Faunal Research at Montpelier Mansion
Editor's note: See a second article on this continuing research published in December 2011
In collaboration with the Montpelier Foundation, Arizona State Museum zooarchaeologist, Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman, is analyzing the faunal remains (animal bones) excavated from several late 18th and early 19th century deposits located behind Montpelier Mansion, the Virginia home of founding father and fourth president, James Madison, Jr. While the site has historical significance as a presidential home, it is particularly important for historical archaeologists because it presents a rare opportunity to examine rural plantation life at the turn of the 19th century.
Barnet will compare these results with the results of an earlier analysis of the faunal remains from the first Madison family occupation of Montpelier: the early to mid-18th century cabin built by the president's grandparents. It appears that, in the early years of the plantation, the family consumed a great deal more wild animal foods than expected; however, domestic animals were, of course, their primary source of meat. It will be interesting to see if, in later years, the trend continues, or if the family relied less, or more, on wild foods.
James Madison served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809-1817. Born in Orange County, Virginia in 1751, the Princeton-educated gentleman participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, served in the Continental Congress, and was a leader in the Virginia Assembly. Referred to as the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison (along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay) contributed to the ratification of the Constitution by writing the Federalist essays. Madison died on June 28, 1836 at Montpelier.
Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman, Ph.D. is assistant curator of zooarchaeology at Arizona State Museum and assistant professor of anthropology at UA. She can be reached at 520-626-3989 or by email.
Photos by Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman and ASM Staff
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