October is Virginia Archaeology Month. It offers an opportunity to learn about and celebrate archaeology in the state -- including at Monticello. Before COVID the local focus made archaeological research accessible: you could visit sites and labs, chat with people making discoveries, and find out how you can participate. Those days will return!
But the local focus makes it easy to overlook that archaeology is a global discipline whose goal is to use artifacts and other physical traces of human behavior to figure out what happened in human history and why -- starting with the first appearance of stone tools 2.5 million years ago. This expansive view of archaeology is essential to our local research because models developed by archaeologists working on other times and places help solve puzzles at Monticello.
In this post, I want to explain briefly how analytical methods inspired by archaeological research on late twentieth-century campsites occupied by Aboriginal people in the Western Desert of Australia have been critical to deciphering household organization among enslaved agricultural laborers who lived at Site 6 and worked the fields on Monticello Mountain in the early nineteenth century.