Archaeology of Chesapeake Landscape and Slavery
Anthropology 5589

6 credits

Six-Week Session: June 3 - July 12, 2024

Monticello's Department of Archaeology and the University of Virginia offer a six-week archaeological field school at Monticello. The field school provides six credits through the University of Virginia's College of Arts and Sciences. The Monticello-UVA Field School accepts applications from undergraduate students as well as postgraduates. A current or previous affiliation with UVA is not required to attend.


Video courtesy UVA Today

Space is limited to ten students. Please be sure to have all application materials submitted by deadline: April 8, 2024.




Field School Director: Fraser D. Neiman 

Field Research Manager: Crystal O'Connor

Research Archaeologist: Derek Wheeler 

Curator of Archaeological Collections:  Corey Sattes


Guest Lecturers Include:

  Barnett Pavao-Zuckerman zooarchaeology  
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
University of Maryland
  Dan Druckenbrod dendrochronology and ecology  
Associate Professor
Department of Geological, Environmental, and Marine Sciences 
Rider University
  John Jones paleoethnobotany: pollen and phytoliths  
  Senior Paleoethnobotanist
Archaeological Consulting Services, Ltd.
  Dan Hayes geoarchaeology  
  Kandi Hollenbach paleoethnobotany: macrobotanicals  
  Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Tennessee
  Jillian Galle archaeology of early-modern slave societies  
Project Director, Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (, Monticello
  Andrew Davenport public history, oral history, descendant community and family history  
Public Historian and Director of the Getting Word African American Oral History Project
  Gayle Jessup-White public history, oral history, descendant community and family history  
Community Engagement Officer

The Program

The Monticello-UVA Field School offers a hands-on introduction to basic excavation, recording, and laboratory techniques in archaeology. The course emphasizes a scientific, multidisciplinary approach to doing landscape archaeology.  It also provides the opportunity to contribute to cutting-edge research into the ecological and social dynamics that unfolded on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  Technical topics covered include survey and excavation strategies as well as the analytical possibilities for ceramics, faunal remains, plant phytoliths and pollen, deposits and the sediments they contain, soils, and spatial distributions of artifacts across sites and larger landscapes.

Guest lecturers are drawn from a variety of disciplines including archaeology, geology, ecology, paleoethnobotany, zooarchaeology, and history based on documents and oral testimony. On-site instruction, lectures, and discussion sessions at Monticello will be complemented by field trips to related sites. Students will attend classes forty hours per week, with the bulk of that time spent working in the field and the lab. Reading assignments, lectures, and discussion sessions will cover both technical and historical issues. 

Research Focus
Our fieldwork addresses changing patterns of land use and settlement on Thomas Jefferson's, Monticello Plantation from c. 1750 to 1860, along with their ecological and social causes and consequences. Toward the end of the 18th century, spurred by shifts in the Atlantic economy, Thomas Jefferson and planters across the Chesapeake region replaced tobacco cultivation with a more diversified agricultural regime, based around wheat. Our research is revealing the enormous implications of this shift for what the landscape looked like and how enslaved African-Americans worked and lived on it. Significant questions remain about the ecological processes that were unleashed, how they were experienced by slaves and slave owners, and the importance of changing slave work routines in explaining social dynamics among enslaved and free people.

The focus of our field research in 2024 is Site 30, a domestic site that was home to enslaved field laborers in the 1770s and 1780s, when tobacco was the cash crop at Monticello. In the fall of 2022 we discovered a subfloor pit at the site that marks the location of a long-vanished log house. Evidence from the spatial distribution of artifacts across the site points to the existence of other houses. Our goals for the summer include determining if the subfloor pit we found belongs to a larger cluster of pits, under a single house. This pattern is typical of the houses in which enslaved people in the Chesapeake lived for most of the eighteenth century. We also aim to locate the subsurface traces of the other houses that once stood on the site.    

The course does not assume students have previous archaeological field experience. An introductory course in archaeology will be helpful but is not mandatory. Archaeological fieldwork is very demanding. Students should be in good physical condition and enjoy sustained, strenuous teamwork.

Tuition Subsidies and Stipends from Monticello

Tuition rates are set by the University of Virginia and vary by residency status (see this link for details: All students accepted into the field school will receive a tuition subsidy from Monticello worth half the UVA-mandated tuition.  Taking into account this subsidy, tuition for 6 credits is $1,368 for undergraduates and $1,605 for graduate students who are Virginia residents. For non-residents, tuition is $5,055 for undergraduates and $3,352 for graduate students.

In addition to the tuition subsidy, each student will receive a $1,000 stipend to help with the remaining tuition and expenses.   

Room and Board

Air-conditioned housing at the University of Virginia is available to Students at an estimated cost of $41 per night or roughly $287 per week for a single room. Meals are available at an additional cost through University dining services, or students can choose to prepare their own meals. Numerous summer sublets are also available in Charlottesville, but students will need to make their own arrangements.

To Apply

Send a one-page cover letter that outlines your interest in archaeology and a CV or resume that contains the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of three references. The application deadline is April 8, 2024. Please email your application to

For further information about archaeological research at Monticello, visit our website or visit us on Facebook .

Or contact Fraser Neiman at (434) 984-9812 or


Lecture and Seminar Topics


Introduction to Monticello and the Chesapeake. Sediments, stratigraphy, and soils. Field and laboratory protocols. Artifacts and chronology. Landscape archaeology. Basic excavation and recording procedures. Descendant engagement and the Getting Word African-American Oral History Project.


Archaeological survey. Models of site discovery. Geodesy and GPS. Introduction to intra-site mapping and spatial analysis.


Dietary change in the Colonial Chesapeake: zooarchaeological and macrobotonical evidence. Forest history from dendrochronology and dendroecology.


Geoarchaeology: More on soils and sediments. Understanding colluvial and alluvial deposits. Dating sediments. Environmental reconstruction from phytoliths and pollen.


Site structure and the use of space. Recovery and analysis of intrasite spatial data.  


Reconstructing linked ecological and social dynamics from archaeological evidence.

Monticello gratefully acknowledges the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation for generous support of the Field School.