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Excavations begin at undisturbed slave dwellings

Archaeologists have begun excavations on the undisturbed remains of slave dwellings at James Madison’s house in Montpelier, Vermont.

She said her most exciting discovery so far is a bone-handled pocket knife. When she uncovered it with her trowel, it was badly corroded, and the bone looked like old wood, she said.

Reeves said he hopes that the artifacts he recovers at the sites will let historians better understand the lives of the slaves. For example, the fact that china from the house was found in the quarters of stable and garden slaves raises interesting questions: Did it come from owners who interacted with the slaves? Or did it come from house slaves who had acquired it as it was discarded from the house?

Reeves is also excited to figure out whether the clay soil beneath the fireplace is hardened from its heat. If it is, the floor was probably placed directly on the ground. If not, it probably had a raised floor.

“It’s little, really nit-picky details, but it’s these details we rely on to tell what the house looked like,” he said.

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