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Montpelier Archaeologists Wrap Up Project on Slave Quarters - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Montpelier Archaeologists Wrap Up Project on Slave Quarters

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Archaeologists at Montpelier wrapped up a project on slave quarters at James Madison's home. Their findings could shed new light on how the 4th president's slaves lived and what their homes actually looked like.

What's really interesting about this project is that it's open to the public. People can watch the excavations during their visits to Montpelier or even schedule time to volunteer to dig with the team. Most days the public can witness lot of interesting artifacts discovered just below the surface of the dirt.

In the past three years archaeologists at Montpelier have excavated the areas where house slaves and skilled artisan slaves lived. They're now finishing up excavations of field slave quarters.

"This site we're at right here is really exciting because we didn't have any information about where the field slaves lived," said director of archaeology Matt Reeves.

"We want to offer up a voice for people who are no longer here to speak for themselves," said archaeologist Kira Runkle.

Madison's mansion has already been re-discovered through restorations. And there was already some information about other slave quarters from an 1837 insurance map which showed where those residences were. Now the goal of this project is finding their actual homes.

"What we wanted to do was rediscover the homes of the people who made Madison's life possible- the enslaved population here at Montpelier," Reeves said.

Their finds were various ceramics from teacups and bowls, wine bottle fragments, nails from the homes, buttons from clothing, and even part of a valve likely for a keg.

"It just sort of enriches the understanding of these people's lives and how they're living and that's what really keeps us going," Runkle said.

The archaeologists hope to have a report of their findings by December. They have now started their next project looking at work sites closer to the mansion.

Click here for more on how you can join in on the action.

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