Excavating James Madison’s Montpelier

Posted in on site by Editor on May 16, 2021

Transferware ceramics, Bride of Lammermoor pattern, after 1819, when Sir Walter Scott’s novel was published.

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From the most recent issue of Preservation Magazine:

Meghan Drueding, “Ceramic Fragments Provide Clues to an Enslaved Community’s Past,” Preservation Magazine (Spring 2021), p. 16.

What does a one-inch-square scrap of an old ceramic teacup mean? Plenty, when it’s found during an archaeological dig at James Madison’s Montpelier, a National Trust Historic Site in Orange County, Virginia.

The dig took place over a four-year period ending in 2016, and focused on the South Yard, which contained housing for many of the people enslaved by the Madison family. It yielded thousands of ceramic pieces from hundreds of china patterns. Their existence revealed that members of Montpelier’s enslaved community often purchased their own ceramics using money they earned through activities like raising livestock, growing vegetables, or sewing—on top of the unpaid work the Madisons required of them.

“The ledger books survive from at least one nearby store,” says Mary Furlong Minkoff, curator of archaeological collections. “We have records of people we know were enslaved at Montpelier buying things for themselves.” . . .

The full article is available here»

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