Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network
Number 12, Winter 1994Thomas R. Wheaton, Editor
Update #4: New York's African Burial Ground
Submitted by Jerome S. Handler, Southern Illinois University
This newsletter has provide three earlier reports on the African
burialground in lower Manhattan (Spring 1992, Spring 1993 and
Winter 1993). This update covers the period ending October, 1994.
Artifacts from the burial site, as well as the neighboring
Five Points site, are still housed in a laboratory at the World
Trade Center where they are being conserved by a team from John
Milner Associates. The burial groundartifacts will be separated
from those recovered at Five Points, and they will be shipped to
Howard University for analysis. All of the approximately 400 skeletal
remains are now at the Bioanthropology Lab at Howard where their
analysis is supported by a contract between the General Services
Administration and Howard University (see the accompanying article
by Mark Mack). After being analyzed, the skeletal population will
be reinterred at the burial site. The formal ceremonies that will
accompany reinterment have yet to be formulated.
In April, 1994, the General Services Administration (GSA) and
the National Park Service (NPS) entered into an agreement concerning
the Interpretative Center to be located within the new Foley Square
Federal Office Tower Building, adjacent to the burial site. This
agreement provides for the NPS to design and construct the Interpretive
Center which will encompass an approximately 2,000 square foot
area. Through the use of archaeological data and historical records,
the Interpretive Center will interpret the African burial ground within
the wider context of the sociocultural history of Africans and
their descendants in the New York area in the early colonial period.
The Federal Advisory Committee (or Steering Committee on the
African Burial Ground) was established in 1992 for a two year period
to make recommendations to the GSA concerning the skeletal remains
and associated issues relating to the burial ground. The committee,
of which this author was a member, met monthly at the Schomburg
Center in New York. With the expiration ofits charter, the final
meeting of the committee was held on August 22, 1994. Further information
concerning the current status of the African Burial Ground Interpretive
Center and related issues can be obtained from the Office of Public
Education and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground, U.S. Custom
House, Room 239, 6 World Trade Center, New York 10048; phone 212-432-5707;
fax 212 432-5920.
Searching for West African Cultural Meanings in the Archaeological
Submitted by Patricia Samford, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
As archaeological data on African Americans has accumulated
over the last twenty years, archaeologists have taken two major
approaches to analyzing and explaining their information. The first
approach seeks archaeological patterns which would allow the recognition
of slave sites and serve as signalsor markers when these sites
are discovered. The second, centering around the search for objects
with physical or behavioral links to West Africa, has moved from
the simple transference of objects and ideas from Africa to a more
refined focus which integrates behavior with material culture. The
aim of the latter is not on direct, unaltered transferences, but
onhow West African cultural traditions were modified in the face
of the new environments, different social groups, and altered power
structures in which slaves found themselves. One facet of these
changes was with respect to the material aspects of life. Since
the discovery of archaeological artifacts crafted by slaves has
been fairly limited and difficult to validate, archaeologists are
now realizing the importance of looking at other types of objects.
No longer having access to the same commodities once at their disposal,
West African slaves and their descendants lived in a material world
populated largely with goods of English or European manufacture.
It is likely that the enslaved thought about and used some objects
differently than their creators had originally intended, adapting
these new forms of material culture for use within African American
cultural systems. In his study of the relationship between society
and material culture, Daniel Miller argues that individuals and
social groups can recontextualize and transform the traditional
or manufactured images and meanings of objects in ways that construct
and reproduce culture. It is to the reinterpretation of these manufactured
goods to meet African American uses which archaeologists should
look for ways to understand processes of cultural transformations
by African Americans.
These meanings become most readily evident when artifacts have
been altered in some fashion or recovered archaeologically in atypical
contexts, which can then be analyzed to gain insight about their
new use. An assemblage of objects interpreted as a conjurer's kit
from a standing quarter at Jordan Plantation is an example of artifacts
which gained meaning through the use of this approach. Another
example are the shaped and sanded fragments of eighteenth-century
English earthenwares found at African-American sites in Virginia
and Jamaica and believed to have been used in the African game of
mancala. Additionally, a pocketknife found at one of the Somerset
Plantation slave quarters in North Carolina and pewter spoons recovered
from Kingsmill Plantation in Virginia and Garrison Plantation in
Maryland exhibited incised markings similar to the West African
Bakongo cosmogram. What the shaped pottery, spoons, and knife represent
are English manufactured objects modified in ways to make them
gain West African-based cultural meanings.
In order to formulate a model for understanding objects recovered
from slave sites, the need exists to establish the parameters of
an Afrocentric, or more specifically, a "West" Afrocentric,
approach. An understanding of the art, religion, social structure,
material culture, and archaeological findings of those West African
cultures who were most heavily impacted by the slave trade to North
America is crucial to creating this perspective. Despite a growing
awareness of the cultural diversity of African and African-American slaves,
archaeologists have often tended to treat slaves as single cultural group,
basing this consolidation on what they consider to have been common African
traits such as religion, subsistence and kinship structure. Even, however,
if the slaves arriving in the New World had not originated from various
cultures with differing belief systems, situational factors would greatly
affect behavior across space and through time and thus archaeological data.
What is needed is a thorough search of the archaeological,
ethnographic, and ethnohistorical data of the West African cultures
which were present in the American Southeast. This information
will allow the creation of a model which reveals cultural and material
practices evident within West African archaeological and historical
records. The following discussions of spiritual beliefs and musical
traditions suggest how an approach informed by West African cultural
traditions can be used to reinterpret African-American archaeological
data and guide research designs on future excavations.
Spiritual Beliefs - Religion is one of the strongest
elements of the African American community and the importance of
spirituality in life can be traced back to West African belief
systems. While beliefs are difficult to recover archaeologically,
humans often use physical manifestations to help express their
beliefs. The Jordan Plantation conjurer's kit and a similar find
from the basement of the Carroll House in Annapolis, Maryland are
two situations where objects were recovered in contexts indicating
they had been used in religious ceremonies.
Additional archaeological findings indicative of African American
religious beliefs have most likely been misinterpreted either because
their context was not as tightly defined, or through lack of a
perspective informed by West African traditions. For example, during
the destruction or renovation of several standing nineteenth-century
slave quarters in Virginia and North Carolina, objects have been
discovered inserted between the interior and exterior walls of
these buildings. These objects, including a bottle containing a
button, several cloth sugar and tobacco bags holding with plant
material and an iron knife, are fairly innocuous until they are
examined in relation to cultural practices of the Bakongo. Bakongo
religious and medicinal practices involve using minkisi, sacred
objects which embody the spiritual being and generally consist
of some type of container, such as a gourd, pot, bag, or snail
shell filled with medicines, such as chalk, nuts, soil, or stones.
The use of minkisi has not been restricted to Africa; Robert
Farris Thompson discusses examples in Cuba and New York City. The
objects placed intentionally within the walls of slave cabins were
probably also associated with African American translations or
adaptations of Bakongo or other West African religious and medicinal
practices. These two slave cabins do not appear to be isolated examples.
Two peeled and sharpened forked sticks discovered between the inner
and outer walls of the Stagville Plantation quarter in Durham,
North Carolina were interpreted, based on slave narratives, as
objects to ward off witches. Similarly, an English delftware drug
jar found buried underneath the floor of the eighteenth-century
Brush-Everard kitchen in Williamsburg, Virginia and another earthenware
vessel from a slave work area at Oxon Hill Manor in Maryland may
have also been related to similar practices.
Using late eighteenth-century Virginia store accounts, Ann
Smart Martin has found that, among other items, enslaved African
Americans were purchasing mirrors. Mirror glass has been found
at numerous 18th and 19th-century slave sites in Virginia. While
these mirrors may have been used in the traditional sense as looking
glasses, research has indicated that mirrors held spiritual significance
in West African cultures and those of their descendants. Mirrors are
believed to have represented the reflective surface of water,
which constituted the world of deceased ancestors, and have been
documented as decorating early twentieth-century graves in the
African Kongo and in Georgia and South Carolina. Other forms of
material culture, such as cowrie shells, beads, and pierced coins,
were also likely to have been used in religious practices.
Music - As indicated here, the presence of West
African based religious traditions is strongly suggested in the
material culture of slave sites. The same appears true in music
as well. Music traditions from West Africa have been documented
in African American culture through nineteenth-century paintings,
photographs, and traveler's descriptions. Given the importance
of music in African and African-American life, and its documentation
in these other sources, musical evidence should be evident archaeologically.
Excavations to date, however, have recovered only limited evidence
of musical instruments, primarily mouth harps. Other types of
artifacts, however, could also have been used in making music.
For example, two commonly recovered items are iron keys and jawbones
from large mammals, such as horses, pigs, and cows. These generally
have been interpreted as functioning in their typical uses as security
devices and as food. An alternate explanation for these objects
would be a musical one. The practice of scraping an iron rod or
key over the jawbone of a large animal occurs within African,
as well as African-American music traditions. This hypothesis could
be easily tested by examining the jawbones for wear patterns caused
by the scraping of the keys. Additionally, playing metal washboards
by placing thimbles over the fingers, popular in African American
blues, was derived from the practice of playing the jawbone and
spoon playing originated from the African tradition of playing
The presence of buttons in larger percentages on slave sites
than on those of other ethnic origins, has been interpreted as
a byproduct of using old clothing in quiltmaking. An alternative
explanation is that in some instances buttons may have been used
in a fashion similar to that of cowrie shells strung around gourds
as a percussion instrument called a shekere. Since the recovery
of gourds from a typical archaeological context would be rare,
testing this hypothesis would involve soil sampling from archaeological contexts
containing large quantities of buttons to test for traces of pollen or
Conclusion - These discussions provide a few suggestions for
ways African American archaeology can be viewed from a West Afrocentric perspective
and how it affects the way artifacts and other findings can be
viewed. This work is at a very preliminary stage and the next
task is to systematically test these and similar hypotheses on
excavated site data. As suggested by these examples, enslaved Africans
and African Americans retained and modified West African spiritual
traditions in ways that canbe documented archaeologically. In
doing so, they appear to have used European manufactured and natural
objects in way which had relevance to West African spiritual traditions.
New York Burial Ground Project - From the Field to the Laboratory
Submitted by Mack E. Mark, Howard University
The New York African Burial Ground Project involves the curation,
reconstruction and analysis of the skeletal remains of approximately
400 ancestral Africans who lived, labored and died in colonial
New York. The results of this research will shed light on their
origins in West Africa, the stresses they faced while being enslaved
on these shores, as well as the processes of biocultural adaptation
they underwent. In essence, giving a voice to our ancestors who have
been silenced for over two centuries.
The initial stage of the research entails the cleaning, reconstruction, anthropomorphic
recordation, pathological assessment and photographic documentation of
the skeletal remains. The target date for the completion of this
phase is February, 1996. Presently, 130 individuals have gone through
The preliminary research has already yielded some interesting
findings. There are many examples of individuals exhibiting work
or load bearing stresses. Most of the hypertrophy of muscle attachments
uncovered so far are in theupper body (shoulders and arms). Enthesopathies
have been observed, where lesions are left in muscle attachments
due to muscle tears as a result ofextreme labor. Osteophytosis
has been found in several cervical vertebraeof individuals prior
to old age, resulting from carrying heavy burdens ontop of the
head. Additionally, squatting facets have been found in the tarsal bones
of three individuals, showing that they tended to squat, rather
thansit, while working, which is customary in some West African
Evidence of tobacco smoking (pipe notches in the dentition)
has been found in several men and women. Another significant discovery
is that dental analysis has uncovered at least five different dental
modification patterns (tooth filing). These cultural practices
will aid in determining the West and Central African sociocultural
origins of these individuals. The reconstruction, recordation and
preliminary analysis of the numerous infants and children have
revealed the severe and disproportionate impact of stresses upon
the youngest members of this population. Porotic hyperostosis and
craniosynostosis have been observed in a number of children. Dental
pathologies, such asenamel hypoplasia and hypocalcification, as
well as caries formation have been found in the deciduous and permanent
dentitions of children. Along with numerous examples of delayed
skeletal growth and development, these skeletal indicators point
to the stressful conditions that these children faced.
Finally, there are a number of cases of traumatic fractures,
the most interesting of which involves two women. One exhibits
trauma to the head that led to a circular fracture at the base
of the skull which may have caused her death. In the other woman,
it is clear that she was shot in the back or side by a musket ball
which fractured her left ribs and scapula. In addition, she has
a perimortem torsion fracture of her right radius andulna and
multiple fractures of the face. Obviously, these traumatic fractures are
clear signs of the violent conditions this population faced under
Specialized studies in the future will include DNA sampling
and chemicalisotope analysis, histomorphometry, demographic profiles,
analysis of burial artifacts and practices, the analysis of disease
processes, as well as studies focusing on biocultural continuity
and change for this population. The entire phase of data collection
of the New York African Burial Ground skeletal population will
be completed by 1998, and the reburial of the remains will follow.
Tours of our laboratory facilities at Howard University are
available to the public and visiting scholars on Friday and Saturday
mornings. We can accommodate tours of 30 persons or less. Alternative
times for tours also can be arranged. Call Mr. Mark E. Mack (202)
806-5256 to schedule a tour (all tours must be scheduled prior
Jefferson's Poplar Forest
Submitted by Barbara Heath, Poplar Forest
Archaeologists at Jefferson's Poplar Forest are currently excavating the
site of an early nineteenth-century slave cabin located approximately 650
feet east of the octagonal dwelling house which Jefferson constructed in
1806 to serve as "an occasional retreat." Artifacts
recovered at the site from feature fill and the plowzone suggest
that the cabin was occupied from the mid 1790s through the first
decade of the nineteenth century. The artifactual data combined
with documentary evidence suggests that the building may have been
torn down during Jefferson's campaign to reorganize the plantation
landscape in 1812-1813. Still later in the nineteenth century, the
site was plowed.
The site was discovered during testing of Poplar Forest's property
boundary during the spring of 1993, when a test pit came down on
the corner of what turned out to be a root cellar. Testing to the
north and south have identified the limits of the site and the
probable location of another dwelling onan adjacent knoll. The
site sits on a gentle slope, and the predicted location of additional
buildings at the top of the knoll lies on land no longer owned by
Poplar Forest. To date, archaeologists have uncovered the footprint
of a building that measures roughly 15 by 25 feet. Three shallow,
unlined pits, or root cellars, sat within the structure. No in-situ
evidence of chimneys was preserved; however, the presence of daub
in the fill of the root cellars suggests the presence of wooden
chimneys at each gable end of the structure. Like most piedmont
Virginia dwellings, this structure was probably built of log.
A variety of artifacts have been excavated from the root cellars,
including buttons (bone, silver plated and brass), a small assemblage
of glass beads, architectural debris and hardware, imported ceramics,
bottle glass, what appears to be the bowl of a pewter spoon, a
small faunal assemblage and a collection of charred seeds. Faunal
analysis conducted by Susan Trevarthen Andrews of Poplar Forest
resulted in the identification of one cow, onepig, one chicken,
one turkey, one white tailed deer, one opossum, one eastern grey
squirrel, one eastern cottontail rabbit and unidentified fish.
Eggshell was also recovered. Floral analysis undertaken by Leslie
Raymer of New South Associates will be completed this winter.
Excavations have continued around the structure in an attempt
to document the layout of the yard. A total of 30 ten-foot units
have been excavated to date. All units have been subdivided into
five by five foot units for removal of plowzone, and all have been
screened through one-quarter inch mesh.
Artifacts recovered in the plowzone indicate both domestic
and industrialactivities occurring at or near the site. A quantity
of clinkers, pieces of iron waste and tools that appear to have
been reworked suggest that a blacksmith's shop was near the dwelling.
No structural remains of such a building have been located.
Sixteen fragments of soapstone tobacco pipes have also been
recovered from the site, one of which came from the fill of a root
cellar. Two larger pieces of broken soapstone may be byproducts
of pipe making on the site. Research into these objects is currently
underway. The archaeology department has recently received a two
year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, half of which will support
continued investigations at this site.
Black History Project Update
Submitted Charles Orser, Illinois State University
In June 1994, the McLean County Historical Society and the
local Black History Project co-sponsored a two-week dig at the
Wilbur Barton homesite in Normal, Illinois, occupied by the Barton
family from the 1890s to the 1980s. Volunteer workers, directed
by Edward B. Jelks, explored the backyard of the house, where a
privy and the remains of a horse barn were partially excavated.
From these features and from an extensive sheet midden a sizeable sample
of artifacts was collected. The archaeological finds, augmented
byoral history from members of the Barton family, document the
utilization of space on the home lot, as well as domestic activities
This is the second archaeological project in the ongoing Black
History Project: a study of the Bloomington-Normal black community
from the initial Euroamerican settlement ca. 1820 to the present.
The first took place in 1992, when excavations were carried out
around the Weyman Methodist Church and attached parsonage in Bloomington,
dating from the 1840s, under the direction of Mark Groover and
Melanie Cabak. Their report on the Weyman Church project will appear
soon in Historical Archaeology.
Afro-European Archaeology in Barbados
Submitted by Thomas Loftfield, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is currently
conducting historical archaeological investigations of African-European
acculturation in Barbados, West Indies. The project started as
an outgrowth of excavations at the site of Charles Towne on the
Cape Fear, a failed seventeenth-century colony in North Carolina
which was supplied, funded and peopled from Barbados. The dearth
of excavated seventeenth-century sites and materials in Barbados needed
for comparative purposes led Dr. Thomas Loftfield of UNCW, Dr.
Robert Keeler of the Oregon Committee for the Humanities, and Dr.
Lindley Butler, Historian-in-Residence at Rockingham Community,
Wentworth, North Carolina, to examine possible sites on the island
for further excavation. Of all sites visited the most promising
was Codrington College on the rugged and isolated east coast. The
Codrington estates started as very successful sugar plantations in
the 1640s. At the death of Christopher Codrington III in 1711,
his Barbadian estates were willed to the Society for the Propagation
of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the developing missionary arm of
the Church of England. The S.P.G. set about the task of developing
a college on the property which, according to the terms of the
will, was to teach surgery and theology to attend to both the bodies
and souls of men, especially the African slaveson the island.
The building was designed in 1714 by Christian Lilly, a member of
the Royal Engineers. Construction began in 1715 with the fabric
completed by 1723, but fluctuations in the price of sugar delayed
opening until 1745. Up until 1983, when the Codrington Trust was
repatriated to Barbados, the S.P.G. kept meticulous records of
not only the college, but the plantations which continued to support
the college, as well. Because the grounds around the seventeenth-century
mansion house and sugar factory had become a college yard, prehistoric,
seventeenth-century, eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century materials
all lie in the ground virtually undisturbed. Combined with S.P.G. records
and Codrington papers, the rich archaeological deposits at Codrington constitute
an excellent laboratory for investigating many problems dealing with
early colonial settlement, the development of sugar, the development of
the institution of slavery, and the process of creolization which
melded elements of European and African heritage to create the
modern Barbadian culture.
To date, excavations have been undertaken in seventeenth-century
deposits of refuse from the great house, the kitchen for the great
house, and a the sugar factory. Materials recovered have yielded
information on European and African diets, on the development and
use of locally made ceramics,and on the early development of the
sugar industry. Most recently, testing has been undertaken at the
seventeenth to nineteenth-century Codrington Pottery Manufactory,
where the plantation made redwares for use in the sugar industry
and for domestic use, as well. The ceramic data have shed interesting light
on the role of industrial production in the survival of African
The work at Codrington has progressed by means of field schools
in archaeology held each summer since 1991. The field schools are
jointly sponsored by UNCW and the University of the West Indies,
Cave Hill Campus, in Barbados. In this setting students from the
U.S. work and learn with students from UWI, producing an international,
intercultural, interracial learning experience.The project benefits
students in the U.S. while assisting local Caribbeanstudents in
the exploration of their own particular heritage. Students interested in
participating in this project can obtain information from Dr.
Thomas Loftfield, Department of Anthropology, UNCW, Wilmington,
North Carolina 28403-3297.
Nina Plantation, New Roads, Louisiana
Submitted by New Orleans District COE
R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. under contract
with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, recently
completed extensive excavations at the site of Nina Plantation
in New Roads, Louisiana. Located approximately 20 miles upriver
from Baton Rouge, the plantation was originally called Pecan Grove
when it was established ca. 1822 by Jean Ursin Jarreau. It remained
in the Jarreau family until 1857 when Charles Allen purchased the
plantation, with its house, slave cabins, kitchens, cotton gin,
sugarhouse, other outbuildings, and 84 slaves, and renamed it
The plantation grew both sugar and cotton through the nineteenth
century, but by the late nineteenth century, riverine erosion had
forced the relocation of the artificial levee to the rear of the
plantation complex, leaving it unprotected from frequent flooding.
Most of the buildings were abandoned and subsequently razed. Excavations
in 1993-4 revealed alluvial deposits of up to 1.5 meters covering
the remains of the buildings.
A 3600 square meter area was found to contain the remains of
the mainhouse, two outbuildings, two cistern foundations, and
a wood-lined well. One of the two outbuildings was a detached kitchen
that also served as a residence, probably for the cook. The other
outbuilding probably served as residence for household slaves/servants.
The main house had been raised on substantial brick piers, while
the outbuildings were constructed using earthfast techniques. A
substantial alluvial deposit from a documented, mid-nineteenth
century flood separates antebellum and postbellum deposits across
the site, thus allowing analysis of spatial and temporal changes in
activity patterns. The 150-200,000 artifacts recovered during
the excavations are currently undergoing analysis.
The River Road African-American Museum and Gallery, Burnside,
Submitted by Paul Farnsworth, Louisiana State University
The River Road African American Museum & Gallery opened
earlier this year at Tezcuco Plantation in Burnside, Louisiana.
The museum is the creation of the Hambrick family, and is directed
by Kathe Hambrick. It is dedicated to collecting, preserving and
interpreting artifacts related to the history and culture of African-Americans.
The museum pays tribute to the hundreds of slaves who were purchased
and brought to Burnside, Louisiana, and their descendants who continue
to live in the rural communities along the Mississippi. It is a
much needed attempt to redress the balance of history as presented at
most of the antebellum plantation houses along the river. The
museum houses African-American art and memorabilia collected from
the surrounding parishes, as well as artifacts, photographs and
historical documents. Artifacts from recent archaeological excavations
at Oakley and Ashland-Belle Helene plantations are included in
the exhibits. The museum's hours are Wednesday-Sunday 1-5 p.m.
For more information contact Kathe Hambrick at (504) 644-7955.
Burnside Cemetery, Burnside, Louisiana
Submitted by Paul Farnsworth, Louisiana State University
The Burnside Cemetery is a rural African-American cemetery
located in a rectangular wooded area approximately 500 meters behind
(northeast) of Houmas House plantation home. The cemetery is surrounded
on all sides by sugar cane fields, and has become completely overgrown.
Although the cemetery first appears on the 1935 U.S.G.S. map, its
location relative to Houmas House suggests that it may date back
as far as the antebellum period.
At the suggestion of Kathe Hambrick, as a community service
activity in cooperation with the River Road African American Museum
and Gallery, students from Louisiana State University's 'African-American
Experience in Louisiana' course spent two weekend days in late
May locating, clearing and recording the graves under the direction
of Dr. Paul Farnsworth. The goals were to locate graves, make them
accessible for family members to visit, clear them of fallen trees
and vegetation, map their precise location, and record all information
from headstones, etc. The map and grave marker information is being
used by Kathe Hambrick to trace the families of the deceased to
arrange for visits and restoration of the graves.
In total, 18 graves were positively identified, and a number
of other possible graves were also recorded. Four burials were
in concrete vaults, four were low mounds of earth, three just had
simple headstones, three hadcrosses (2 iron, 1 concrete), three
were covered by cement slabs (one ofwhich had a low concrete wall
around three sides), and one grave was enclosed by a low brick
wall. Eight grave markers gave names, dates and a variety of other
information. Three males and five females were represented. Death dates
ranged from 1935 to 1961, while age at death ranged from 34 to
73 with a mean of 55.9 years (n=7).
While not an archaeology project, the application of archaeological
mapping and recording techniques to a community service project
and the cooperation between the River Road African-American Museum
and the anthropology and archaeology students and faculty from
LSU provides an example of the sorts of community outreach activities
that archaeologists can participate into develop bonds with the
African-American communities which we study.
Whom We Would Never More See: History and Archaeology
Recover the Lives and Deaths of African-American Civil War Soldiers
on Folly Island, South Carolina. By Steven D. Smith. Topics
in African-American History 3, South Carolina Department of Archives
and History, Columbia, 1993.
This monograph is a popular account of the discovery and excavation
ofa Civil War brigade cemetery containing the remains of members
of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 1st North
Carolina Colored Infantry from New Bern and James City, North Carolina.
The soldiers died while stationed on Folly Island, South Carolina
during the siege of Charleston, and some of their exploits were
recounted in the movie Glory. In 1987, the cemetery was discovered
during the development of a residential community, and theSouth
Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology conducted excavations to
remove the remains before they were destroyed. Later, the Institute
returned to excavate portions of the surrounding camps. The monograph
discusses the history of the siege, the two regiments, and how
archaeologists determined which regiments were represented by the
human remains. One chapter is devoted to life and death on Folly
Island, based on the history and archaeology. The final chapter
discusses the military reburial of these soldiers after their study.
The monograph avoids archaeological jargon and overwhelming technical
data and concentrates instead on relating the story with excellent illustrations,
maps and a popular writing style. It is a most successful attempt
at bringing the conclusions and interesting facts of history andarchaeology
to the general public.
A little grey literature
Over the past few years I have received, in one fashion or
another, publications that the academic world is wont to call "grey literature", but which for most of us in contracting is our
bread and butter. I mean, ofcourse, contract reports and other
unpublished or not very widely distributed reports. Some of these
have proved useful to me, and I feel they deserve wider distribution.
The following is a brief synopsis of a few which you might find
useful along with where to get a copy.
In Those Days, African-American Life Near the Savannah
River (Sharyn Kane and Richard Keeton 1994). This is one
of a series of nicely printed publications that the National Park
Service in Atlanta has been producing recently using non-technical
authors. This 91 page booklet is a popular synthesis of the extensive
work conducted by the Corps of Engineers at the Richard Russell
Lake prior to its inundation in the early 1980s. It is based in
part on portions of a two volume technical synthesis by David Anderson
and Joe Joseph of perhaps the largest project or series of projects ever
conducted in Georgia and South Carolina. The present volume deals
only with the African-American sites, documents and oral interviews.
It is well illustrated and provides a good background for the general
reader and the interested professional. The archaeological discussion
relies heavily on Chuck Orser's work at Millwood Plantation, and
Elaine Ramsey was primarily responsible for the history and oral
interviews. Best of all it is free, and still available at Interagency
Archaeological Services, National ParkService, 75 Spring Street,
Atlanta, Georgia 30303.
Prehistory and History Along the Upper Savannah River:
Technical Synthesis of Cultural Resource Investigations, Richard
B. Russell Multiple Resource Area (David G. Anderson and
J.W. Joseph 1988). You can tell this is a contract report by its
title and length (641 pages). This is thetechnical synthesis upon
which the popular report noted above was excerpted. It has more
detailed data on all aspects of the archaeology and history of
the lake area. It, too, is free, and is necessary for anyone doing
archaeology or history in the piedmont southeast. Unfortunately,
copies are no longer available, but if IAS were to get enough requests,
who knows, maybe they would print up a few more.
In the last issue, I mentioned Richard Westmacott's African-American gardening
volume. There is also a thesis on African American gardening in piedmont
Georgia written by Elise Eugenia LeMaistre, and entitled In Search
of a Garden: African Americans and the Land in Piedmont Georgia. Westmacott
was her major professor. It was written for her master's in landscape architecture
in 1988 and provides descriptions and a typology of gardens and
general farm layouts. It should be available through the department of
landscape architecture at the University of Georgia in Athens,
which, by the way is one of the better landscape architecture schools
A few years ago (1989 to be exact), the faculty and staff of
the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University
of South Carolina rounded up a series of invited papers for a volume
entitled Studies in South Carolina Archaeology, Essays in
Honor of Robert L. Stephenson. Three articles touch upon
African-American themes. Martha Zierden and Jeanne Calhoun provide
a synthesis of recent urban archaeology in Charleston with a discussion of
urban slave sites. Leland Ferguson provides some pre-Uncommon
Ground thoughts on the place and interpretation of slave-made and
Indian-made ceramics. This subject is further explored by Pat Garrow
and Tom Wheaton in an article on the slave and Indian-made ceramics
from the Yaughan and Curriboo plantation slave quarters. The volume
is nicely printed, edited by Glen Hanson and Al Goodyear, and available
as Anthropological Studies #9 of the Occasional Papers of the South
Carolina Institute of Archaeology (note the new spelling) and Anthropology
at USC in Columbia.
Archaeological Data Recovery at Long Point Plantation
(38CH321), Mark Clark Expressway (I-526), Charleston County, South
Carolina is a contract report by Eric Poplin and Michael
Scardaville of Brockington and Associates in 1991. While it does
not present much in the way of interpretation or analysis it does
contain useful comparative data on plantation artifacts including
slave material. As the South Carolina Department of Highways and Public
Transportation is one of the few agencies around that attempts
to fulfill its obligation to make data available to the public
that pays for it, copies of the report may still be available from
the department in Columbia.
Finally, but certainly not least, is a tome by David Babson
on investigationsat Belle Helene plantation in Louisiana entitled
Pillars on the Levee: Archaeological Investigations at Ashland-Belle
Helene Plantation, Geismar, Ascencion Parish, Louisiana.
The report recounts work undertaken at the slave quarters and other
outbuildings in 1989. The project was a testing program to determine
the National Register eligibility of the site, and not data recovery.
It was therefore unable to provide an indepth analysisof the site,
but like the Long Point Plantation project, it does provide useful
comparative data on artifacts and artifact distributions. This
report is still available from David at the Midwestern Archaeological
Research Center, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois 61761.
There is a small fee, at least there was for me.
There is also a journal that many people may not be aware of
that occasionally has a bearing on African-American archaeology.
This is Nyame Akuma, the bulletin of the Society of
Africanist Archaeologists. For those of you wanting to build up
your bibliography on African archaeology, this may bea place to
start, although nearly all of the articles are prehistoric; it also
helps to know some French. The journal is more of an extended
and intensive set of current research notes, which provides a broad
perspective on a necessarily very broad subject. Illustrations
of pottery profiles and decorative motifs are interesting, but
so far, there are no incised Xs. It costs $20 to subscribe, payable
to SAFA. Write to Dr. Steven A. Brandt, Treasurer-SAFA, 427 Grinter Hall,
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.
Call for Papers
Washington, D.C. November 1 -- The Afro-American Historical and
Genealogical Society will celebrate its eighteenth anniversary
at its Annual Conference, April 27-29, 1995, with scholarly presentations
on issues important to African Americans interested in history
and genealogy. Papers and proposals for presentations are requested
for this historic gathering. Submissions should focus on the use
of public records in documenting the African American presence and
- use of Federal, state, county and city records
- sources in and outside Washington, D.C.
- collecting and preservation of books and family heirlooms
- contributions of women and other minorities
- Native Americans in genealogy especially the Eastern Indians
- African American social history
- involvement in historical events
- military, political, legal
- how to write and publish
- use of bulletin boards and on-line services
Requirements: Submissions should include a cover letter, a
one-page biographyand a one-page abstract and/or two-page abstract
for a panel which can be used in preparing the preliminary program.
1995 CONFERENCE PROGRAM COMMITTEE
c/o AAHGS, INC.
P O Box 73086
Washington, D.C. 20056-3086
No proposal may be faxed. No exceptions. The deadline for receiving
topic proposals is February 1, 1995.
Conference site: Howard University Hotel (Washington, D.C.)
Sponsors: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and Public History
Department of the History Department of Howard University
Conference working theme: Historians and Genealogists: Using Public
Records -- Writing Our History
Call For Presentations
Annual Conference, National Association of African-American
Studies:14-18 February 1995, at Virginia State University.
Those wishing to make presentations, the deadline for 50-word
abstracts of papers (on letterhead) is 17 December 1994. For more
information, contact Lemuel Berry Jr., Executive Director, NAAAS,
Virginia State University, P. O. Box 9403, Petersburg, VA 23806.
Georgia State University, Department of Anthropology, invites
applicationsfor an anticipated tenure-track assistant professorship
in urban archaeology beginning September, 1995. Geographic focus
should be on the Southeast U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico or Central
America. Applicants should have a Ph.D. in anthropology and a record
of research, including publications, in urban archaeology. The
applicant will be expected to teach undergraduate and graduate courses
in archaeological theory and methods. Salary commensurate with
qualifications and experience. Women and minority candidates are
encouraged to apply. Application deadline: March 1, 1995. Send
letter of application, vita and names of three references to Chair,
Search Committee, Department of Anthropology, Georgia State University,
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3083. Georgia State University, a unit of
the University System of Georgia, is an equal opportunity andaffirmative
In The News
Living History of Undying Racism
Colonial Williamsburg 'Slave Auction' Draws Protest, Support
The following are excerpts from an article published
in the Washington Post about the "slave auction" held
on October 10, in Colonial Williamsburg. I tried to get a formal
statement from Colonial Williamsburg, or at least a copy of any
press releases they may have prepared. They suggested the newspaper
articles about the event. The NAACP did not return my calls. Many
readers outside the mid Atlantic may not have heard about the
re-creation of a slave auction, and even though such an event does
not deal directly with archaeology, archaeology has provided and
will continue to provide one of the main sources of information
on slave life. As such, we as archaeologists cannot ignore the
social and political impact of what we do and how it is viewed
and used by the public. As the following excerpts show, there
is no clear, "politically correct" position on whether
or not such auctions should be held. My own personal view is that
it is not only wrong, but it is potentially dangerous, to pretend
that slavery did not exist or was too painful to talk about, and
that events such as the one at Williamsburg, if done in the proper
context and with a seriousness of purpose, can bring to life for
people who might otherwise ignore it, the trauma and personal price
of slavery. What would really be a travesty would be a Disneyesque depiction
of plantation life.
Excerpts from Washington Post October 11, 1994
Tamara Jones, Staff Writer
. . .
For the first time, the tourist attraction that calls itself
living history was depicting the most shameful chapter of Williamsburg's
past -- the buying and selling of human beings.
The performance was an emotional departure on the streets of
Colonial Williamsburg, where the usual Monday fare includes such
presentations as"How Now, Red Cow: Dairying in the 18th Century"
or "Thomas Jefferson Discourses About Horticulture."
It was a far cry, too, from the wandering history lectures of costumed
characters such as the cobbler or constable, or some 30-minute
film on "The Process of Making a Barrel."
Featuring four black staffers from the Colonial Williamsburg
Foundation's African-American research department portraying slaves
on the auction block, the skit proved to be as much a commentary
on the present as the past.
As the crowd outside swelled to several hundred -- people coming
out of curiosity or coincidence or for the controversy -- the event's
organizers and performers inside joined hands and prayed for strength
before opening the doors of the moss-covered tavern.
A small group of protesters immediately broke into a chorus
of "WeShall Overcome" as the presentation's announcer
. . .
Speakers from the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference threaded their way through the crowd to angrily decry
the pending performanceas "the degradation" and "trivialization"
of AfricanAmericans and their heritage.
. . .
Christy Coleman, director of the foundation's African-American
department and organizer of the performance, came out in costume
and cheerfully told the crowd: 'We came here to teach the story
of our mothers and grandmothers so each and every one of you will
never forget what happened to them.'
. . .
After urging the audience to withhold judgment until the program
was over, Coleman retreated and the auction began. The spectators
were silent. Sukie, a laundress, was sold first, for 42 pounds
sterling to her free husband. Billy, a carpenter with his tools,
went next for 70 pounds; then Daniel; and finally a weeping Coleman
as the pregnant Lucy. The show was over.
Coleman then took the mike to answer questions from the crowd.
How were runaway slaves punished? First time, up to 39 lashes on
the bare back. Second time, pilloried. Third time, death. Were
children slaves too? Yes, Coleman replied. A 3-year-old cold pick
worms off tobacco leaves. A 4-year-old could feed chickens.
[Upon being allowed a chance to address the crowd at the conclusion
of Coleman's question and answer period, the protesters declined.]
. . .
As the crowd began to disperse, Rosalind Smith, a black mother
of two, gathered her children. She had taken the oldest, 9-year-old
Christina, out of school 'so she could see this history. I wanted
her to see it so she would really know that it happened and that
there's nothing to be ashamed of.
'When I was in school it wasn't taught,' Smith said.
. . .
The decision to play Daniel did not come easily to Owens, 26,
who reflected afterward on the 'myriad emotions' he went through
standing on the auction block. 'I felt proud. I felt angry. I felt
extreme sadness,' he said.
'So many people don't know what's going on,' he added. 'The
protest [by the NAACP & SCLC] gives the appearance of being
ashamed, instead of being proud of our triumph.
Coleman isn't sure whether she'll try to put on another such
reenactment, but her hesitation has nothing to do with what she
believes to be the integrity of the project. 'Is it dehumanizing?
No, it's not! It's humanizing,' shesaid. 'It puts a face to what
happened. People will remember what they seeand feel and hear
far more than what they read.'
From the Editor
I appreciate the interest in the Newsletter and the encouragement
I have received from you throughout the year. I especially appreciate
the support you have shown by way of submissions. Just when I think
I will not have enough material, my trusty regional editors come
through and I end up with a larger Newsletter than I had planned.
Thank you all.
Please remember that the Newsletter can now accept photos and
line art, but you will have to submit any artwork in a camera ready
format. Please let others know about the Newsletter and consider
submitting something yourself. You can submit printed text, a Mac
or DOS diskette, or, even better, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you on HISTARCH.
Do not forget the African-American Cross-Cultural Workshop
at SHA inWashington. Esther White and Barbara Heath have organized
quite a show on Colonoware ceramics.
Electronic version compiled by Thomas
R. Wheaton, New South Associates, Inc.
©2005 African Diaspora Archaeology Network
Please send comments or questions to: email@example.com
Last updated: April 16, 2005