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Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School

Archaeology of Chesapeake Slavery and Landscape
Anthropology 5589

6 credits

Six week session: June 4 - July 13, 2018
Monticello's Department of Archaeology and the University of Virginia are pleased to offer a six-week archaeological field school at Monticello from June 4 through July 13, 2018. The program offers six credits to undergraduate and graduate students 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 the field school.  

Monticello will offer successful applicants half-tuition scholarships. Since space is limited to twelve students, please be sure to have all application materials submitted by deadline: April 16, 2018.




Field School Director: Fraser D. Neiman, Department of Archaeology, Monticello and Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia.
Instructors: Crystal Ptacek and Beatrix Arendt, Department of Archaeology, Monticello.

Guest Lecturers Include:

 Barnett Pavao-Zuckermanzooarchaeology 
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
Kandi Hollenbach
paleoethnobotany: macrobotanicals
Professor, Department of Anthropology
University of Tennessee
Christa Dierksheide
Research Historian


The Program

The Monticello 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. 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 2018 is Site 6, a domestic site that was home to enslaved field laborers in the early-nineteenth century, after the transition to wheat. We have discovered evidence for two distinct houses at the site, each with distinctive artifact assemblages and spatial organization. Our current working hypothesis is that one household represents a family, while the other represents a group of unrelated individuals. Our major goal this summer is to collect the data that will allow us to more rigorously evaluate this idea.   

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 and Scholarships

Tuition rates are set by the University of Virginia and vary by residency status (see this link for details:  For Virginia residents, total field-school tuition for 6 credits is $2,316 for undergraduates and $2,634 for graduate students. For non-residents, tuition is $8,364 for undergraduates and $5,340 for graduate students. All students accepted into the field school will receive scholarships from Monticello worth half the tuition charge.

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 16, 2018. You can email your application to The snail mail address is: 

Monticello-University of Virginia Archaeological Field School
P.O. Box 316
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

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

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


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.




Sara Griggs's picture
The topics and guest lecturers sound awesome. Applied for this summer's class, fingers crossed!
Sara Griggs
Jill Showell's picture
Monticello runs a first-rate field school. The instructors do a great job teaching field method and the program is well-rounded with lectures, field work, lab rotation and visits to other field schools. I highly recommend this field school. (Student, 2007 Field Season)
Jill Showell
ejohnson's picture
It's been a pleasure getting a chance to meet the field school students the past few years. I love the fact that we offer this kind of opportunity here, showing that Monticello isn't just a place resting on the laurels of past research but a place of ongoing active scholarship and historical work. There have been some great contributions from field school students to our cookout, too.
Eric Johnson
sbonharper's picture
Monticello's Department of Archaeology has a well-established field school (somewhere in its third decade!) that provides academic credit through the University of Virginia. Each summer 12 students selected through a competitive application process participate in an in-depth study of archaeology as applied to the Monticello plantation. The course includes many lectures (including some by well-known guest lecturers), readings, field trips, and lab training as well as excavation on one or more sites on the plantation.
Sara Bon-Harper
ejones's picture
Never to late to be Indiana Jones! Join Monticello’s archaeologists for fun, learning and the experience of a lifetime!


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