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Surveyors Believe They've Found Old Slave Quarters at Montpelier

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Surveyors use metal detectors to try to unearth bits of history Surveyors use metal detectors to try to unearth bits of history
Montpelier in Orange County Montpelier in Orange County
Blue flags indicate where surveyors have found metal Blue flags indicate where surveyors have found metal
Surveyors think they've found old slave quarters Surveyors think they've found old slave quarters
ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

A team armed with metal detectors is unearthing history that’s been buried for two centuries beneath the plantation of President James Madison.

Montpelier's metal-detecting surveyors are sweeping through a wooded area just down the hill from Madison's former mansion in Orange County, hoping that they'll unearth artifacts that will help flesh out the full story that unfolded at the estate. The metal detector team is especially hard at work right now during the winter months, since the ground is more barren and easier to see what's hidden beneath it.

Each blue flag staked in the ground marks the location of where they've detected metal, and red flags identify concentrations of items. So far, the surveyors have dug up objects like coins, buckles, spoons, and nails.

Those discoveries led them to believe they've found the site of slave quarters from the 1810s to 1820s.

“We weren't sure whether these were sites or what they dated to,” says Matthew Reeves, Montpelier’s director of archaeology. “With the metal detector survey, we're not only able to locate the sites and define the extent, how big the sites are, but then also get a few items that we're able to date the site.”

Surveyors hope to eventually search all 2,700 acres of the property. So far, the team has covered more than 500 acres in metal detector sweeps.

"The story has to be told - the good and the bad," says Dennis Bjorklund, the Montpelier metal detecting survey technician. "History is history, you cannot change it."

The estate also hosts metal detector and excavation programs so the public can try its hand at uncovering history. You can find more about how to participate in that here.