University of Virginia: Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshop

Archaeology Brown-Bag Workshops provide an informal, interdisciplinary venue for presentations of work in progress by students, faculty, and visiting scholars, and for discussion of developments in the recent archaeological literature. Plus there is free food and drink. Workshops convene more-or-less tri-weekly on Fridays at 4:00-5:30 in the conference room on the second floor of Brooks Hall, unless otherwise noted below.

Want to volunteer a talk or discussion topic? Email Adria LaViolette, or Fraser Neiman.
Spring 2018
Feb. 2
The Vital Dead: Making Meaning, Identity, and Community through Cemeteries. Alison Bell, Department of Anthropology, Washington and Lee University, and Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Abstract. In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and well beyond, profound changes are underway in cemeteries: grave markers are still etched with images of bibles and flowers, but motorcycles, monsters, cats, and footballs are also appearing. Inscriptions ("Gone Hunting for the Lord" or "Had a Good Ride") and objects lefts on grave sites — bird feeders, whirligigs, letters to the deceased — echo this florescence. The Vital Dead, a book VFH fellow Alison Bell is writing under contract with the University of Tennessee Press, interprets these movements largely as a struggle against alienation, with people weaving loved ones into social webs that transcend the grave. The dead are vital both because they’re often imagined as cognizant, lithe, and accessible (if invisible), and also because they’re central to the creation of identity and community among the living. Because these sites of memorialization allow the visible championing of particular cultural values, they are also windows into historic as well as contemporary claims and counterclaims to visions of the future. Bell, who teaches anthropology at Washington & Lee University, will provide an overview of the book manuscript generally, and then specifically discuss case studies of African American burying grounds in the Valley.
March 23
Archaeological Excavations in Monticello's First Kitchen. Beatrix Arendt and Crystal Ptacek, Archaeology Department, Monticello.

Abstract. From about 1770 to 1809, when it was buried under three feet of fill, the basement room in Monticello's South Pavilion served as the mansion's first kitchen. Recent excavations in this space have produced exciting new discoveries about its layout and use, including the remains of a stew stove that was almost certainly used by enslaved chef James Hemings after four years of culinary training in Paris. We describe our findings and the ways in which they are advancing our understanding of the changing landscape of slavery at Monticello.
Past Semesters
For topics and speakers from past semesters, click here.