I am leaving on Sunday for a week at Montpelier, James Madison's historic home located in Orange, Va. I will be taking part in their Archaeological program! I am so excited about this opportunity and can't wait to learn more and share it here.
We will be excavating the North Kitchen site (hopefully full chock full of pottery!) which was the food prep site for the Madison's retirement years (1817-1844). They think this building was constructed in 1808. Working along side 8 archaeologists, we will try to discover more about the structure itself, the hearth, and design of the area. I'll get to participate in the digs, the lab work, and different histories and lectures through out the week. Its a very small program, I think there are only 2 or 3 others going, so I will be very involved in the whole process.
Art History is one of my favorite subjects, one that I considered going back to school for, and I love the link between the past and present. I think the art of archaeology is very similar to the art of pottery. There are technical details, requiring a very organized approach, mixed with a physical sensitivity to earthy materials. Archaeology and pottery (or just art in general!) are like reading pop up books of history ... and they fill in as you learn more. They may have different goals in the extension of the study but both want to assimilate and use that tradition and history in their understanding of the present. I am so visual and tactile in the way I learn and I think this will hone in on both that and pottery's inexorable ties to its histories and traditions. I'm hoping to learn more about how to learn about the past, to learn more about geology (soil layers and clay), how they identify a particular artifact's significance and date, and more about the history of the site.
I may even come back with some clay from the area to test and use myself! Wouldn't those be wonderfully Virginian pots?!
I think I'll be able to post from Montpelier. If not, I will be back in a week!