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VCU Archaeology

Our Third President: Scanning at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

by Dr. Bernard K. Means, Project Director

Rachael Hulvey prepares an object for scanning.

Thomas Jefferson was not only the third U.S. president, but the third president whose artifacts our scanning team has, well, scanned.  Previously we’ve scanned objects associated with George Washington (at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia, at George Washington’s Boyhood Home at Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate, Museum and Gardens, in Fairfax County, Virginia) and also James Madison at Montpelier in Orange County, Virginia.  Jack Gary, Director of Archaeology and Landscapes, welcomed me to Poplar Forest on August 2, 2012–just a week ago of this writing.  I was joined August 3, 2012, by VCU students Crystal Castleberry, Caitlyn Grove, Rachael Hulvey, Ashley McQuistion, and Mariana Zechini.  Rachael arrived a bit ahead of the other students and was certainly enthusiastic about scanning objects that may have belonged to Thomas Jefferson and others who worked and labored at Poplar Forest over the centuries.

Mariana Zechini, far left, watches as Ashley McCuistion, second from left, shows Crystal Castleberry and Caitlyn Grove how to scan artifacts.

Among the items we scanned were a finial from a clock that may have belonged to Thomas Jefferson, a pipe with a puncate design that read “Good pipe,” several stone pipes manufactured locally–possibly by the same enslaved servant–and even a World War 1 metal toy soldier.

Closeup of the “Good pipe”

Jack Gary was gracious enough to give all of us from VCU a thorough behind the scenes tour of their archaeological investigations, the mansion at Poplar Forest itself, and the archaeology lab.  I know my students and I really appreciated his courtesy and all the other folks involved in archaeology at Poplar Forest.

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