Archaeologist continue to dig up history at Belle Grove plantation

Virginia

Archeologist and Syracuse P.H.D candidate Matthew Greer started his dissertation research at Belle Grove plantation three summers ago with the goal of uncovering some of the property’s hidden gems. 

“We got about 15 in the first test that we dug and I knew immediately, that we had the site,” said Matthew Greer of Syracuse University. 

And now, a new team of archeologists and student interns have joined Greer at the site that once was the plantations slave quarters. Over the years, the site has led to the discovery of over 15,000 artifacts and counting.

“Locally made ceramics like the Shenandoah valley is famous for , we are seeing bottle glass, imported ceramics from England some tools and even forks and knives,” said Greer. 

Greer says up until this point there has been very little archeological research on slave life in the Shenandoah valley and the findings help him understand how their everyday actions shaped history.

“The enslaved people out here were making lives for themselves, every single day despite the fact that they were in these horrible conditions they were doing what they could to get by,” said Greer. 

Student- intern Jessica Burnette says her experience at Belle Grove has helped confirm her decision to get into archeology.

“We get to find out how these people lived and see what no one has ever bothered to try and look for before, so this is really something special,” said Burnette.

Hood college archeology and anthropology professor David Hixson is teaching the students how to bag, tag, wash and identify the artifacts…that he says were found in the areas they were left in,in the 1800’s.

“The artifacts that we are coming in contact with essentially or laying more or less where they were either dropped, swept,” said Hixson.

He says the artifacts mean so much because the slaves weren’t able to leave behind a written record.

“Giving a voice back to people who honestly were never allowed to write their own story down,” said Hixson. 

The artifacts will be taken to Syracuse for further interpretation, and will ultimately return to Belle Grove where the archeologist team say they belong. 

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