Site 8 is located on the ridge of Monticello Mountain as it descends east toward the Rivanna River. The fields on Monticello Mountain were the home farm and one of the four quarter farms of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation. Shadwell, Tufton and Lego were the outlying quarter farms. During Thomas Jefferson’s first configuration of the Monticello Plantation, Site 8 and its sister site, Site 7, housed the majority of enslaved field hands on the Monticello home farm. Slaves occupied Site 8 from c.1770 to c.1800. Evidence for four structures has been identified on Site 8, and it is likely that there are other undiscovered houses there (Bon-Harper et al. 2004; Bon-Harper and Wheeler 2005a, 2005b, 2006). Site 7, also in the DAACS database, is located 130 feet northwest of Site 8 and was occupied by Monticello slaves during the 1770s and 1780s, by a series of Monticello overseers from c1770-c.1805, and in an earlier generation, by residents from Peter Jefferson’s Shadwell Plantation, perhaps including both slaves and an overseer.
Sites 7 and 8 likely functioned as parts of a single settlement during the early Monticello period. Although we present the sites as separate to allow flexibility, they can also be analyzed together. They share a grid system and single sequences of quadrat, feature, and house numbers, and were excavated using the same sampling strategies.
There is no known historic documentation of Site 8 in spite of the fact that it seems to have been the principle slave settlement for the Monticello home quarter farm during the late 1700s.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
Site 8 was identified during the 1997 season of the Monticello Plantation Archaeological Survey. Shovel-test pits (STPs) initially determined the approximate dates and spatial limits of the sites and were then used to blanket the entire site and define its edges. (Bon-Harper et al. 2003). This STP testing determined the site’s edges and consistently sampled all of the site within those boundaries. Five quadrats were dug on Site 8 during the summer of 1998, and more extensive excavation was conducted there beginning in the summer season of 2000 continuing each summer through 2006. Excavation initially sampled the site to the limits of the artifact scatter, and then pursued areas of interest as indicated by features or artifact densities. To date, 170 quadrats have been excavated on Site 8 by staff of the Monticello Department of Archaeology and students in the Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School.
Agricultural plowing began on Site 8 c.1800 and continued through the nineteenth century. The research strategy for Site 8 was conceived specifically for the excavation and eventual analysis of plowed deposits. The sampling strategy was a randomly chosen 5 x 5 foot quadrat within each 20-foot grid unit on the site area defined by artifact distribution, with additional quadrats excavated in areas of interest, either around identified features, or as indicated by artifact distributions. This stratified random sample provided excavation data from both high and low artifact density areas within the scatter, and has allowed the examination of house and yard areas on the site (Bon-Harper and Wheeler 2005a).
All sediment from excavation that was not saved for water screening or off-site analysis (chemical, phytolith, pollen, e.g.) was screened through quarter-inch mesh. Samples from plowzone contexts were regularly water screened through window screen mesh until 2003, when it was determined that the return of unique data, artifact classes not also represented in dry screening, was minimal. Chemical and phytolith samples were taken from the corners of excavation quadrats; a portion of these have been analyzed and a portion archived. The sediment from cultural features on Site 8 was collected for flotation, processed at the Monticello Department of Archaeology Laboratory, and the residues sent out for specialist interpretation. Those results are discussed below.
Summary of research and analysis
The locations of three houses have been positively identified on Site 8, with a potential fourth at the beginning stages of investigation in 2006. All of these are known only through the discovery of their sub-floor pits or cellars.
House 1, whose evidence consists of three sub-floor pits, was discovered in 2001 when a 5 x 5 foot quadrat following the stratified random sampling strategy intersected with a sub-floor pit. That sub-floor pit, Feature 1, has regular edges and a rectangular shape below upper layers that were disturbed by tree roots. Feature 2, a second sub-floor pit, also has regular edges and a rectangular shape. It partially overlaps Feature 1. The area of overlap is about three tenths of a foot in the northwest corner of Feature 1 and the southeast corner of Feature 2. The very small area of overlap adds to the ambiguity of the relationship between the two pits. The two pits were bisected at the same time to allow the inspection of a section across the two. The bottom layer of fill in the two pits is a dark reddish brown silty clay mottled with red clay and 10% charcoal. Visually, this fill was indistinguishable between the two pits. The slight overlap between the two would argue against their being used simultaneously, but the apparently single fill layer covering the floors of both pits makes a case for their use at the same time.
The fill of Feature 3, the third sub-floor pit from House 1, was different from the fills of Features 1 and 2 in that it was covered by a layer of cobbles and boulders across the surface of the pit. Below the layer of rocks, there was a single deposit of reddish brown silty clay mottled with dark red clay and 1% charcoal. Like the other two pits, it was empty when backfilled at the end of its use-life.
Pollen and macrobotanical analysis from Features 1 and 2 indicate that the surrounding landscape had both cleared and forested areas when the pits were filled, c.1775-1780. Tree pollen, including pine, oak, ash, sycamore, chestnut, hickory/pecan, and juniper or cedar among others, contributed between 35 and 67% of the pollen in twelve samples from the two pits. Cultigens and herbs, including weeds, make up 30 to 60% of the pollen from the two pits. The taxa represented include low-spine Asteraceae (likely ragweed and goldenrod, but may include other field weeds), Cheno-Am (goosefoot or pigweed, opportunistic plants that might have been encouraged by residents of Site 8), grasses, plantain, cereal grains, cattail, and members of the raspberry-blackberry family. Fragments of oak and pine wood were predominant in the macrobotanical remains of arboreal taxa, and the hickory family was also represented in many samples. Smaller amounts of elm, willow-poplar, chestnut, ash, birch, and maple further indicate the diversity in the plantation’s forests and the possible use of these trees as firewood. The fill of the sub-floor pits contained apple and persimmon seeds and peach stones from nearby woods and orchards. Peas, blackberry-dewberry and grape seeds, corn kernels, and wheat indicate food-plants that may have been grown in gardens and fields or gathered nearby. The seeds of ruderals, or weeds that grow around human habitations, included sedge, Rumex (dock or sheep sorrel), amaranth, goosefoot, and grasses. The amaranth, goosefoot, and dock or sheep sorrel may have been encouraged as a source of greens for food and for medicine. Seeds and seed fragments of pea, peach, blackberry-dewberry, wheat, grape, persimmon, apple, sedge, Rumex (likely dock or sorrel), amaranth and grasses, as well as corn kernel fragments also add to our understanding of the presence and use of weeds and cultigens as foods and as possible medicinals at the site.
Pollen and macrobotanical analyses from the remaining features have not yet been completed.
House 2 in the northeast portion of Site 8 is known from the identification of a cellar (Feature 6) that was partially excavated in 2005. This feature, projected at 8 x 8 feet square, is lined with unmortared brick. Brick, cobbles, and artifacts including tools and ceramic and glass vessels, were present in considerable quantity in the fill. A smaller feature (Feature 7) to the southeast of the brick-lined cellar was also partially excavated in 2005 and appears to be a small sub-floor pit. Thirty contiguous quadrats were excavated over and around these features comprising House 2. Further excavation is intended on the features in future seasons.
Excavation of a feature from the third house was begun in 2005 and continued in 2006. House 3 is in the center of Site 8 and is identified by a single oblong sub-floor pit, bordering on cellar in size (Feature 8). The pit itself is only partially excavated, but from the excavated sample appears to be as much as seven feet long and nearly four feet wide. The cut of this feature presents very straight walls and squared corners. Compared with Feature 6, Feature 8 has relatively few artifacts in its fill. Notably, it did contain several pieces of charred planks; one plank fragment appears to by lying on the floor of the pit, and a small pile of several others is stacked on the middle of the pit floor. Preliminary species identification of these indicates that at least some of these are chestnut. It is conceivable that these planks were part of a wooden lining of the pit, which would partially explain its very squared profile. However, if that is the case, at least some of the planks are out of place.
A possible fourth house was identified in 2006 through the partial excavation of two adjacent sub-floor pits (Features 9 and 15) and the identification of a likely third feature, all northwest of Feature 8. The two partially excavated features are small and roughly square-shaped with rounded corners. Feature 9, the northern of the two, had a fill that was characterized by heavy concentrations of charcoal and had a level bottom. Preliminary analysis of several pieces of charcoal from Feature 9 indicates that the wood, like that in Feature 8, is likely chestnut. The fill of Feature 15 was rocky, characterized by a concentration of angular cobbles. This fill may have once been a part of a stone lining, as tabular stones were encountered along the edges of the pit. The rocky fill combined with the small size of the pit made it difficult to excavate a full bisection, so that the shape of the pit is somewhat unclear. Their sizes are still yet to be determined, as they are not completely excavated. Estimated size for each pit is approximately 2.5 x 3 feet. Neither pit had a significant quantity of artifacts, and none rested on the floors of the pits. These pits intersect and were likely used in succession, with Feature 9 being the earlier. The third House 4 feature will be excavated in future seasons.
There is only one cultural feature at Site 8 that is not a sub-floor pit or a cellar. It is 23 feet northwest of the closest sub-floor pit or cellar (Feature 6 in House 2). It was identified and excavated in 2002 as Feature 4. It is a basin-shaped pit that may have been a borrow pit or clay source for daub chinking, similar to Feature 10 on Site 7. Its proximity to House 2 suggests that clay from the pit may have been used in that construction.
A correspondence analysis of ceramic assemblages from the plowzone quadrats suggests that they fall into three major groups. Two of these are early, dating to the 1770s and 1780s, and the third group is later, representing the 1780s and 1790s. The quadrats adjacent to House 1 belong to one of the early groups, while quadrats southeast of House 1, in which no architectural features have been found, belong to the second. The quadrats adjacent to Houses 2, 3, and 4 fall into the third group (Neiman and Smith 2005).
Recent research suggests that the users of the large storage spaces, Features 7 and 8, in Houses 2 and 3 may have also shared a common yard space, maintained by the regular removal of refuse (Bon-Harper and Wheeler 2006). Combined with the presence of large storage spaces, the location of this maintained space between the two houses would imply a sharing of economic and social activities, perhaps in the production of food or other goods for common consumption, or perhaps sale.
It is likely that the enslaved field hands who lived on Site 8 were moved to less central and more sloping lands when Jefferson reorganized Monticello’s agricultural system in the 1790s. The new regime turned over more land to the plow and scattered a once-centralized community of agricultural workers to marginal lands along more distant fields. All the storage features on Site 8, including those in Houses 2-4, which may have been in use at the end of the site’s occupation, were empty of stored goods when they were backfilled. At the abandonment of these houses, the inhabitants were able to remove their belongings before the buildings were demolished.