Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network
Number 15, Fall 1995Thomas R. Wheaton, Editor
An African-Type Burial, Newton Plantation Barbados
Submitted by Jerome S. Handler, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
(Note: This article summarizes a longer paper that has been
submitted for possible publication to His-Archaeology ).
The vast majority of the thousands of slaves who perished in
Barbados from about 1650 to 1834-38 were buried in unmarked plantation
Although excavated in the early 1970s, Newton cemetery is still
the earliest and largest undisturbed plantation slave cemetery
vet reported in the New World. The remains of 104 individuals,
interred from about 1660 to 1820, were excavated. One of these
burials was unique not only to Newton but also to early African
cemetery sites in the Americas.
Most mortuary activity took place within a relatively small
portion of the cemetery area. This area contained several low mounds.
some natural features, others man-made and containing burials.
Mound 1 was the largest, approximately 7 1/2 m (22.5 ft) wide and
slightly less than 1 m (3 ft) above ground surface. Coral limestone
rubble covered the top and edges of the mound, but its core was
plain earth; the amount of earth implied more labor than the requirements
of simply filling a settled-in grave.
Mound 1 contained only one burial. Reflecting the anonymity
of so many early slaves, the individual remains faceless and nameless.
Designated Burial 9, the individual had been placed in a prepared
subsurface pit, a shallow excavation of about 50 cm. into the underlying
limestone bedrock. Fieldnotes recorded the Burial as fitting "
into a thin pit, which proved to be too short for the length of
the body as the head was jammed against the western edge of the
pit and was slightly raised."
Burial 9 was a young adult female, around 20 years of age and
perhaps of New World birth. Her possible birth area is based on
an analysis of her skeletal lead content. This was more than twice
the mean for her age group, as well as that of all Newton skeletons
tested for lead absorption in their bones; moreover, although she
lacked modified/mutilated teeth -- a virtually certain marker of
African birth, she had much higher lead levels than skeletons with
this characteristic. Grave goods were absent and she lacked a
coffin. Her skeleton was fully articulated with its head facing
west. Not only did Mound 1 only contain this solitary burial, but
Burial 9 was also the cemetery's only prone burial.
Burial 9 was probably interred during the late 1600s or early
1700s. Why Mound 1 was not used again becomes a relevant question
in interpreting Burial 9 because Mound 2, a smaller mound very
close to Mound 1, contained about 45 percent of the excavated burials.
Mound 2 was repeatedly used over a relatively long period, apparently
from the late 1600s through the early 1800s, and grew as new burials
were added over the years. The people burying their dead in Mound
2 surely were aware of the neighboring and much larger Mound 1.
Yet they avoided using it; a tradition seems to have developed at
Newton concerning this large mound and the individual it contained.
Burial 9's unique features as the cemetery's only prone burial
and the only one interred in the largest mound suggest that she
possessed unusual characteristics or died under special circumstances.
The extremely high lead level in her bones suggests that at her
death she would have been suffering from the effects of serious
lead poisoning, and might have displayed symptoms such as abrupt
and unpredictable convulsions or epileptic-type seizures which
could have been interpreted as bizarre behavior. One can only
speculate on how these behaviors, if they actually occurred, would
have affected her fellow slaves and the type of mortuary treatment
she was accorded. Whatever was the case, her skeleton displayed
no physical evidence of an unusual cause of death, and Burial 9
was probably viewed as having special social characteristics. What
might these have been?
The Newton archival sources contain no specific information
for an interpretation of Burial 9; for suggestive ideas one must
turn to more general data on Barbadian slave culture and the ethnographic/ethnohistorical
literature on West African mortuary practices.
Nothing in the Barbados documents helps to interpret the significance of
Mound 1, and the limited information discovered on the mounding
of graves in West Africa is similarly restrictive. It bears emphasis
that I am specifically referring to the construction of earthen
mounds, not merely covering the grave with stones, tree branches,
or similar materials -- an apparently common practice in West
Africa. Scores of ethnographic/ethnohistorical works on West African
mortuary practices were consulted, and this literature generally
indicates that graves were levelled. The very few references to
earthen or "clay" mound constructions indicate diverse
functions, but the mounds seem to have been linked to high status
people whose communities viewed them positively. In no case were such
mounds associated with persons who possessed negatively viewed
or unusual characteristics; such an interpretation, however, is
suggested by West African data on prone burials.
As indicated above, virtually every Newton burial was in an
extended supine position, a common position in West Africa as were
flexed and extended lateral burials; all three positions are regularly
reported in the literature. Information on prone positions, however.
has been far more difficult to obtain.
The many publications sampled on West African ethnography /ethnohistory yielded
only a very few specific references to prone burials; in each
case the person was considered to have socially negative traits
or had been convicted of witchcraft, a criminal offense in all
West African societies. One illustrationis the following: an English
resident of Sierra Leone during the late 1780s described the execution
of a convicted witch among the Temne (or Timne) and Bulum. He was
forced to dig his own grave and stand at "the edge of the
foot of it, with his face towards it"; he was then struck
from behind with "a violent blow upon the nape of the neck,
which causes him to fall upon his face into the grave; a little
loose earth is then thrown upon him, and a sharp stake of hard
wood is drove through the expiring delinquent, which pins him to
the earth; the grave is then filled up, and his or her name is
never after mentioned."
When West African evidence on prone burials is combined with
broader mortuary evidence from West Africa that burial practices
usually differed for people who had died in special or unusual
ways, who possessed unusual physical characteristics or negatively
viewed social traits, the case is strengthened for interpreting
Burial 9 as a probable witch or some other negatively viewed person
with supernatural powers. African witches were often executed for
their crimes and received no interment rites; practices regarding
the disposition of their corpses varied from culture to culture, ranging
from burning to being cast into the bush to burial in a grave.
Even if witch burials are not described, it is implied or explicitly
indicated that their bodies were disposed of in different ways
from those of "normal" people.
Barbadian slaves were relatively free to bury their dead according
to their own customs. An interpretation of Burial 9 as a negatively
viewed member of the slave community is further reinforced by evidence
from Mound 2. People continued to bury their dead in Mound 2 (as
well as in non-mound areas of the cemetery) within plain view of
Mound 1. Newton's slaves possibly avoided putting new burials in
Mound 1 because a tradition was perpetuated that some person with
evil supernatural powers was buried there.
Beliefs in witchcraft and sorcery were pervasive features of
the world in which slaves lived -- as they were in the West African
homelands. Barbadian slaves (as West Africans generally) did not
consider as accidental major illness and death; witchcraft, in
particular, was frequently invoked to explain these events and
witches were despised and feared.
A final point on Burial 9. It was certainly not unique at Newton
in its absence of grave goods; that absence alone would not make
it a very special case. Grave goods were common in West Africa,
but there is absolutely no ethnographic/ethnohistorical evidence
that such goods were interred with persons who their communities
Thus, mortuary evidence on Burial 9 (its solitary location
in Mound 1, prone position, body forced into a grave pit that was
too small, absence of grave goods, and the possible behavioral
associated with severe lead poisoning) combined with West African
mortuary data on the treatment of witches or other despised/feared
persons and slave beliefs concerning evil magic leads to an interpretation
of Burial 9 as a witch or sorceress -- in any case, someone who,
following African custom, was feared or socially ostracized because
she was a vehicle for supernatural contagion.
The Evolution of the Study of African Culture in America
Submitted by John P. McCarthy, IMA Consulting, Inc.
While African-American culture is now generally recognized
by the scholarly community as a distinct cultural entity which
formed from the unprecedented sociocultural interaction of peoples
from three continents, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, such was
not always the case. It was widely held, even into the 1960s, that
the forced importation of Africans into the Americas had resulted
in the loss of all aspects of Africans' own culture (e.g. Elkins 1963;
The implications of this perspective were, and continue to
he, considerable. The past is a social construct (reconstruction)
upon which critical aspects of ideology and national policy are
implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, based (Silberman 1989). These
can include patterns of social domination, resistance, and collusion
(Bond and Gilliam 1994). What people believe to have been true
in the past has great influence on what they believe to be true
and allow to happen in the present. Further, a people without
a past that they remember, or without a written history, are more
easily looked upon as commodities or tools to be used and exploited
(see Wolf 1982 for an extended discussion of this point). In the
case of Africans brought to the Americas via the slave trade, the
processes of "seasoning" and terms of subsequent enslavement
seemed to have eradicated their African past. As a result of these,
and other issues too complex to address in this brief essay, the
study of African-American history and culture has been, and continues
to be, politically charged to a considerable extent. This essay
briefly recounts the evolution of the study of African culture
in America in the hope that it will provide a clearer context for
The modern study of African-American culture developed around
the Herskovits-Frazier Debate. Melville Herskovits' (1990) pioneering
study, the Myth of the Negro Past, first published in 1941, emphasized
the importance of West African cultural carryovers, or survivals,
in the formation of African-American culture, primarily relying
on data from the Caribbean and continental South America. This
work stood in dramatic contrast to the generally prevailing view
of the period, as expressed by the work of E. Franklin Frazier
(1932a, 1932b, 1939, 1957), that held that African-American culture
developed as an imitation of European-American culture. Frazier
argued that the experience of slavery had been so devastating as
to have completely stripped enslaved Africans of all aspects of
their own culture. In his view African-American culture was an
imperfect derivative of European-American culture.
While weaknesses in several aspects of Herskovits' study have
become evident with the passage of time, research in anthropology,
folklore, history, and sociology has tended to support his argument
for the continuity of various aspects of African culture in the
Americas. Early studies set out, and generally succeeded, in documenting
aspects of African culture in African-American religious philosophy
and arts. Among these Newbell N. Puckett's (1968), Folk Beliefs
of the Southern Negro, first published in 1926, Carter G. Woodson's (1968), The African Background, first published in 1936, and W.
E. B. DuBois' (1939), Black Folk, Then and Now, are the best known.
Research presented by Guy Johnson (1940), in Drum and Shadows,
and Lorenzo Turner (1949), in Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect,
focused on African cultural retentions in the Georgia Sea Islands
and nearby Gullah communities, specifically language. Turner was
particularly successful, tracing nearly 5,000 words to west and
central African cultures.
Building on that work over 20 years later, a flurry of research
resulted in the clear recognition that African influences had contributed
to a distinctive African-American culture. Theses studies included
Norman Whitten and John Szwed's (1970) anthology, Afro-American
Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives, Peter H. Wood's (1974),
Black Majority Negro in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through
the Stono Rebellion. Lawrence W. Levine's (1977), Black Culture
and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to
Freedom, and John W. Blassingame's (1979), The Slave Community:
Plantation Life in the Antebellum South.
One impact of this extended body of research has been to bring
multiple aspects of African heritage into focus in the study of
African-American communities. For example, Charles Joyner's (1984),
Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community presents
an analysis of the folklife ata community level Direct African
parallels are documented for a number of activities and linguistic
In a parallel movement, research in the area of African-American
material culture has also sought to document and understand the
importance of links with Africa. Robert Farris Thompson (1969)
in large part pioneered this area of study with his essay exploring
African influences in American art. He and Joseph Cornet went on
to document aspects of Central African carving and sculpture in
the folk art of African Americans living in coastal Georgia and
South Carolina in The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two
Worlds (Thompson and Cornet 1981). Thompson (1983) then carried
this research further in Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American
Art and Philosophy. Here Thompson documented the cultural influence
of five African cultures, the Kongo, Yoruba, Ejagham, Mande, and
Cross River, on aesthetic and metaphysical traditions in America.
More recent work by Thompson (1990) argued that the Kongo culture
of Central Africa, as opposed to West Africa cultures, has had
central influence in the formation of African-America artistic
culture. He cited parallels between African-American creation of
cosmograms, patterns of body language and gesture, creation of
bottle and plate branches/trees, and practices of adornment and
decoration of graves and similar practices in the Kongo to support
Two recent, and deservedly influential, studies concerned with
African-American material culture warrant particular mention. In
the first of these John Michael Vlach (1991) documented the survival
and maintenance of African traditions in a wide range of folk arts
and crafts, including basketmaking, ironworking, boatbuilding,
textiles, musical instruments, grave decoration, gravestone carvings,
and architectural forms and the organization of space in By the
Work of Their Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife. He noted that
these venous art forms possess a cultural unity in their African
heritage and that stylistic consistency in design and the process
of creation (or style and performance) appears to be a major aspect
of ethnic integrity in African-American material culture. While
some artifacts represent the uninterrupted survival of African
traditions, such as coiled grass baskets produced inthe Carolina
Low Country, others such as quilts incorporate African themes into
an European-American object.
Second, as most readers of this newsletter are aware, Leland
Ferguson's(1992) Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African
America, 1650-1800 focused largely on the ceramic earthenwares
we term "Colono," or "Colono-Indian," Wares.
This unglazed, low-fire earthenware is often recovered on sites
associated with enslaved Africans from Virginia and throughout
the southeast and is very similar to ceramics made in West Africa.
Ferguson applied the concept of "creolization" to describe the
cultural interactions of European-descended masters, enslaved
Africans, and, to a more limited extent, Native Americans which
took place as New and various Old World peoples and cultures came
into contact. From this process, Ferguson argued, African Americans
formed a unique culture having material and ideological components
distinct from that of European-American culture.
In summary, researchers interested in the formation of African-American culture
have built upon the work of Melville Herskovits to overcome the view
that African-American culture developed as an imperfect imitation
of European-American culture. African-American culture is now clearly
recognized as a distinct cultural entity. In addition, the material
aspects of African-American culture have been recognized as representing
important documentation of African culture in America and the processes
contributing to the formation of African-American culture.
I would like to thank Clark A. Dobbs, Ann Smart Martin, and
Karolyn E. Smardz for their interest in this topic and the thoughtful
comments that they provided as this essay developed. Any errors
of fact or interpretation are solely the author's responsibility.
Abrahams, Roger D. and John F. Szwed (editors)
1983 After Africa. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Blassingame, John W.
1979 The Slate Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum
South. Oxford University Press, New York.
Bond, George C. and
1994 Introduction. In Social Construction of the
Past: Representation as Power, edited by George C. Bond and Angela
Gilliam, pp. 1-9. One World Archaeology. Volume 24. Rutledge, New
DuBois, W. E. B.
1939 Black Folk, Then and Now Holt, New York.
1963 Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life.
Universal Library, New York.
Frazier. E Franklin
1932a The Free Negro Family. Fisk University Press, Nashville.
1932b The Negro Family in Chicago. University of Chicago
1939 The Negro Family in the United States. University of
Chicago Press, Chicago.
1957 The Negro in the United States. Macmillan Co, New York
1992 Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African America,
1650-1800. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington.
Herskovits, Melville J.
1990 The Myth of the Negro Past. Beacon Press, Boston (originally published
1940 Drum and Shadows. University of Georgia Press, Athens.
1984 Down by the Riverside: A South Carolina Slave Community. University of Illinois Press, Urbana.
1977 Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American
Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. Oxford University Press, New
Puckett, Newbell N.
1968 Folk Beliefs of the Southern Negro. Patterson Smith,
Montclair, NJ (originally published in 1996).
Silberman, Charles E.
1964 Crisis in Black and White. Vintage Books, New York.
Silberman, Neil A.
1989 Between Past and Present: Archaeology, Ideology, and
Nationalism in the Modern Middle East. Henry Holt and Co., New
Thompson, Robert F.
1969 African Influences on the Art of the United States.
In Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, edited by Armstead
L. Robinson, Craig C. Foster and Donald H. Ogilvie, pp. 122-170.
Yale University Press, New Haven.
1983 Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art
and Philosophy. Random House, New York.
1990 Kongo Influences on African-American Artistic Culture. In Africanisms in American Culture, edited by Joseph E. Holloway, pp. 148-184. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Thompson, Robert F., and Joseph Cornet
1981 The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds.
Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
1968 Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect. Arno Press, New
York (originally published in 1949).
Vlach, John M.
1991 By the Work of Their Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife. The University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville.
Whitten, Norman, and John Szwed (editors)
1970 Afro-American Anthropology: Contemporary Perspectives. Free Press, New York.
1982 Europe and the People Without History. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Wood, Peter H.
1974 Black Majority: Negro in Colonial South Carolina
from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Woodson, Carter G.
1968 The African Background Outlined. Negro Universities Press, New York.
Check It Out
Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole
Culture in the Eighteenth Century by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, LSU
Gwendolyn Hall, consulting research professor at the University
of New Orleans and professor of history at Rutgers, offers a fascinating
new takeon colonial history, portraying the essential role of
Africans in the making of Louisiana. An extensive set of appendices
provide raw data on population, inventories, and African survivals.
Africanisms in American Culture, edited by Joseph E. Holloway,
Indiana University Press, 1991.
Holloway and a group of distinguished scholars present a strong
casefor the survival of distinct Africanisms in the United States
up to the present day. The final essay, "The African Heritage of
White America," puts forth a strong case for a very high degree
of cross-cultural pollination and that much of what we call southern
culture is rich in African survivals.
Beyond the Great House, Archaeology at Ashland Belle Helene
Plantation, Discovering Louisiana Archaeology vol. 1, Shell Chemical
Company in corporation with Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation
and Tourism, Baton Rouge, n.d.
This is the first in a series of publications making the results
of cultural resource management projects available to the public
in a well written andvery well illustrated format. Maps, photographs,
drawings and a jargon free text make this an entertaining look
into the past that will hopefully increase public awareness and
support of historic preservation.
Excavations at the Eigelberger Plantation Daufuskie Island
Submitted by Chris Espenshade, Brockington and Associates, Inc.
Data recovery excavations are underway in December 1994, at
four apparent slave loci on the former Eigelberger Plantation,
Daufuskie Island. Mr. Scott Butler and Mr. Chris Espenshade are
supervising the excavations by Brockington and Associates, Inc.
The test excavations revealed that this plantation was apparently
occupied in the early nineteenth century. The main house complex
has been lost to bank erosion, but at least four associated loci(suspected
slave cabins) remain. The field results to date indicate that at
structural features from two earthfast structures are present
in one of the loci.
A major research question of the project is why Colonoware
is so rare at plantation sites on Daufuskie Island. As delineated
below, several factors were identified as possibly influencing
the frequency of Colonoware at slave sites. Potential factors include:
Chronology. It has been suggested that Colonoware use decreased
through time as inexpensive refined ceramics became popular in
the early nineteenth century, and as owners took increased control
over their slave populations. In addition, Colonoware can be seen
as a frontier solution to high supply costs, a solution which was
not necessary on later, more established, plantations.
Control by Planters. It has been argued that planters may have
discouraged Africanisms in their slave corps in an effort to stifle
rebellion and eliminate cultural identity. Colonoware was an obvious
African trait which could be replaced readily by European or American
Wealth of Planter. Even if a plantation included a potter and
suitable materials, Colonoware may not have been produced if the
planter was sufficiently wealthy to provide refined ceramics to
his slaves. The use of "dirt dishes" by slaves may have been
considered a reflection on the status of the planter, and well-to-do
planters may have rapidly replaced Colonoware with refined ceramics.
Concerns of Health and Hygiene. Colonoware pottery, as an unglazed,
low-firedware, was susceptible to absorbing food, thereby making
cleaning difficult. In the nineteenth century, there was a movement
of increased attention to slave health and living conditions. In
this context, planters may have replaced the "dirt dishes"
with harder, more sanitary, refined ceramics.
Population Probabilities. The analysis of slave pottery from
settlements suggests that there were only one or two contemporaneous
potters per community. It is likely that there were communities
without trained potters, and that potters may have been removed
from communities by death or slave trading. With the end of slave
importation in the early nineteenth century, the potential supply
of new potters disappeared.
Ceramic Ecology. Even in the event that an African potter was
presentin a slave population, that potter could not produce vessels
unless she had access to acceptable clay. Slaves were not generally
free to roam beyond their home plantations, and it is unlikely
that they were allowed to explore the region for clay. It is likely
that the lack of appropriate clay resources limited the potential
for potting on many plantations.
The present project has chosen to focus on the availability
of suitable clays by examining the local ceramic resources. The
preliminary field results indicate that suitable clay was present
within the site boundaries. A final report is expected by late
The Newsletter lost two regional editors this year, Chuck Orser
and Jerry Handler. Their places have been taken by John McCarthy
of IMA Consulting in Minnesota, and by Laurie Wilkie at UC Berkeley.
I look forward to getting some really good stuff out them. Remember,
that if you have something you think others might find useful,
contact your regional editor. Also, sometime next spring, I will
send out a list of members. There are too many to include in this
issue of the Newsletter.
Association for Living Historical Farms & Agricultural
Museums, May 19-23, 196, University of Houston, Houston, Texas.
For information contact: Debra Reid, Strecker Museum Complex, Baylor
University, P.O. Box 97154, Waco, TX, 817 755 1160, or REIDD@Baylor.edu.
Interpretation, The Journal of Heritage and Environmental Interpretation is
a reincarnation of an earlier series of journals published in
Great Britain. Interpretation is the new periodical for professionals
who work in environmental and heritage interpretation in any of
its forms, and for anyone whose interests or course of study lie
in this field. A recent issue had articles on multiculturalism and
one dealing with the issues, ethics and morality of dealing with
trans-Atlantic slavery. To subscribe contact: Alison Maddock. 36
Westhaven Cresent, Aughton, Nr Ormskirk. Lancashire L39 5BW. Great
Pottery Reproduction Services. Chris Espenshade and Linda Kennedy
have begun offering pottery reproduction services for Native American
and Colonoware vessels. The two potters are both archaeologists
with extensive experience at southeastern slave sites. The available
services range from basic vessel form reproductions (using commercial
clays) based on sherds or vessel profiles to full replications
including site-specific clay collection and pit firing. Samples
of their work are soon to go on sale at the Charleston Museum
and at the Preservation Shop at Drayton Hall Plantation; the Museum
of the Tunica-Biloxi Indians presently utilizing one of their reproductions.
The Colonoware reproductions also work as interesting educational
items and as gifts. A catalog is planned for 1995, and Mr. Espenshade
hopes to have a display at the 1995 SAA meetings. As an aside,
the potters note that even large jars can indeed by produced by
lump/pinch forming without the use of coiling or slab construction.
For further information, please contact Chris Espenshade or Linda
Kennedy at 1644 Mill Run Court, Lawrenceville, Georgia, 30245 (770)
Submitted by David Babson, Midwestern A rchaeological Research Center
In November of 1994, the Midwestern Archaeological Research
Center (MARC)at Illinois State University submitted a report of
investigations to the Tennessee Historical Commission. This report,
Families and Cabins: Archaeologicaland Historical Research at
Wessyngton Plantation, Robertson County, Tennessee, is the final
report on two survey and planning grant surveys undertakenby MARC
at Wessyngton Plantation in 1991 and 1993. It includes information about
the archaeological investigation of three discrete cabin sites
anda five-cabin area, occupied from the early nineteenth to mid-twentieth
century. It also includes an extensive discussion of African-American
genealogy and history, developed from an independent program of
oral history, genealogy and research in primary documents underway
at Wessyngton Plantation since the 1970s.
Under the terms of the survey and planning grant program, the
purpose of this research was to establish the National Register
eligibility of the archaeological site. This was amply established
by the work described above, and nomination of the site to the
National Register is now under consideration. Manuscript copies
of the final report are on file at the Tennessee Historical Commission
and at the Tennessee State Archives in Nashville. Publication of
the report is under consideration, and may be completed in 1996.
Bonny Shore Slave Row
Submitted by Chris Espenshade, Brockington and Associates. Inc.
Ms. Elsie Eubanks, Marian Roberts, and Mr. Chris Espenshade
of Brockington and Associates have completed data recovery investigations
of the former location of the Bonny Shore slave row, Spring Island.
South Carolina. The investigations were sponsored by Spring Island
Plantation. The site (38BU791) was first examined through complete
site coverage with 5 m (15 ft) interval shovel testing. The shovel
testing indicated seven potential cabin locations, although no
structural remains were encountered. The data recovery was composed of
the excavation of a 4 by 4 m (12 by 12 ft) block in each of the
seven loci, followed by machine-assisted stripping. The analysis
included zooarchaeological, ethnobotanical and ceramic technological
Dating of the recovered assemblage indicates that most of the
cabins were occupied from circa 1815 through 1840. At least two
of the cabins were apparently occupied through 1860. The assemblage
was noteworthy for its high frequency of Colonoware, several of
which exhibited post-firing marks similar to the cosmograms hypothesized
by Ferguson (1991). The detailed technological and stylistic analysis
of the Colonoware indicates that the pottery was produced from
locally available clay, was made probably by a single potter, and
was comprised exclusively of small bowl forms. The zooarchaeological analysis
indicated a very low contribution to the diet by wild resources, possibly related to the large numbers of cows and pigs on the fenceless pasture
of Spring Island. Copies of the report (Eubanks and Espenshade
1994) are available on request.
Excavation of Two Slave Cabins
Submitted by Chris Espenshade, Brockington and Associates, Inc.
In 1992. Ms. Linda Kennedy, Ms. Marian Roberts, and Mr. Chris
Espenshade of Brockington and Associates, Inc. conducted data recovery
investigations of two slave cabins at Site 38BU880. The study was
sponsored by Indigo Run Plantation. The excavations focused on
the structures associated with two tabby chimney remnants. One
of the cabin locations was situated in a protected, wooded area,
while the second had been severely impacted through plowing and
modern nursery activity. A total of 41 2 by 2 m (6 by 6 ft) units
The excavation of the least impacted structure revealed several
post features and a dirt floor remnant. An earthfast, single pen
structure is indicated by the data; the structure measured 19.6
by 16.4 ft) it had a single, gable end tabby chimney which measured
5.0 by 7.5 ft at its base. An interesting aspect of the cabin
was the recovery of 25 Archaic through Woodland projectile points
and a groundstone adze from the hearth area, suggesting the occupants
were collecting Native-American items. A final report should now
The Colleton River Slave Row
Submitted by Chris Espensade, Brockingron and Associates, Inc.
In 1993, Ms. Linda Kennedy, Ms. Marian Roberts, and Mr. Chris
Espenshade of Brockington and Associates, Inc. conducted data recovery
excavations at the Colleton River slave row, Site 38BU647. The
site consists of 14 deteriorated, tabby chimney bases and associated
midden from a nineteenth-century slave row. The phased field approach
began with complete site coverage through the excavation of 50
by 50 cm shovel tests on a 5 m (15 ft) interval. The shovel test
coverage represents the first effort in South Carolina to retrieve significant
samples from all areas of a slave row site (not quite the first, ed.).
The shovel test data were utilized to select three hose loci for
excavation. Occupation span, location within the slave row, and
apparent status were considered in selecting the three structures.
Nine 2 by 2 m (6 by 6 ft) units were excavated at each structure,
and additional units were excavated to examine non-structural features.
Three structural patterns were documented. All three of the
excavated cabins had tabby chimneys measuring approximately 2.5
by 6.0 ft) at thebase. The dimensions of three single pen cabins
were 13 by 18 ft, 23 by 18 ft, and 16 by 21 ft.
The site is noteworthy for a high frequency of Colonoware vessels,
several of which had possible cosmographic markings; the pots were
produced by one or two potters using locally available clays. The
late use of Colonoware at this site may be related to its role
as an isolated slave row. A comparison of the South artifact pattern
data from the full site and structure specific coverage indicates
the limitations pattern analysis. The pattern from the shovel tests
was very similar to the Carolina Slave Pattern, while the structure excavations
yielded a pattern similar to the Piedmont Tenant Pattern. The final
report is available from Brockington and Associates.
Submitted by Paul Farnsworth and Laurie Wilkie, Louisiana State University
From June 7 - 30, 1995. the Louisiana State University field
school under the direction of Paul Farnsworth and Laurie Wilkie
excavated at Marine Farmand Great Hope plantations on Crooked
Island in the Bahamas. During thecourse of fieldwork, forty-six
meter square units were excavated at Marine Farm and seventy-three
meter square units were excavated at Great Hope. In addition, the
standing buildings of the plantations were recorded photographically and
elevations were drawn, oral histories were collected and the artifacts recovered
were identified, cataloged, photographed and illustrated. Both Marine
Farm and Great Hope plantations are located on property owned
bythe Bahamas National Trust. The research was conducted in cooperation
with, and partially funded by, the Bahamas National Trust and with
the permission of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
All of the artifacts were deposited with the Bahamas National Trust
in Nassau for permanent curation.
Marine Farm was the site of both a plantation complex and a
military complex. Six structures, a barracks building, a kitchen.
two storage buildings, a guardhouse and a gun battery with five
cannons still present, were identified at the military complex.
At the plantation portion of the site, four structures were located:
the great house; the kitchen; a slave cabin; and a privy building. The
privy was located late in the field season, and unfortunately,
not test excavated this summer. All of the other structures were
Documentary evidence shows that the plantation was first granted
to Joseph Hunter in 1791, but during the first two decades of the
nineteenth century, it was owned by James Moss, President of the
Bahamian House of Assembly. Archaeological evidence suggests that
the military buildings were occupied from the early nineteenth
century to the 1850s. Artifactual data from the plantation component
of the site suggests a slightly earlier occupation from the late
eighteenth century, but by the 1830s, however, the plantation buildings
appear to have been taken over by the military. As with the military component, there is no evidence of occupation of the site after the midnineteenth
Great Hope plantation was first granted to George Gray in 1791, but wassold in 1792 to James Menzies, who became a member of the
House of Assembly and Treasurer of the colony. He died in 1815,
and the plantation was purchased in 1818 by Henry Moss, nephew
of James Moss. Henry and his wife Helen were accused and convicted
of the worst case of cruelty to a slave in the Bahamasas a result
of an incident which took place in 1826 at Great Hope. Henry Moss
owned Great Hope through 1847, based on ongoing documentary research.
The main compound of Great Hope Plantation includes an impressive
two story great house, a kitchen, a standing chimney from a slave
cabin, a structure known as "the guest house", a hurricane
shelter, a stable, a privy, a gun battery and four storage buildings.
Each of these buildings was tested archaeologically. Ceramic and
glass artifacts indicate that Great Hope Plantation was first occupied
in the last decades of the eighteenth century and up until the
early twentieth century, a conclusion supported by oral history gathered
during the project. Based on its architectural remains, Great
Hope was a very prosperous plantation, however, no examples of
"status"ceramics were recovered. The lack of these ceramics
may represent the nature of trade networks and ceramic availability
on the island, one of the major research problems this project
is seeking to address.
Numerous examples of ship drawings scratched into the walls
are presentat the kitchen and great house of Marine Farm Plantation
and at the great house of Great Hope. The carvings were made after
the buildings were complete and were etched into the building plaster
with a sharp, narrow pointed object. The carvings at both sites
demonstrate that the artists have a thorough understanding of ship
rigging and sails. In two instances at Marine Farm, even the Union
Jack can be seen flying from ships' masts. Single, double and triple
massed ships are portrayed. At both sites, the ship carvings are
most commonly found on building wails with a sea view. These carvings may
have served as some form of recording system, but the purpose
for recording the ships remains unclear.
This summer's research represents the first phase of a long-term
research program on these sites as the Bahamas National Trust works
to open these sites to the public as National Historic Parks. The
first archaeological sites to be preserved in this way in the Bahamas.
The Edward Douglass White Historic Site
Submitted by Paul Farnsworth, Louisiana State University
From late April through the month of May, student volunteers
from Louisiana State University spent each Saturday carrying out
preliminary survey and testing at The Edward Douglass White Historic
Site near Thibodaux, Louisiana, under the direction of Laurie Wilkie
and Paul Farnsworth. The site is preserved as it was the home of
Edward Douglass White who was governor of Louisiana from 1835 to
1839 and subsequently to his son, also Edward Douglass White, who
was a justice on The Supreme Court of the United States from 1894
to 1910, and Chief Justice from 1910 until his death in 1921. Justice
White is best known for the ruling which established the legality
of the "separatebut equal" philosophy that dominated
race relations in the South into the 1960s.
The site is located on a parcel that was claimed by Guillaume
Arceman in 1803, based on his having occupied the land for ten
or more years previously. The land was purchased by E.D. White
in 1831 and was developed into a thriving sugar plantation. The
White home sits on a parcel owned and preserved by the State of
Louisiana, while the plantation's outbuildings, cabins, etc. are
believed to have been located on a privately owned, wooded parcel
located immediately behind the State's land. The preliminary research
included both the State and privately owned property. The research
was made possible by a grant from the Friends of the Edward Douglass
White State Historic Site. The goals were simply to locate any
buildings or archaeological deposits associated with the plantation,
and assess their chronology and function.
An area of 16,800 square meters was divided into 20 meter
squares and all historic artifacts from the surface were collected.
Sixty-tour shovel test pits were then excavated at each corner
of the twenty meter squares. Based on the results of the surface collection
and the twenty meter shovel testing, twenty-one additional shovel
tests spaced at five meter intervals were dug in two areas of artifact
concentration and structural indications. In addition to a general
scatter of materials across the area studied, and the abovementioned
concentrations, several other areas were defined for additional testing.
The two areas tested so far correspond with the locations of two houses
noted in oral historical information gathered since the conclusion of
the current field research.
The artifacts were washed and cataloged at the LSU Archaeology
laboratory, and will be curated by the State of Louisiana. Detailed
analysis of the artifacts and their distributions is currently
in progress, and a report is in preparation. The artifacts reflect
the intensive use of the property throughout period of the White's
occupation from 1830 to 1921. The presence of a fewer sherds of
creamware and significant quantities of pearlware in the area
adjacent to the main house suggest that it was first built and
occupied during Arceman's ownership. However, as with most Louisiana
plantations, eighteenth-century deposits remain elusive. Additional
research is planned for 1996 which will explore the deposits located
this year in more detail.
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