ORANGE COUNTY, Virginia (WVIR) – Many of James Madison’s Montpeliers have yet to be discovered. Archaeologists and volunteers are currently using metal detectors to try to find ancient structures in the historic house.
“We have a bunch of metal detectors here who came from across the country to spend the week with us doing surveys, locating nails that might have come from a structure that was here. We are trying to understand not only the location, but when it is dated, and also what it was used for, ”said Montpellier Archeology Director Matthew Reeves.
Metal detectors help to narrow down a building’s site, then allowing the area to be excavated.
“We found a lot of nails, which is normal. Like, 98% of the artifacts we find are nails. But we also found a horseshoe, ”Reeves said.
The artifacts they find allow them to determine what type of building it was and get an estimate of the year it was built. Excavations can be unpredictable as there are no more blueprints to help guide archaeologists.
“There are no maps, there are no documents that say where these structures are. In the 1850s, Madison’s nieces and nephews burned all plantation records. All records of the contributions of American slaves to this plantation have disappeared, ”said the manager.
The goal is to replicate these structures so that audiences can better imagine what life was like in Madison’s day.
“We have a better idea of living history and can do better staging for young people so that they can understand what happened in the past because, as we know, those who forget the history will inevitably repeat it, ”Michael King, a detector helping to investigate the earth, said.
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