|Location:||The Hermitage, Hermitage, TN, United States|
|Occupation Dates:||1820s to 1860s|
|Excavator(s):||Larry McKee, Interns, and Earthwatch Volunteers|
|Dates excavated:||1988 and 1996|
The Yard Cabin was a log duplex measuring approximately 20 by 40 feet, near the northwest corner of the Hermitage garden fence, approximately 90 feet from the mansion. The remains of the slave dwelling consisted of a massive limestone hearth base and a brick-lined subfloor pit directly in front of the hearth.
Construction of the mansion on President Andrew Jackson’s Nashville, Tennessee plantation was completed in 1821, making the need to house slaves in the immediate vicinity of the mansion unnecessary before that date.
Two known photographs, one undated and one likely from the 1860s depict the Yard Cabin (see
Site Images for second photograph). No other documentation regarding the building, occupation, or destruction of the Yard Cabin exists, so all efforts to date the cabin rely on archaeological material and knowledge of general events at the Hermitage. The Hermitage mansion was built between 1818 and 1821 and the Jackson family sold the Hermitage property in 1856. Although family members returned in 1860 to care for the property, no large-scale farming took place after the 1850s. Circumstantial evidence, therefore, suggests primary occupation of the Yard Cabin from the 1820s until the 1850s.
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
Excavations at the Yard Cabin took place in the fall, winter, and spring of 1988 and 1989, as well as the summer of 1996. The Yard Cabin was excavated stratigraphically and screened using ¼-inch mesh. The following strata, also observed during field quarter excavations and elsewhere at the Hermitage under direction of Archaeologist Larry McKee, summarize the majority of the natural layers encountered during Yard Cabin excavations:
Level 1: Material deposited after the primary occupation of the site; the overburden put down in the course of recent activity and sod buildup. Usually defined by the main body of surface vegetation roots.
Level 2A: Transitional area between recent and older deposits, mixed together by surface disturbance (e.g. plowing, tilling, or rodent activity), characterized by mixed assemblages of artifacts from more recent and older time periods.
Level 2B: Layers related to the destruction and/or abandonment of structures, most commonly either rubble scatters or fire/destruction layers. Sometimes indistinguishable from Level 2A; sometimes very distinct. This is where structural features (walls, hearth bases) are most likely to appear first.
Level 2C: Primary deposits related directly to time period of most interest. Deeper features (post holes and root cellars) are most likely to become definable at this level.
Level 3: Transition to culturally-sterile subsoil or deeper primary deposits earlier than and distinct from level 2C material.
This basic stratigraphy, when recorded by excavators, forms part of the analytical framework used by DAACS in the development of the chronology for the site (see Yard Cabin Chronology).
Summary of research and analysis
Structural remains of the Yard Cabin consisted primarily of a limestone hearth base and brick-lined subfloor pit. The photographic evidence of a log structure, as well as the absence of exterior walls unearthed during excavation, suggest the Yard Cabin was likely a log structure throughout its existence. Several large limestone blocks roughly aligned with the hearth/chimney base were interpreted as sill support stones. Based on the types of ceramics present, the predominance of machine-cut nails, and the presence of porcelain buttons, the Yard Cabin was mostly likely occupied from the early 1820s to the late 1850s/early 1860s.
Larry McKee and Leslie Cooper
TRC Solutions and Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery
Things you need to know about the Yard Cabin before you use the data:
- The DAACS Project ID for the Yard Cabin is “1404”. All Yard Cabin contexts and artifact IDs begin with that prefix. A two-digit year representing the field season in which it was excavated, followed by a two-digit project number assigned to the Yard Cabin for that particular year, follows the Project ID for all Contexts and Artifact IDs. The Yard Cabin was excavated in 1988 and 1996. All contexts in 1988 begin with the following” “1404-88-09”. All contexts for the Yard Cabin dug in 1996 begin with “1401-96-02”. The two digits that follow those numbers were arbitrary numbers assigned to that particular context and its respective artifacts in the field.
- The Hermitage employed the “CRN” or “Context Register Number” system for artifact and context management, which DAACS has retained. CRNs were assigned in the field as consecutive two-digit numbers to contexts and their respective artifacts in the order they were dug, and were independent of provenience information. Context/provenience information is found in the DAACS Context Record.
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- No feature drawings for a significant portion of the site could be found.
Yard Cabin Artifact Data
DAACS analysts cataloged to DAACS standards all of the artifacts from Yard Cabin except for artifact types that fall into the “All Other Artifacts” category. This means that all beads, buckles, buttons, ceramic vessels, glass vessels, tobacco pipes, and utensils that were present in the collection were physically examined and cataloged by DAACS staff. Data about objects that fell into the “All Other Artifacts” category, such as brick, nails, mortar, window glass, tools, metal pots, etc. (See All Other Artifacts for complete listing of all artifact forms) were entered into DAACS from previous artifact catalogs produced by the Hermitage Archaeology Lab. This means that any artifacts with “Hermitage” as the Cataloger/Editor will have basic attribute data, such as form and material type, but not the complete set of DAACS attributes. If you receive data that does not contain measurements or decorative data, please use an advanced query (such as AQ5) to see who cataloged the artifact.
The original excavators of the Yard Cabin 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 Yard Cabin site range, non consecutively, between 148 and 783.
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.
|148||Trench, builder’s||88-09-03, 88-09-16|
|149||Trench, builder’s||88-09-04, 88-09-12, 88-09-13, 88-09-87|
|152||Pit, unidentified||88-09-08, 88-09-09|
|155||Not a Basin/Cut||88-09-19, 88-09-75|
|160||Posthole, possible||88-09-63, 96-02-63|
|161||Rubble Scatter||88-09-25, 88-09-35|
|162||Animal Hole||88-09-35, 88-09-52, 88-09-60|
|163||Animal Hole||88-09-54, 96-02-91|
|165||Pit, subfloor (< 28 sq ft.)||88-09-39, 88-09-41, 88-09-43, 88-09-44, 88-09-45, 88-09-46, 88-09-48, 88-09-49, 88-09-56, 88-09-78|
|166||Rubble Scatter||88-09-36, 88-09-37|
|174||Trench, unidentified||88-09-59, 88-09-85, 96-02-62, 96-02-74, 96-02-78, 96-02-96|
|178||Not a Basin/Cut|
|184||Not a Basin/Cut|
|185||Not a Basin/Cut|
|190||Rubble Scatter||88-09-84, 88-09-86|
|192||Posthole||88-09-90, 88-09-107, 88-09-108, 88-09-109|
|195||Rubble Scatter||88-09-95, 88-09-97|
|757||Pit, unidentified||96-02-38, 96-02-42|
|761||Posthole||96-02-46, 96-02-55, 96-02-56|
|765||Unidentified||96-02-48, 96-02-49, 96-02-50, 96-02-51|
|766||Not a Basin/Cut||96-02-57|
|770||Trench, fence||96-02-69, 96-02-72, 96-02-77, 96-02-88, 96-02-89|
|783||Pit, subfloor (<28 sq. ft)||96-02-94|
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 Yard Cabin, 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 a few types (Coarse Red Agate, Jasperware Type, and White Salt Glaze) had a small sample size (<2) and was distributed randomly, i.e. their 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).
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). Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1 scores, where the vertical axis measures ceramic assemblage size, we divided the Yard Cabin into three occupational phases (Figures 4 and 5).
The MCDs for the three 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 quarter of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth 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 of 1830 for phase 1, and 1840 for phases 2 and 3, provide 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 Yard Cabin was conducted by Lynsey Bates.
Yard Cabin 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. 88-09-15).
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 Yard Cabin 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 [1.32 MB 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.
March 18-20, 1993 Archaeological Research on African-American History: The Hermitage Slave Community, (paper presented at at the 21st Annual Conference of the Southern Regional Honors Council) Nashville, Tennessee.