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Kentland Archaeology

By Thomas Klatka

To engender and guide Virginia Tech's commitment of sound stewardship of historic resources at Kentland, a 19th-century plantation now used as the College Farm, the Roanoke Office of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources joined the efforts of the Kentland Revitalization Committee, a committee of university faculty and staff and community members. Through this partnership, two archaeological projects were completed at Kentland in 2004. Both projects were made possible by the support and cooperation of Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

One archaeological project used the assistance of students from Virginia Tech and Radford University to successfully verify the location of a cemetery once used by the enslaved community at Kentland. This project was completed with thoughtful guidance and encouragement from the Wake Forest community, who are largely descended from the enslaved people who lived and worked at Kentland. The project required the removal of approximately one foot of topsoil from two parallel trenches so the subsoil could be carefully inspected for changes in soil color and texture that are indicative of the tops of grave shafts. This procedure resulted in the identification of twelve grave shafts in the two trenches. As a result, Virginia Tech has established a dialogue with the Wake Forest community and the Kentland Revitalization Committee with the goal of protecting this cemetery and commemorating the lives of the people buried in the cemetery. During the autumn of 2006, a second phase of this archaeological project will attempt to define the boundaries of the cemetery.

For the second archaeological project, the College of William & Mary's Center for Archaeological Research was retained to study a two-acre parcel surrounding the Kentland farmhouse. The use of systematically placed exploratory test pits followed by formal excavation in larger areas enabled the identification of significant archaeological deposits that reflect not only the operations of the Kentland plantation but also the earlier use of the l and by Native Americans. This project was made possible by a cost sharing agreement between the Virginia Department of Historic Resources and Virginia Tech. One goal of the project was to identify archaeological deposits integral to public interpretation of Kentland's past and the development of 19th-century agriculture. The second goal of the project was to provide Virginia Tech with a guidance document to help protect and preserve these important archaeological deposits as plans are formulated to renovate the Kentland farmhouse so the facility can better serve the university and local communities.

Kentland Slave Cemetery


Archaeological Survey



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