations, each unit was labeled according to its relative position to the mansion, namely Triplex North, Middle and South units.
The brick construction and cut limestone foundation of the Triplex suggests the standardization of housing implemented by Jackson, particularly in the second generation of cabins. All of the other brick cabins, including the South Cabin and Field Quarter cabins (1 – 4) contain one or more approximately 20 x 20 foot units with gable end chimneys. It is likely that bricks were a relatively cheap building material since they were produced on-site for construction of the mansion. Unlike the other brick structures, however, the Triple dressed stone foundations mirrored those of the mansion, likely given its proximity to the mansion and visibility in the backyard complex. It has been suggested that the substantial nature of the Triplex, its location and the range of artifacts recovered from its interiors indicate that the occupants were Jackson house slaves (Thomas 1998).
The Mansion Backyard complex at the Hermitage included not only the Triplex, but also the smokehouse, kitchen and at least one other slave dwelling. The close proximity of these structures suggests that this area was a bustling domestic and industrial space. The enslaved people living here, as many as forty individuals, would have been subject to direct surveillance from the mansion and expected to respond to the ring of bells attached to the exterior of that structure (Galle 2004).
Little documentary evidence exists for the Triplex structure itself and its inhabitants. An entry in an Hermitage farm journal dated 1829 records a payment to men to lay brick. Other evidence indicates that renovations to the mansion, detached kitchen, and smokehouse took place from 1830-31. It is possible, therefore, that this payment record refers to the construction of the Triplex (Kellar et al. 2000). In addition, a photo taken in the 1870s of the mansion backyard does not include the Triplex, suggesting that it was torn down prior to this decade. Finally, the 1930s WPA photographs are a useful resource for deciphering the various construction episodes from the 1820s to the museum destruction in 1989.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
1993 Excavation Season
The 1993 fieldwork program concentrated on Triplex Middle and Triplex South units, with approximately 100% of the Triplex and one third of Triplex South excavated. Two areas on the exterior of the building were also examined: Exterior East unit 2 outside Triplex South; and Exterior West unit 3 outside Triplex Middle. Excavation began with removal of the concrete slab that served as the base for the 1930s museum structure erected on the foundations of the Triplex. The subsequent goal was to expose the limestone foundations of the building outline for the Middle and South units.
At Triplex South, the excavation grid was based on rebar placed at the SW corner (0/0 datum). The unit was divided into four 10 x 10 foot quadrants (1, 2, 3, 4) starting in the northwest corner and moving clockwise. There was extensive disturbance of this unit as a result of the 1930s museum hearth construction and the removal of the concrete flooring. Due to this disturbance, only mixed contexts that included original wall fall were processed for three of the quadrants. Only the southeast quadrant (four) of Triplex South was excavated below the removal layer. Several of the features uncovered were also disturbed, including a brick-lined cellar, which likely originally measured 3.5 x 6 feet. Only a small portion of this feature, designated F496, remained undisturbed; this portion included a section of the original laid brick wall sitting on subsoil along the south edge of the feature. Notable artifacts recovered from this feature were a Civil War-era minie ball, carved bone buttons and a three-cent coin dated 1853. This evidence suggests the structure was abandoned after this time. Other notable artifacts found in Triplex South include an incised bone fan blade, an iron fork, a French figural pipe bowl, stamped brass buttons and several pharmaceutical bottles.
Given the minimal level of disturbance, the Triplex Middle was fully excavated in four quadrants. Two notable features were uncovered in this dwelling. An unnumbered feature consisted of a set of limestone slabs running parallel to the west wall that were oriented with the limestone blocks that formed the chimney base outside the foundation wall; these slabs likely served as hearth supports. A brick-lined cellar, designated F485, is the largest cellar feature associated with a slave dwelling at the Hermitage to date, measuring approximately 6.5 x 7.5 feet. This feature was excavated in the northwest corner in Triplex Middle 1 to sterile soil and then bisected into west and east halves in the other quadrants. Apart from courses knocked over in place at the upper-most deposits, the walls of the cellar were intact. Notable artifacts from the Triplex Middle include an array of intricately carved bone sewing implements (see Gallery of Triplex images), marbles, gunflints, a white metal syringe, as well as hundreds of straight pins and buttons of all types. This assortment of costly, non-provisioned goods suggests that this unit was the residence of one or more enslaved seamstresses who manufactured embellishments for the Jackson household and possibly for their own use or sale. Given the array of material recovered from these excavations and the complete excavation of the unit, the Triplex Middle has been the most analyzed assemblage associated with the Triplex.
Two additional 10 x 10 foot units were excavated on the exterior of the Triplex foundation. The Exterior East unit 2 outside of Triplex South was placed to uncover evidence of a doorway along the east front of the dwelling. Several large architectural features were exposed during these excavations including a stone wall running north-south (F490), parallel with east wall, and a builder’s trench (F488) that consists of 1930s and original nineteenth-century fill. The Exterior West unit 3 was placed to expose the chimney base of the Triplex Middle. Excavations revealed the original hearth/chimney foundation as well as the discontinuity between the Jackson-era and WPA-era builder’s trench (F493) and foundations. The original stone foundation consisted of large dressed blocks matching those of the mansion and kitchen.
2000 Excavation Season
Excavation of the northernmost Triplex dwelling was one of the foci of the 2000 field season. Given the extensive damage seen in the Triplex South excavations, diagonal 10 x 10 foot quadrants of the interior space were excavated at the start to assess possible disturbance from the 1930s construction. Once it was clear that the disturbance was not extensive, the other quadrants were also excavated to the occupation level. Excavation was severely hampered by the necessary removal of 1930s-era fill including layers of brick, limestone and cement mortar with brick to expose original foundations, nineteenth century abandonment and occupation levels. In addition to the interior work, a sample of 5 x 5 foot units, twelve in total, were laid out to the east of Triplex North in order to explore the exterior yard area. Another single 10 x 10 unit was also placed in the west yard area. These areas also contained significant amounts of WPA fill, primarily gravel and rubble.
Within Triplex North, remnants of a builder’s trench were found along all of the foundation walls except the east wall; this resembled similar deposits from the other units. A brick-lined cellar was located just to the south of the hearth. This pit was very different in size, shape and depth than those in the Middle and South units, being rectangular and containing two compartments. The two-compartment design, however, was similar to those subfloor features excavated in the Field Quarter Cabins 2 and 3. It is possible that the Triplex South unit did contain a similar design but the 1930s work obliterated any evidence of it. In this case, the Triplex Middle is an anomaly in its pit construction. At the Triplex North, the brick floor of the west compartments was removed; no significant finds were discovered beneath the flooring. A large ceramic drain pipe likely placed as part of the WPA project dominated the far western portion of the Triplex North units 1 and 4. Notable artifacts from Triplex North include a padlock and key, large unidentified iron objects, 1853 and 1854 coins, chert projectile points, painted toy marbles and doll parts (see Gallery of Triplex images). The interior assemblage from the Triplex North also suggests the presence of a seamstress given the quantity of buttons, pins, clothing closures and a needle case.
Summary of research and analysis
The brick construction and cut limestone foundation of the Triplex suggests the standardization of housing implemented by Jackson, particularly in the second generation of cabins (McKee et al. 1994; Kellar et al. 2000). All of the other brick cabins, including the South Cabin and Field Quarter Cabins (1 – 4) contain one or more approximately 20 x 20 foot units with gable end chimneys. It is likely that bricks were a relatively cheap building material since they were produced on-site for construction of the mansion. Unlike the other brick structures, however, the Triple dressed stone foundations mirrored those of the mansion, likely given its proximity to the mansion and visibility in the backyard complex. It has been suggested that the substantial nature of the Triplex, its location and the range of artifacts recovered from its interiors indicate that the occupants were Jackson house slaves (Thomas 1998).
No documentation exists detailing the construction or abandonment of the Triplex (McKee et al 1994; Kellar et al 2000). The presence of beveled-edged bricks in the walls of the Triplex Middle pit dates the construction of this unit to post-1834. No coin found within any of the Triplex dates to earlier than 1834. Based on artifact types recovered from the Triplex interior, the structure was probably abandoned sometime in the late 1860s. Based on an historic photograph showing the area, the structure was no longer present on the landscape by the late 1870s.
In addition to the reports created by Hermitage Archaeology, several scholarly works incorporate data from the Triplex excavations to analyze the enslaved community of the Hermitage, particularly through comparison of assemblages across the property. In his discussion of power and community at the Hermitage (1995, 1998), Brian Thomas examines provisioning and differential access to goods between several households including the Triplex, South Cabin (First Hermitage) and Cabin 3 (Field Quarter). Aaron E. Russell (1997) analyzed five Hermitage households to explore patterns in specialty items, including, that suggest the existence of a shared belief system between members of the enslaved community, a system potentially rooted in African customs. Jillian E. Galle (2004) utilized the Triplex North and Middle assemblages to evaluate the hypothesis that enslaved seamstresses living at the Triplex had access to a greater amount of non-provisioned objects than other enslaved households on the property. Employing a variety of artifact abundance indices, Galle argues that differential access to goods was a result of individual’s engagement in specialized task rather than simply the proximity of their dwelling to the mansion.
Things you need to know before you use Triplex data:
- The DAACS Project ID for the Triplex is “1400”. Triplex contexts are location based (unlike other sites at the Hermitage). The structure was divided into three areas: Triplex North, Triplex Middle, and Triplex South. All units excavated inside the structure have context prefixes such as “TXN1” where “1” refers to “Unit 1” located in Triplex North. All Triplex contexts and artifact IDs begin with that prefix. In addition to interior units, exterior units were excavated adjacent to the Triplex foundation, to the east and west. These associated contexts have prefixes beginning with “TXE” and “TXW” referring to Triplex East and West, followed by a unit number.
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- Triplex coordinates are based on the grid system established by McKee used for excavations in the Mansion Backyard as well as the Yard Cabin site. Note that a separate coordinate system based on the same grid but using a different datum was used for excavations in the Field Quarter.
- The grid inside the Triplex structure was specific to the interior of the building.
The original excavators of the Triplex site assigned numbers to individual features. Between 1987 and 2003, all archaeological features identified at The Hermitage were assigned consecutive feature numbers, regardless of excavation year and location on the property. For example, the first feature identified at the beginning of Larry McKee’s field work in 1987 was Feature 1. By the end of the excavation season in 2003 over 900 features had been identified and excavated at The Hermitage since 1987.
Feature numbers at the Triplex site range, non consecutively, between 481 and 911.
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). There are no feature groups assigned for this site.
|TXE2F488||Trench, builder’s||TXE2F488.A, TXE2F488.B|
|TXMF485||Cellar||TXMF485.A, TXMF485.B, TXMF485.C|
|TXN1F824||Trench, utility||TXN1F824, TXN4F824|
|TXN1F832||Brick in Course||TXN1F832|
|TXN4F838||Brick in Course||TXN4F838|
|TXNF827||Unidentified||TXN2F827, TXN1F830, TXN3F827, TXN4F827|
|TXNF828||Rubble Scatter||TXN3F828, TXN4F828|
|TXN3F829||Unidentified||TXN3F829, TXN2F829, TXN4F829|
|TXNF835||Cellar||TXN1F835.A, TXN1F835.B, TXNF835.A, TXN2835.B, TXN2F843, TXN1F835.D, TXN2F835.C|
|TXSF496||Pit, subfloor(<28 sq. ft)||TXSF496.A, TXSF496.B, TXSF496.C|
|TXW3F508||Posthole, possible||Posthole, possible|
DAACS has developed a uniform set of methods to infer intra-site chronologies for all of the sites included in the archive. These methods, which include frequency-seriation and correspondence analysis, were developed by DAACS (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). The use of common methods for all sites in the archive is designed to increase comparability among temporal phases at different sites. The methods and the phase assignments they produced are summarized below. Archive users may also use the Mean Ceramic Date queries provided on the Query the Database section of this website to calculate MCDs for individual contexts or features.
For some sites, the original excavators developed intra-site chronologies and, where these exist, they are described on the Background page for the site. In the case of the Triplex, the principal investigators did not develop a chronology for the site. The DAACS chronology presented here is the only current chronology for the site.
DAACS Seriation Method
As with other sites in the Archive, the seriation chronology for the Triplex was derived from ceramic assemblages of stratigraphic groups, feature contexts, and individual stratigraphic layers not assigned to a stratigraphic group. Ceramic data comes from unit contexts excavated within and outside of the foundation walls. To reduce the noise introduced by sampling error, only ceramic assemblages with more than five sherds were included. We excluded assemblages from unit clean-up and surface collections. The seriation chronology presented here is the result of a correspondence analysis (CA) of ware-type frequencies from contexts that meet these requirements (Figures 1 and 2).
After running an initial version of the CA it was determined that one type (English Soft Paste Porcelain) had a small sample size (<3) and was distributed randomly, i.e. its distribution showed no discernible pattern. Consequently, these ware types were removed from the CA because they were obscuring the patterning of ware types with larger sample sizes. The CA results produced a strong correlation between Dimension 1 scores and MCDs (Figure 4), suggesting that Dimension 1 represents time from right (early) to left (late). Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1 scores (Figure 3), where the vertical axis measures ceramic assemblage size, we divided the Triplex into three occupational phases (Figure 4).
Triplex Site Phases
DAACS Phases are groups of assemblages that have similar correspondence-analysis scores, similar MCDs, or both, and are therefore inferred to be broadly contemporary. Phases have a P-prefix that precedes the phase number (e.g., P01 equals Phase 1). The CA results suggest that Dimension 1 represents time from right (early) to left (late). Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1 scores (Figure 3), where the vertical axis measures ceramic assemblage size, we divided the Triplex into we divided the Triplex into three occupational phases (Figures 4 and 5).
Mean ceramic dates for the site-specific phases are given in the table below. MCDs and BLUE MCDs, which give less influence to ceramic types with long manufacturing spans, indicate that the Triplex was occupied during the first half of the nineteenth century into the late nineteenth century. The table also provides three TPQ estimates. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the ware-types in the assemblage. Two other TPQ measures included in the table below are less sensitive to excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might introduce a small amount of anomalously late material into an assemblage. They are TPQp90 and TPQp95. The TPQp95 values for each phase provide a robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 95th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising it. The TPQp90 value for each phase provides a more robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising it.
About the Code
Incorporating data from the DAACS database, we perform the correspondence analysis through the R programming language (R Core Team 2014) to conduct the CA analysis. The CA code was written by Fraser D. Neiman. The following packages generate the data tables, CA, and plots within this code: RPostgreSQL (Conway et al. 2013), plyr (Wickham 2014), reshape2 (Wickham 2014), seriation (Hahsler et al. 2014), ca (Greenacre, Nenadic, and Friendly 2014), and ggplot2 (Wickham 2015). All of the R code used in this analysis was written within the domain of the R Core Team at the R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria (2014). The correspondence analysis for the Triplex was conducted by Elizabeth Bollwerk.
Triplex 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. SG01). Contexts that could not be assigned to stratigraphic groups are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. TXE5A.2B).
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 Triplex Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [PDF].
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with excavation units and features labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with only features labeled.
PDF of composite excavator’s plan, compiled by DAACS from original field drawings, with only excavation units labeled.
CAD site plan in .dgn format.
Galle, Jillian E.
2004 Designing Women: Measuring Acquisition and Access at the Hermitage Plantation, Engendering African American Archaeology: A Southern Perspective In Engendering African American Archaeology: A Southern Perspective, edited by Jillian E. Galle and Amy L. Young. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Kellar, Elizabeth J., Steven Kidd , and Whitney Battle
2000 Report of Excavations Conducted at Triplex North Report on file at the Hermitage.
McKee, Larry , Brian W. Thomas , and Jennifer Bartlett
1994 Summary Report on the 1993 Hermitage Mansion Yard Excavation Report on file at The Hermitage.
Russell, Aaron E.
1997 Material Culture and African-American Spirituality at the Hermitage Historical Archaeology, Vol. 31, No. 2 (1997), pp. 63-80.
Thomas, Brian W.
1995 Community among Enslaved African Americans on the Hermitage Plantation, 1820s-1850s. Ph. D. diss., Dept. of Anthropology, State Univ. of New York at Binghamton, New York. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Thomas, Brian W.
1998 Power and Community: The Archaeology of Slavery at The Hermitage Plantation. American Antiquity, Vol. 63, No. 4, pp. 531-551.