Research Programs: Collaborative Research

Period of Performance

7/1/2010 - 6/30/2014

Funding Totals

$250,000.00 (approved)
$249,562.25 (awarded)

Unearthing A Community of Households: Archaeology of the Early 19th-Century Enslaved Community at James Madison's Montpelier

FAIN: RZ-51141-10

Montpelier Foundation (Orange, VA 22960-0551)
Matthew B. Reeves (Project Director: November 2009 to July 2016)

Excavation, analysis, and interpretation of slave habitation sites at Montpelier, home of James Madison. (36 months)

Archaeology of the enslaved community at Montpelier offers the opportunity to examine three different groups that existed at President Madison's home: house slaves, field slaves, and skilled slaves. With the homes of these slaves being abandoned in 1844 and never plowed, the archaeological deposits within serves as a virtual time capsule. The past ten years of archaeology at Montpelier have provided an intimate understanding of the mansion landscape that has given us detailed insights into the Madisons' lifestyle. This study will show how this lifestyle intersected with the various groups within the Montpelier enslaved community with differences being measured through household goods, housing architecture, and organization of yard space. This comparative study will not only allow the complex dynamics of the Montpelier community to be evaluated, but will also serve as a valuable comparison to other studies of enslaved households in the African Atlantic World.

Media Coverage

Montpelier digs up slaves' stories (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Rob Hedelt
Publication: Free Lance Star (Fredricksburg, VA)
Date: 8/16/2011
Abstract: Archaeological excavations at Madison's slave quarters and the creation of timber-frame structures part of effort to study and interpret slave quarters at Montpelier

Associated Products

A Community of Households: The Early 19th-Century Enslaved Community at James Madison’s Montpelier (Article)
Title: A Community of Households: The Early 19th-Century Enslaved Community at James Madison’s Montpelier
Author: Matthew B. Reeves
Abstract: The Montpelier Foundation has begun a three year archaeological study of the sites of slave homes at James Madison’s Montpelier. This study uses archaeological excavations to compare three different parts of the enslaved community: field slaves, house slaves, and enslaved artisans. These sites were all occupied by Montpelier slaves during the 1810s-1830s and they consist of the South Yard (quarters for house slaves located immediately to the south of the mansion), the Stable Quarter (quarters for skilled artisans located between the South Yard and the Montpelier Visitor Center), and the Field Quarter (quarter for field slaves located downhill from the Montpelier Visitor Center). The study encompasses three distinct slave quarters at Montpelier so that archaeologists can compare the homes, yards, and household possessions of the different portions of the Madisons’ enslaved community.
Year: 2010
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Newsletter for the African Diaspora Archaeology Network
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Newsletter for the African Diaspora Archaeology Network
Publisher: African Diaspora Archaeology Network