Artifacts found during excavations of the Field Quarter have much to say about daily life within the Hermitage enslaved community.Animal bones tell us a great deal about diet. Buttons and sewing equipment provide details about clothing. Marbles, china doll fragments, and other toys provide glimpses into the children's world. Beads, brass charms, and worked bone and ceramic fragments reflect spiritual practices. Coins confirm that some Hermitage slaves earned money, providing a way to purchase extras for their families.The amount and variety of artifacts excavated here initially surprised researchers. It is often assumed that field hands made do with much less than those slaves who worked in a planter's house. However, artifacts found here are very much like those found at slave dwellings near the Hermitage mansion. Jackson's wealth and social position, the long-term stability of the enslaved community, and access to major trading markets in Nashville show that life at The Hermitage allowed Field Quarter families to transform their circumstances in ways perhaps unavailable to other plantation communities.
I am truly astonished at Mr. Steels neglect of my negroes when taken sick & shall write to him on this subject...I will turn him away unless he pays more attention to their health, by sending for Doctor Hogg in due time after they are taken sick. - Andrew Jackson to Charles Love Jones, December 17, 1829
Archaeologists have found ceramic fragments such as this Chinese porcelain at most Hermitage slave dwellings. The Jackson family may have given cracked or chipped items to the slaves, or the slaves may have taken them. Other ceramics found at the Field Quarter were inexpensive at the time, and may represent the items Jackson provided for the enslaved.
Excavations unearthed this 1853 gold dollar in the rubble of one of the Field Quarter foundations. Coins have been found at every slave dwelling excavated at The Hermitage.
Andrew Jackson provided his slaves with medical treatment and medicine. Medicinal vials such as these have been found at several slave dwellings.
A hair comb found at the Field Quarter.
Archaeologists discovered several padlocks within the foundation of one of the Field Quarter dwellings. The reason why the occupants discarded so many locks remains a mystery.
Children's toys such as this porcelain doll body have been found at several slave dwellings on the Hermitage property.
Archaeologists unearthed a wide variety of animal bone at every Hermitage slave dwelling. Species represented in the archaeological collection show that Hermitage slaves had access to sheep, pigs, cattle, squirrel, opossum, chicken, turkey, goose, and sturgeon, a fish once abundant in the nearby Cumberland River.