Current Research

The real historical Monticello was a 5000-acre plantation. It was home not only to Thomas Jefferson and his family, but also to scores of free workmen and to hundreds of enslaved African-Americans and their families, whose skills and labor powered Jefferson's agricultural and industrial enterprises. The social, economic and ecological dynamics of this complex society are a major focus of the Department's research at Monticello. New archaeological research initiatives are beginning to yield exciting insights into this vanished world.

The Plantation Archaeological Survey represents the first attempt to provide a complete inventory of the unique archaeological resources located on the 2000-acre tract currently owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. The Foundation's holdings represent the core of Jefferson's Monticello Plantation, which originally included the 1000-acre Monticello home farm tract, and three outlying quarter or satellite farms named Tufton, Shadwell, Lego. The Monticello home farm, on the southeast slopes of Monticello Mountain (shown above) has been the focus of survey fieldwork to date. The Plantation Survey is revealing that dramatic changes in domestic and agricultural landscapes occurred at Monticello from initial European and African settlement circa 1740 to the Civil War.

A second major initiative is the Mulberry Row Reassessment. Mulberry Row was the street of outbuildings adjacent to Jefferson's mountain-top mansion. Along it stood facilities for blacksmithing, nail making, carpentry, and food processing, along with housing for enslaved artisans and domestics who did this work. Excavations along Mulberry Row during the 1980's brought to light the buried remains of these buildings and hundreds of thousands of artifacts. They made visible the centrality of slavery to life on the mountain top. The Reassessment brings 21st-century analytical methods to bear on deciphering the historical meaning of this material.

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