RESEARCH
University of Virginia Vice President for Research
Sustainability Research Initiatives

Archaeology

During Thomas Jefferson's lifetime, the name of the Morven property was "Indian Camp", and local histories stated there had been a Native American site in the area. In 2009 in collaboration with Monticello Archaeology and archaeologists at Washington and Lee University, the UVa archaeology field school led by Jeffrey Hantman initiated archaeological surveys at Morven to learn more about its prehistoric and historic-era land uses and occupations. Continuing archaeological work has yielded evidence of a seasonal Indian camp from as early as 2,000 BC, as well as artifacts from the pre-Contact era through its nineteenth century uses by tenant farmers and as a slave-based plantation. The field work together with laboratory analysis and archival research is contributing to a multi-disciplinary interpretation of the interrelated evolution of human and environmental history at Morven.

 

For its 2011 archaeology field school, Washington and Lee University faculty and students opened more than 30 units at a site that appears in a circa 1801 survey map prepared for Thomas Jefferson as one of the fields rented by George Haden (referred to Site D). Genealogical records indicate that George Haden had been bound (indentured) to a carpenter in Louisa County, Virginia from the age of 5 until he reached the age of 21 in 1764. Although a number of his family members moved to southwest Virginia in the 1770s and 1780s, George Haden rented fields at the “Indian Camp” property from the 1790s until about 1803 and his sons married into Albemarle County families.

Articles recovered at the site – those related to a structure such as nails and window glass, remnants of domestic goods such as ceramic sherds, cooking pots and wine bottles, and personal items such as buttons and beads – as well as evidence of agricultural practices (such as plow scars and the remnants of soil amendments) provide data about the circumstances of those who lived there. Analysis of the material culture enables researchers to learn about the type of goods the household was using – and generates questions about the occupants’ goals and strategies through the choices they were making about their possessions and their resources for the future.

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movie Site D W&L Monaghan 3
Dr. Sean Devlin, Washington and Lee University
at Morven Site D

This research also serves for comparison with contemporaneous “middling folk.” Together with a study of the liminal position of such “middling folk” in the social, economic, and geographical strata of their day, research about Morven’s tenant farmers will be presented at the 2012 conferences of the Society for Historical Archaeology and the Society for American Archaeology.