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Unearthing Secret America


Photo Neiman Marley Brown

Fraser Neiman has been Director of Archaeology at Monticello in Charlottesville, VA since 1999. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Brown University in 1974, Neiman obtained his Master's degree in Anthropology in 1981 and his Ph. D. in 1990, both from Yale University.

His current research focuses on the archaeology of the greater Chesapeake region, from its initial settlement by Europeans and Africans to the Civil War. Among the topics he is currently pursuing are the implications of changing demography and labor processes for social relationships among enslaved people and slave owners. He is also part of the Monticello Plantation Archaeological Survey, a multidisciplinary initiative designed to reveal changes in settlement and land use on Thomas Jefferson's Albemarle County plantation.

Neiman also lectures on several topics, including Landscape Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, as well as Methods in Historical Archaeology in the Department Architectural History at the University of Virginia.


Please see our resources page for links to this scientist's home page and other related infomation.

Neiman responds :

Lawanda Hanson asks:
We especially enjoyed the program tonight with Alan Alda and his visit to Monticello and Jamestown. We just visited those places this summer. There is a monument on Mulberry Row that states how many days each week and how many hours the slaves worked. Do you have information regarding those days and hours? I'm afraid we did not remember the exact details, but found the information quite shocking. Thank you.

Neiman's response:
In the Chesapeake, slaves were expected to work from dawn to dusk, Monday through Saturday. Sunday was a day off. As a result, the length of the work day varied with the season of the year -- shorter in the winter and longer in the summer. During key times in the agricultural cycle, slave owners demanded additional work at night and on Sunday. Their demands usually met with slave resistance.

Bruce Sellers asks:
I enjoyed the show about slavery. How much did slaves cost in dollars and cents?

Neiman's response:
If you were a slave, your price would be determined by your age, sex, health, and the extent to which slave owners valued any special skills you might possess. As a result, in early 19th-century Virginia, slave prices might vary from ten's to hundreds of dollars. For a fascinating exploration of the social and economic dynamics of the 19th-century US slave market see: Johnson, Walter 1999, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Harvard University Press, Cambridge .

Brandon M. 7th grade student asks:
I want to know how long it took to dig up all that stuff?

Neiman's response:
Archaeological fieldwork is very time consuming! The Monticello Plantation Archaeological Survey is a good example. The goal of the Survey is to find every archaeological site on the 2000 acres of land currently owned by Monticello, so that we can understand the important changes in agricultural land use and slave settlement that occurred during Thomas Jefferson's lifetime. In Jefferson's day this area was mostly agricultural fields, but today is covered with woods. We dig one shovel test pit, looking for artifacts, every 40 feet. So far we have dug about 11,000 shovel test pits and covered about 300 acres. This work was done over four field seasons, with a field crew that averages about 6 people. It is slow going, but our historical findings make it worthwhile.



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