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African-American Archaeology

Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network

Applied Archaeology and History Associates,
615 Fairglen Lane, Annapolis, MD 21401 :: ISBN 1060-0671

Number 26, Early Winter 1999

John P. McCarthy, Editor

In This Issue

This issue includes great essays by students in Maria Franklin's graduate seminar at the University of Texas, Austin and the second contribution to Progression! by Anna Agbe-Davies. It is a real pleasure to be able to present this fourth issue of 1999. Please keep your essays and news coming so that we can end the 2nd millennium of the Common Era as a truly quarterly publication! Be sure to renew your subscription before increased rates go into effect on January 1.

Have a Merry Christmas and a great New Year!


Contents


Progression! Advances in African-American Archaeology

Carol McDavid, Column Editor

During the 1999 Society for American Archaeology meetings in Chicago last Spring, I participated in a panel entitled "Communication and Consultation: Working toward an Informed Archaeology." Panel members included a number of archaeologists who work with indigenous people, as well as several who work with African-American and other descendant communities. As I had hoped, our discussions that day started a process of bridge building based on shared interests (collaboration, consultation, power and politics, etc.), bridges that have only recently begun to be explored, due to entrenched boundaries that separate prehistoric archaeologies and archaeologies of the historic period. I asked Anna Agbe-Davies, co-chair of the workshop, to discuss the development of this panel and to critique it for the 'Progression' column.

Communication and Consultation: Bridging Boundaries within the Discipline

Anna Agbe-Davies, University of Pennsylvania & The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Everyone has an agenda. That is the only explanation for my impulse to volunteer to help organize and chair a workshop with the theme of communication between indigenous people and archaeologists. Part of the appeal was the challenge of convincing a group that seemed to be thinking primarily in terms of prehistoric Native American archaeology to broaden the field to include perspectives from other realms of archaeological practice, most particularly one of my fields of interest: the archaeology of African America. Related to that attraction was the desire to hear the discussion which would result from getting archaeologists who work in a variety of social contexts, with different interest groups, coming together.

Clearly, communicating and consulting with descendant communities has been a major concern for a number of archaeologists whose research focus is African-American archaeology. A complete list of works on this theme would be out of place here, but would include Brown 1997, Harrington 1993, Leone 1992, McDavid 1999, McKee 1994, Patten 1994, Potter 1991, Wilkie 1995, contributions to McDavid and Babson 1997, and contributions to Update (the newsletter of the African Burial Ground project), among others. Works such as these echo the concerns facing the archaeological community at large, as we grow increasingly self-reflexive and aware of the social contexts within which we work. The similarities I perceive between the social contexts of archaeological practice in African America and Native America inspired the attempt to bring practitioners in these fields together. I often wonder to what extent the popularity and prominence of African-American archaeology in historical archaeology is because it fulfills important social functions, not unlike Native American archaeology did in the early years of archaeology in the United States (see, for example, Trigger 1980). According to this vision, archaeology becomes, among other things, a means to alternately understand, idealize and objectify an intimate and problematic "other." African-American archaeology becomes a mode for coming to grips with African America (Agbe-Davies 1998:1-2).

The idea for the session was conceived at the meeting of the Student Affairs Committee at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) in 1998. After brainstorming for a topic to develop into a workshop for the 1999 meeting, the group settled on the theme of communication between archaeologists and Native groups. Two of us volunteered to help organize the session. My co-chair, Melissa Baird, had a great interest in the ethical practice of archaeology, and during the course of our collaboration was working as the NAGPRA coordinator at Agate National Monument. Over the next few months we worked on developing a more specific direction for the workshop, rounding up participants, and putting together an abstract. Throughout this process I continued to push the idea that this workshop need not be (indeed, should not be) restricted to archaeologists at work on prehistoric Native North America. Our e-mails back and forth about the wording of the workshop's abstract reveal the process of negotiation. Although Melissa Baird was very open to the inclusion of archaeologists from other fields, the language of our abstract became very abstract. I was hard pressed to express my interest in a broad construction of "descendant communities" and the importance of working with other interest groups (I've since picked up the handy word "stake-holders") without resorting to jargon or platitudes. The end result, described in the abstract, below, constituted our vision of a workshop we called "Communication and Consultation: Working toward an Informed Archaeology."

This three-hour workshop sponsored by the Student Affairs Committee critically examines relationships between Native groups and archaeologists in order to facilitate communication and cooperation. How can archaeologists, descendant groups, and host communities collaborate? How do we traverse the distance between science and tradition? Many archaeologists attempt to work with other constituencies, but lack the experience or networks necessary for effective consultation. Furthermore, successful interaction requires an investment in time and commitment from all sides. How can we achieve this ideal? This workshop is a forum for discussing how archaeologists, descendant groups, and local communities might reach a common ground. The emphasis is on communication that encourages the development of working relationships between groups and addresses issues that have previously prevented collaboration. The panel includes members of Native groups, professional archaeologists and graduate students at work in a variety of contexts, with experiences in communicating and collaborating across archaeology's constituencies.

The panel of ten archaeologists (Alison Bell, Shannon Dawdy, Garrett Fesler, Andrea Hunter, Kathy Kawelu, Carol McDavid, Robert Preucel, Nina Swidler, Joe Watkins and Michael Yeatts) represented many facets of the discipline. The group included graduate students and professors as well as archaeologists that work in cultural resource management, museum and government settings. Some of the panelists were employees of the groups whose past they studied. Several were members (at various levels of inclusion) of the groups whose past they studied. Some were in the field, some spent most of their time wearing a bureaucratic hat.

I was thrilled to be able to recruit a number of historical archaeologists, all of whom had an interest in African-American archaeology, who were committed to communication not only with "the public," but with colleagues in other subfields. Four of the members of the panel came specifically to discuss their experiences working with African-American constituencies and, equally interesting, communication with non-African Americans about the legacy of slavery in their communities.

As organizers, Melissa Baird and I were in contact with the panelists over the year leading up to the workshop. We hoped to stimulate discussion within the group prior to the SAA meeting, so we circulated informal position papers that we would use to kick off the session. Following that would be a combination round table discussion and questions from the audience. The informal position papers generally took the form of a narrative of the panelist's experiences either with a particular project or over the course of a career. Throughout these stories ran a number of common themes, many of which readers of this newsletter will undoubtedly recognize.

The underlying element in all of the following workshop themes is power, particularly as defined by Weber as the ability to act contrary to the will of others (Weber 1968:53). I believe that this is the root of many of the differences observed between the archaeologists of Native America and Hawaii, and those whose focus was on non-indigenous inhabitants of the modern U.S. One could argue that the power relationships between Native America and the white majority was, and are, not unlike those of African America in many respects. This is in all likelihood the root of the shared themes discussed below.

Very prominent in the panelists' narratives was the need to overcome the negative legacy established by the practices of previous generations of archaeologists. The archaeologists who study the Native American past noted having to undo the damage of colleagues who treated the archaeological record as a "laboratory" and ignoring the human factor in the past, as well as in the present. Likewise, archaeologists of African America were challenged to dismantle, by word and deed, the belief that archaeology and its sister disciplines, such as historic preservation, are more than elite enterprises that serve only to venerate, and to perpetuate the hegemony of, the white majority. Time and again, panelists confirmed that the best way to do this was to do work that is of value to one's constituents. Carol McDavid described the goodwill she established--and the cooperative networks she built--by sharing the genealogical data with people who had a vested interest in the work at the Levi Jordan plantation. Other examples included monitoring and inventorying sites of cultural value, or addressing those questions of host communities that can be answered with archaeological data.

Of course, then the question becomes who comprises "the community?" Who are these "stakeholders" whose opinions should be taken into account? Garrett Fesler described his reluctance to approach black leaders in the town where his site lay, because he did not wish to assume (or appear to assume) that, 'naturally', this slave quarter site would necessarily be of interest to any and all black Americans today. As it was, he received a very enthusiastic response, both from those contacts (and from the citizenry at large) for his efforts. Yet even if it were a simple matter to identify a bounded entity with which to consult, groups contain factions. Even attempts to work with a group may find the archaeologist working against the interests of some element of that group. While one doesn't often hear such buzzwords as "information age" and "knowledge-worker" applied to the practice of archaeology, their currency points out the fact that our society in some senses resembles a bureaucracy, in which authority is grounded in knowledge (Weber 1968:225). The production and dissemination of archaeological knowledge clearly has consequences beyond the discipline. In a struggle for power, archaeological information can become a valuable resource.

One axis of power struggle in African-American archaeology is between "black America" seen as a collectivity, and those individuals or groups who see their interests in some way conflicting with those of that collectivity. This may be out of a racist ideological commitment, but is no less likely to be inspired by the perception of African-American archaeology as a competitor for attention or resources with more traditional (read: comfortable) historical themes, or in reaction to the revelations of archaeological research into specific African-American pasts. For example, Shannon Dawdy described the challenge of working at a site significant to the story of black Union soldiers with input from the Daughters of the Confederacy.

This question of interest surely has an impact on another issue that was raised repeatedly in the workshop: the small numbers of archaeologists from some of the groups whose pasts we study (see also Franklin 1997, Singleton and Bograd 1995:28, 30-31). While in the session we didn't spend much time discussing why that might be, a number of remedies did come to light. Intensive archaeology workshops for at-risk youth (such as that developed by Shannon Dawdy in New Orleans), open houses and internships have all provided opportunities for enthusiastic black school-age children and college students to explore the inner workings of archaeology and get them excited about the potential for applying the discipline to issues that they find relevant. Of course, the problem of inclusion is also imbued with questions about power and authority. The impetus to create a more diverse archaeology is sometimes (mis)construed as an assault on a) the authority of current practitioners and/or b) the authority of an objective social science. Nevertheless,

The past can only be told as it truly is, not was. For recounting the past is a social act of the present done by [people] of the present and affecting the social system of the present... I mean that the whole archaeological enterprise from its inception--the social investment in this branch of scientific activity, the research orientation, the conceptual tools, the modes of resuming and communicating the results--are functions of the social present. To think otherwise is self-deceptive at best. Objectivity is honesty in this framework...Objectivity is a vector of a distribution of social investment in such activity such that it is performed by persons rooted in all the major groups of the world-system in a balanced fashion. Given this definition, we do not have an objective social science today. On the other hand, it is not an unfeasible objective within the foreseeable future. (Wallerstein 1974:9-10)

Diversity of archaeological practice is clear even from outside the discipline. The diversity of the discipline is just one facet of the need that all of our panelists saw for an expanded educational agenda. Many commented on the lack of attention to ethical issues and the question of working with descendant communities in their own graduate training, and their high hopes for the new educational agenda expressed by the SAA in their document "Teaching Archaeology in the twenty-first century: Promoting a National Dialogue" (SAA 1998). Six of the seven principles--Stewardship, Diverse Interests, Social Relevance, Ethics and Values, Written and Oral Communication, and Real World Problem Solving--include topics that we addressed with this workshop.

Of course one of the reasons that it is so important to encourage the development of "insider" professionals, and as professionals to consult with interested parties in our research, is that the archaeological value of a site or its contents is not always congruent with other values such as religious or spiritual, political, local or familial ones (see, for example Watkins 1998, contributions to Layton 1989). Understanding the nexus of these sometimes-competing agendas for, and interests in, the archaeological record was expressed time and again in our workshop. Alison Bell found that the local value of the Piedmont Virginia house sites she analyzed was to a certain extent wrapped up in beliefs about their age, beliefs which did not conform to her archaeological and architectural analysis. This, she felt, undermined the value of these sites, in local eyes (though certainly not in hers), which led her to pose the question ­ how and to what end do archaeologists confront stakeholders with information which contradicts deeply cherished beliefs? Should beliefs about a structure's age be more or less subject to confrontation than beliefs about the role of African-American slaves in the region's history? As many on the panel pointed out, archaeologists need to develop the conceptual tools to analyze and reconcile multiple assessments of archaeological resources.
While power relationships between archaeologists and other stakeholders can account for the similarities in the presentations by archaeologists of African America and Native America, it is also the root of their notable differences. Federal legislation such as NAGPRA has created a system within which Native American groups have power vis-à-vis the archaeological establishment. Whereas previously, the primary power was to conduct research or salvage without regard for the will of Native American constituencies, now there is a reciprocal power to demand the return of archaeological and other materials and to monitor ongoing archaeological work regardless of the will of the archaeological community. A legal source of authority (that is to say, of legitimate domination (Weber 1968:212-216) does not exist in the practice of African-American archaeology. Archaeologists communicate and consult with African-American constituencies out of self-interest or out of altruism, but not due to any legal compulsion, a difference that affects the character and content of the discourse. The existence of legal mandates for archaeologists to "consult" with Native American groups means not only that there are guidelines for engagement, but that there has grown up in the past few years an infrastructure for coping with the power struggles which emerge: precedents to appeal to; boards and committees to settle disputes; guidelines for establishing the limits of accountability.

One notable product of this difference was the vocabulary of the archaeologists immersed in federal compliance procedures. In crafting the abstract for this session, I had been using the word "consultation" in its most basic, English language sense, as "to ask the advice or opinion of...to have regard to." But I found that the term carried more specific meanings for several of our panelists. "Consultation" was a federally-mandated process that was simultaneously a crucial right and a financial burden for some tribes. It was difficult to unpack the nuances of this term when our experiences of "consultation" were so different.

In certain ways, archaeologists of African America are formalizing the communication and consultation process in a way which echoes the experiences of the archaeologists on our panel who are in the employ of Native American tribes. Both Garrett Fesler and Carol McDavid described working with structured steering committees, groups that had real power to develop research programs, devise publicity strategies, identify additional resources, and generally ensure that the progress of archaeological research does no harm to those people whose lives are impacted by the execution of archaeological agendas.

In many ways, the workshop fulfilled my every expectation. It was an important opportunity for a group of archaeologists with similar concerns but different arenas of expertise to come together and discuss their viewpoints on and strategies for negotiating the sociopolitical contexts of archaeological research. I think that beneficial ideas were exchanged and that all concerned had a new appreciation for the efforts of their colleagues in other subfields to conduct archaeological research that was responsive to the needs and interests of descendant and local communities. Of course, there were a number of areas where there was some disconnect between those working in African-American contexts, or other historical archaeological arenas, and those whose primary work was with Native American or Native Hawaiian archaeology. This fact convinced me more than ever of the need to keep the lines of communication open, to continue educate ourselves, as historical archaeologists, about the strides made by those working in fields where "communication and consultation" are not only desirable, but mandated by law. Likewise, I hope that archaeologists of all specialities will continue to realize that positive working relationships with stakeholders are an important part of any archaeology.

References Cited

Agbe-Davies, A. S.
1998    "Race" Matters in African-American Archaeology. Paper presented at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Seattle.

Brown, K. L.
1997    Some Thoughts on Archaeology and Public Responsibility. African-American Archaeology 18:6-7.

Franklin, M.
1997    Why Are There so Few Black American Archaeologists? Antiquity 71:799-801.

Haraway, D.
1988    Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3):575-599.

Harrington, S. P. M.
1993    Bones & Bureaucrats: New York's Great Cemetery Imbroglio. Archaeology 46(2):28-38.

Layton, R. (editor)
1989    Who Needs the Past? Indigenous Values and Archaeology. Unwin Hyman, London.

Leone, M. P.
1992    A Multicultural African-American Historical Archaeology: How to Place Archaeology in the Community in a State Capital. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association.

McDavid, C.
1999    Contemporary conversations about the archaeology of slavery and tenancy: Collaboration, descendants, and computers. Paper presented at the World Archaeological Congress 4, Cape Town.

McDavid, C. and D. W. Babson (editors)
1997    In the Realm of Politics: Prospects for Public Participation in African-American and Plantation Archaeology Historical Archaeology 31(3).

McKee, L.
1994    Is It Futile to Try and Be Useful? Historical Archaeology and the African-American Experience. Northeast Historical Archaeology 23:1-7.

Patten, M. D.
1994    Report on the 1994 Summer Excavation Season at Venable Lane. University of Virginia, Office of the Vice President, Charlottesville.

Potter, P. B., Jr.
1991    What is the Use of Plantation Archaeology? Historical Archaeology 25(3):94-107.

Society for American Archaeology's Task Force on Curriculum
1998    Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century: Promoting a National Dialogue. http://www.saa.org/Education/Curriculum/index.html

Singleton, T.A. , and Bograd, M.D.
1995    The Archaeology of the African Diaspora in the Americas, Guides to Historical Archaeological Literature, No. 2. The Society for Historical Archaeology.

Trigger, B.
1980    Archaeology and the Image of the American Indian. American Antiquity 45:662-676.

Wallerstein, I.
1974    The Modern World-System Volume I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. Academic Press, New York.

Watkins, J.
1998    Native Americans, Western Science, and NAGPRA. SAA Bulletin 16(5): 23-25.

Weber, M.
1968    Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Bedminster Press, New York.

Wilkie, L. A.
1995    Plantation Archaeology: Where Past and Present Can Collide. African-American Archaeology 13:2-5.


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Reclaiming a Silenced Past: Community Outreach and Oral History at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

Whitney Battle, University of Texas at Austin

The Hermitage plantation was once the home of President Andrew Jackson and more than 160 enslaved Africans. The Hermitage has functioned as a museum since 1889, when the Ladies Hermitage Association acquired the property in order to save and restore the decaying mansion and surrounding property. Their intent was also to restore the story of Andrew Jackson's life and legend. When the property was purchased, a man by the name of Alfred Jackson lived just outside of the mansion in a small log structure. Once enslaved, Jackson would be the source of personal stories, Hermitage events, and memories of life during the nineteenth century when he was much younger.

The oral history told by Alfred Jackson became a major source of information for the museum in its earliest years. Images of how the plantation would have looked and stories of events that took place both inside and outside the Jackson mansion were brought to life through the tales of its first caretaker. As time went by, the importance of oral history at The Hermitage became a thing of the distant past. The legend of Alfred was preserved, but the importance of his role in establishing The Hermitage would be left behind as The Hermitage established itself as a leading museum in the state of Tennessee. In recent times, The Hermitage has had to develop an interpretive framework that would ensure its success as a historic site.

In response to the growing need to expand the scope of the Hermitage, a permanent archaeological program was established in 1989 under the direction of Dr. Larry McKee. There were few surviving documents that addressed the enslaved Africans that lived, worked, and died on the plantation. The "erased" stories of the enslaved community became the primary focus of archaeological excavations conducted at the museum site. Although a great deal of energy was now focused on including the contributions of the enslaved African population in the museum's narrative presentation, something was still missing. The oral history of Alfred Jackson that was once the catalyst for the lore of The Hermitage seemed no longer to be scholarly enough or relevant for the current interpretive staff.

I first arrived at the Hermitage for a five-week internship during the summer of 1996. There was a great deal of public interaction and one-on-one dialogue with the visitors. I was very encouraged by this approach, and as a result decided to return as a field supervisor for three consecutive summers. Each season I returned I could see visible changes across the landscape "beyond the mansion" with the inclusion of enslaved African men and women in the interpretation of the outside.

During the summer of 1999, with the hard work of the public relations department, a great deal of local media attention began to center around the summer archaeology program at the Hermitage. With the new media coverage, people from all over Nashville and surrounding areas were beginning to visit and see archaeology first hand. Yet, I could not help but notice that although the number of visitors was growing, the faces hadn't really changed. African-American visitors remained few and far between. The goal of public archaeology is to engage with multiple publics, and being the self-reflective critical archaeologist that I am, I could no longer turn a blind eye to the reasons behind this absence. The great deal of energy that went towards illuminating African-American history at The Hermitage did not deal with the reality of contemporary issues regarding how the past is presented and how the museum continues to neglect the very communities it supposedly sets out to serve.

I feel strongly about the involvement of the local African-American community in the dialogue of changing various Hermitage exhibits. How, as archaeologists, can we practice African-American archaeology while failing to reach out the African-American community? I seriously contemplated how I could begin to find the African-American community in and around the Hermitage area, but had no idea where to start, or if this local community existed. Archaeology took over as my primary concern, until a two-week volunteer from Boston, decided she wanted to go to church.

Joan Harris came to excavate with us through Earthwatch, and her search to find a local African Methodist Episcopalian church led to the beginning of an incredible community partnership that has only begun to yield positive results. Harris' inquiry would put me in touch with an active and vibrant African-American community that was literally across the street from The Hermitage. I had been at this job for three summers and never knew they were so close. Each Sunday after that I traveled to yet another church to find large congregations with individuals who had stories that stretched over 70 years. Some were the very descendants of those enslaved at The Hermitage.

I was able to get into contact with an incredible woman by the name of Mrs. Washington. I met Mrs. Washington while looking at a cemetery just outside of the old Stateland Baptist Church, next door to her house. Mrs. Washington and I began to talk about once a week. Through these interactions, I learned a great deal about the founding families of The Hermitage, the beginnings of the Black church, how other churches claimed Stateland as a mother church, and how many people in community knew about the lives of folks from "way back when". When I talked to people in the community, I did not concentrate on what people knew about slavery or Andrew Jackson. I wanted to learn more about local histories, and to once again evaluate these histories by adding another dimension to the story of The Hermitage plantation.

I find it very important to use the stories of how people remember the past and how all types of memories about The Hermitage can contribute to the museum. Through these interactions with community members and leaders I am creating a bridge to connect the current needs of the community with the interpretation of African-American history at The Hermitage.

The process of recording oral histories has just begun, but importantly, the connections have been made. When I shared what the archaeological excavations were revealing I was met with great curiosity, excitement, and encouragement. In the summer of 2000, I will return to The Hermitage and continue my work with both the community and the museum. Through the suggestions of Dr. Amy Young and her work with African-American communities in Mississippi, I will try to involve the younger people of the community in taking down oral histories. Dr. Young used this tactic to create an active community outreach program, while leaving a great deal of the information in the community itself and teaching the younger generations about the importance of the plantation in terms of African-American history and culture.

The legacy of Alfred and other enslaved Africans from the plantation can be seen today in and around Nashville. These descendants remain in the area and for so long have felt no connection with the plantation or its museum. However, through site tours, oral interviews, and presentations to the elders, the story of the extraordinary lives of the enslaved community can once again take its proper place in American history. There is good reason for the African-American community to be involved in the interpretive message of The Hermitage, and partnership-building seems to be an appropriate way to reclaim a silenced past.


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Orange Vale Coffee Plantation, 1780-1850, Portland, Jamaica

Paula Saunders, The University of Texas at Austin

Situated two km west of the Buff Bay River, near the base of the Blue Mountains in the parish of St. George (now Portland), the ruins of Orange Vale plantation reminds us of the agony of Jamaica's legacy of slavery. To the immediate east of Orange Vale's boundary lies property belonging to the Moore Town Maroons. Orange Vale operated from the late 1700s until its abandonment in 1847, and was an example of the thriving mono-crop coffee industry that supplemented the slave economy of "king sugar," once common in the mountainous regions of Jamaica. The site was initially owned by John Elmslie, a "London proprietor," from 1782 until 1807. Orange Vale then passed into the ownership of Alexander Donaldson from 1807-1817, then to his "heirs" upon his death, who apparently maintained ownership until it was abruptly abandoned in 1847. At that time, the property was then split up and sold to the Bragg and Welsh families.

In conjunction with archaeologists from the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and interested parties from the Environmental Foundation, I conducted a preliminary on-site walking survey of Orange Vale plantation in the summer of 1999. I also conducted archival research of the plantation to establish a textual history of the site from documents and records at the National Archives and General Registrar's Office in Spanish Town. The purpose of the on-site survey was to locate potential archaeological remains and to assess the possibility of future excavation at the site.

After crossing the Buff Bay River by foot and walking about two miles uphill through a series of turns in thickly wooded environs, we arrived at the site's works-domestic complex. Although shaded under the cover of large tree branches and heavily covered in vines, the extensive and well-preserved ruins of the plantation were clearly visible. One could get a clear indication of the magnitude and success of this once thriving enterprise dependent upon forced labor of enslaved Africans.

The on-site survey was successful in locating many brick ruins. The entrance is marked by ruins of two massive stone gate posts, located on either side of a cobbled road running through the center of the plantation that appears to separate the works from the owner/overseer residence. At the highest elevation inside the "works-residence complex" and to the left side of the road (north), were the remains of two two-storied wall structures (believed to have been built with English ship ballast stones). Both structures had exterior stone steps leading up to the second stories, which no longer remain. These structures might have been the "great house" complex that possibly served as the residences and/or offices of the owners and/or overseers. One interesting artifact discovered in this area was a large copper basin, usually associated with sugar production. However, it is too early to speculate on how and when it was used at the site.

To the right of the road (south), were the extensive remains of a multi-level structure connected by steep steps that lead downhill. These ruins include large, dark, moss-covered stone walls that represent the remains of an aqueduct, a waterwheel emplacement, large drying platforms or "barbecues," a peeling mill?, two washing cisterns, a mill house, a "coffee house," and a possible "dungeon" for the enslaved. The still intact aqueduct, whose water source seemed to have originated from the White Spring Falls, was used to power a giant waterwheel that was possibly used in the washing of the coffee beans in the cisterns.

Even further downhill near the river and at the lowest elevations of the property are the remains of slave housing. It was difficult to discern the actual nature of these structures since they were heavily covered in dense undergrowth and partly washed away by erosion. However, along with the surface debris of historic artifacts, the outlines of these structures were visible enough to identify these as dwellings for the enslaved population.

Historic artifacts in the form of ceramics, glass bottles, and metal objects were visible at the surface throughout the site. Also present relatively close to the main house were two intact stone/marble grave markers with some as yet uninterpreted inscriptions at their tops. Except for the occasional tourist adventurous enough to make the trek to the site, the plantation ruins have remained relatively intact and untouched. The isolation of the site has contributed to site integrity and the potential for future archaeological research appeared to be high.

Survey and evaluation testing at Orange Vale will be conducted during the summer of 2000. In addition, further archival research focusing on constructing a detailed history of the site's occupation will continue. Testing will focus on areas near domestic structures in the hopes of finding evidence of diet, expressed in the kinds of food eaten, and artifacts associated with other daily activities.

My goal is to shed some light on the lives of those involved in the economic and social ventures of coffee production. I hope to investigate the layout and land use patterns at Orange Vale to identify any discernible and meaningful differences in its physical and social structure in comparison to other coffee and sugar plantations in the region (Delle 1998, Higman 1988, Montieth 1991). In addition, I hope to learn about the ideology, social structure, and power relations among the people of different legal and social status who lived at Orange Vale.

Future archaeological excavations, combined with historical documentation, can potentially provide a wealth of insights into these and other questions with regard to the formations of identities, social interactions, and daily activities of those who lived at Orange Vale.

References Cited

Delle, J.
1998    An Archaeology of Social Space: Analyzing Coffee Plantations in Jamaica's Blue Mountains. Plenum Publishing Corporation, New York.

Higman, B.
1988    Jamaica Surveyed: Plantation Maps and Plans of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Institute of Jamaica, Kingston.

Laborie, J.P.
1798    The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo. T. Cadell and W. Davies, London.

Montieth, K.
1991    The Coffee Industry in Jamaica, 1790-1850. Master's Thesis, University of the West Indies at Mona, Kingston.


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Freedman's Cemetery (1869-1907): Establishing a Chronology for Exhumed Burials from an African-American Burial Ground, Dallas, Texas

James M. Davidson, University of Texas at Austin

In the early 1990s, archaeologists working in Dallas, Texas, participated in one of the largest historic cemetery removal projects, to be treated archaeologically, ever conducted in the United States. The focus of the project, Freedman's Cemetery, was the principal burial ground for virtually every African American in Dallas between the years 1869 and 1907, a critical period spanning the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras.

The Freedman's Cemetery Project was necessitated by the expansion of North Central Expressway (U.S. Highway 75). In the late 1980s, a preliminary pedestrian survey of threatened cultural resources performed by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) identified the remaining intact portion of Freedman's Cemetery. Later research revealed that previous highway building efforts undertaken in the 1940s had paved over nearly an acre of the site.

To mitigate the effects of highway expansion, the Freedman's Cemetery Archaeological Project was formed by TXDOT. Between November 1991 and August 1994, excavations within Freedman's Cemetery encompassed nearly an acre (.95 acre). At the close of these excavations, archaeological investigations had resulted in the exhumation, documentation, and analysis of 1,150 burials (containing the remains of 1,157 individuals); i.e., nearly 1,200 men, women, and children who had lived and died a century ago (Condon et. al 1998). Since none of the graves were marked with dated tombstones, both the identities and dates of interment for these individuals were unknown.

Without knowing when someone lived and died, without the ability to view them in the very context of their times, it becomes difficult to judge with any certainty the quality or content of their lives in any meaningful way, economically, spiritually, or socially. Thus, establishing a chronology for these exhumed burials became the first step involved in realizing the vast potential of the Freedman's Cemetery data.

Numerous prior historic cemeteries have been excavated and reports produced, all without a thorough knowledge (or at times even a basic grounding) in the material culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century funerary industry (e.g., coffin hardware). Though most historic cemeteries subjected to archaeological investigation are unmarked, and the individual burials undated, as a rule the resulting site reports make only limited attempts at interpretation or chronology. Some do not even deign to hazard a guess as to when the burials, that are the very subject of the report, were originally interred (e.g., Taylor, et. al 1986). What, then, made the Freedman's Cemetery Project any different from previous investigations, and therefore significant enough to justify the added time and expense in documenting the site as fully as possible?

When excavations ended in the summer of 1994, the Freedman's Cemetery Project had exhumed a total of 1,157 individuals, a population equal to a small town. This staggering figure makes Freedman's one of the largest historic cemeteries ever excavated archaeologically in the United States. This circumstance alone makes the Freedman's Archaeological Project largely unique.

Additionally, unlike many historic cemetery excavations, where only the most superficial study is permitted, the skeletal remains and associated artifacts exhumed at Freedman's Cemetery were subjected to both extensive and intensive documentation and analyses. For example, the typical burial generated 29 pages of documentation (e.g., excavation form, artifact inventory and analysis form, skeletal analysis form, and dental analysis form). For the 1,150 burials exhumed arch-aeologically, the combined documentation is approximately 33,000 pages (66 reams or 330 pounds of paper). Also, extensive photographic documentation occurred with both artifacts and skeletal remains; over 185,000 negatives exist (Condon et. al 1998).

Extensive local archival documentation was available as well. Such data were an enormous help in interpreting the cemetery in its totality, and aided in understanding individual graves as well.

The fact that Freedman's was an African-American cemetery was, for me, yet another significant factor in the project. African Americans founded the Freedman's Town, of which the cemetery was but one part, in the early years of Reconstruction. Arguably, the one period in American history most fraught with change for African Americans spans the Reconstruction Era to the time of Jim Crow, a period within which the use of Freedman's Cemetery was known to fall. Finally, it was established that for nearly all of its history, the Freedman's Cemetery served as the only public burial ground for African Americans residing within Dallas. Thus, the demography of the cemetery is an inclusive one, simultaneously containing both the poorest members of the community (numerous paupers buried at city expense), as well as Dallas' African-American middle class or elite represented by elaborately trimmed caskets.

Two basic and complimentary dating schema were used in the creation of the Freedman's Cemetery chronology. First, an entirely internal chronology was established, using specific artifacts as temporal diagnostics, cross-dating, stacked burials (i.e., superposition), as well as knowledge of land purchase and subsequent use (e.g., the spatial patterning of graves). The other dating schema made use of broad, national trends in coffin hardware innovations and stylistic motifs, through an exhaustive study of coffin hardware catalogues, trade journals, and all pertinent records of the United States Patent Office. Although extremely time-consuming, this study was a necessary step to advance the knowledge base of 19th and early 20th century mortuary hardware beyond the preliminary studies of Hacker-Norton and Trinkley (1984), Garrow (1987), and others.

The chronology created for Freedman's Cemetery made it possible to assign narrow date ranges to virtually all of the recovered burials. From historic records, I was able to establish that Freedman's Cemetery was founded on April 29, 1869, and remained open and received interments up to July 26, 1907. Three major (and one minor) time periods were identified. The Early Period spans sixteen years, from the cemetery's founding in 1869 until 1884 (n=64 burials; 5.5% of total exhumed). The next period defined for Freedman's Cemetery is the Middle Period, a fifteen year interval stretching from 1885 to 1899 (n=170 burials; 14.8% of total exhumed). The next temporal period is a minor one, termed simply "Pre-1900." This designation was devised to describe those burials that while identified as dating prior to 1900, could not be further subdivided into either the Early or Middle Periods. The "Pre-1900" Period contains 37 burials (3.2% of total exhumed). The final temporal period is termed the Late Period; it covers a mere eight year interval occurring between 1900 and 1907. The Late Period contains the bulk of the exhumed burials (n=878; 76.4% of total exhumed). Of the 1150 burials exhumed during excavations, only one (Burial 1127) could not be more finely dated due to its highly disturbed nature, location within the cemetery, and complete lack of associated artifacts.

The Freedman's Cemetery chronology took approximately six years to formulate, research, implement, and finally, document within my masters thesis (Davidson 1999). Other investigators involved with historic cemetery excavations might wonder at the necessity or the lengths that I have taken in this detailed analysis and subdivision of a relatively short 39-year time span. This seemed the first order of importance for a number of reasons. To date, Freedman's Cemetery is the largest historical cemetery of its kind in the United States to have been excavated, documented, and analyzed to the extent performed in Dallas, and it seems unlikely that such a site of comparable size will ever again be examined as minutely as Freedman's.

Until Freedman's Cemetery was firmly tethered in time, any analyses conducted would have been perfunctory in tone or preliminary in extent. Indeed, for any analysis or meaningful interpretations to come of the Freedman's Cemetery Project, a diachronic perspective was imperative. The chronology forms the basis for my dissertation work: diachronic studies of the subject of race and racism within Dallas, the changing cultural landscape, health and demography, socioeconomic, and the socio-religious realm as mirrored through specific burial practices.

To only view this skeletal population and material culture (in toto) as contemporaneous would deny the wonderful opportunity to chart the social, economic, and health trends within the African-American communities of 19th and early 20th century Dallas. Indeed, the active "life" of Freedman's Cemetery parallels some of the most formative years of the Black Experience, beginning during the troubled Recon-struction period and proceeding into the early 20th century, both of which influenced the birth of America's modern era.

References Cited

Condon, C. G., J. L. Becker, H. J. H. Edgar, J. M. Davidson, J. R. Hoffman, P. Kalima, D. Kysar, S. Moorhead, V. M. Owens, and K. W. Condon.
1995    Freedman's Cemetery: Site 41DL316, Dallas, Texas, Assessments of Sex, Age-at-death, Stature, and Date of Interment for Excavated Burials. Report No. 9. Archaeological Studies Program, Environmental Affairs Division, Texas Department of Transportation.

Davidson, James M.
1999    Freedman's Cemetery (1869-1907): A Chronological Reconstruction of an Excavated African-American Burial Ground, Dallas, Texas. Unpublished Masters Thesis, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Garrow, Patrick
1987    A Preliminary Seriation of Coffin Hardware Forms in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Georgia. Early Georgia 15 (1& 2): 19-45.

Hacker-Norton, Debi, and Michael Trinkley
1984    Remember Man Thou Art Dust: Coffin Hardware of the Early Twentieth Century. Chicora Foundation Research Series 2. Columbia, SC.

Peter, Duane, Marsha Prior, Melissa M. Green, and Victoria Green Clow (editors)
1999    A Legacy of A Pioneer Black Community in Dallas, Texas: Freedman's Cemetery (Draft report September 1999), Special Publication No. 6, Environmental Affairs Division, Archaeological Studies Program, Texas Department of Transportation.

Taylor, A. J., Anne A. Fox, and I. Waynne Cox.
1986    Archaeological Investigations at Morgan Chapel Cemetery (41 BP 200), a Historic Cemetery in Bastrop County, Texas. Archaeological Survey Report, No. 146. Center for Archaeological Research, University of Texas at San Antonio.


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The Old Washington Collections: The Potential for an Engendered Archaeology of the African Diaspora in Southwestern Arkansas

Jamie C. Brandon, University of Texas at Austin, and Kathleen H. Cande, Arkansas Archaeological Survey

For the last 20 years, historical archaeology investigaitons have been conducted at Old Washington Historic State Park, in extreme southwestern Arkansas. Old Washington is perhaps the best surviving example of a 19th-century county seat in the Old Southwest (Cande and Brandon 1999:1; Stewart-Abernathy 1993:2). The town of Washington, Arkansas (1825-1939; 3HE236), the former county seat of Hempstead County and a booming antebellum cotton town on the Southwest Trail, is perhaps best known historically as the Confederate capital of Arkansas during the Civil War. Although archeological investigations into this aspect of Old Washington's past have been made (e.g., Harcourt 1994), it is the potential of the archeological assemblage for illuminating the lives of the enslaved individuals that provided much of the labor on Old Washington's "urban farmsteads" that seems most promising at this juncture (Cande and Brandon 1999:22-24; Stewart-Abernathy 1986, 1995).

After several devastating fires and its omission from major railway routes, Washington was condemned to the role of economic backwater and eventually the nearby town of Hope replaced it as the seat of government in Hempstead County. The town's stagnant economy, however, meant that very little of the town's architecture changed during the course of the 20th century. Beginning in 1959, the Pioneer Washington Preservation Foundation served as steward of the town. The Foundation was joined by the state of Arkansas as Old Washington Historic State Park was established in 1973 (Guthrie and Witsell 1985:18; Stewart-Abernathy 1997:2). The park is now one of the highlights of the state's heritage tourism program.

The 20 years of historical archaeology that has been undertaken by the Arkansas Archeological Survey (AAS) was largely under the supervision of Leslie "Skip" Stewart-Abernathy (e.g., 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986; Stewart-Abernathy and Ruff 1989) and, more recently, by Randall Guendling (Guendling 1993; Guendling et. al. 1999). However, as most of this work has been funded under contract by Arkansas State Parks on a project-by-project basis and/or through the AAS annual training program excavations, little money has been available for the extended analysis needed for synthetic interpretation of the data. In fact, many of the artifacts and data collected have yet to be analyzed, synthesized, and written-up. More importantly, despite Stewart-Abernathy's best efforts to disseminate the information gleaned from the Old Washington excavations to a professional audience via conference papers (e.g., Stewart-Abernathy 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997), the site remains seldom-cited in historical archaeology's literature due to the lack of synthetic publications.

In July of 1997, the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) awarded two grants to the AAS for the purpose of cataloging the more than 80,000 artifacts recovered from excavations at antebellum houseplaces, outbuildings and public buildings in Old Washington Historic State Park. In addition to a comprehensive "finding aid" for the reorganized collections, the resulting report (Cande and Brandon 1999) also provides an historical overview for excavations and a review of the research strategies employed by the archeologists working within the park. This work, however, included only limited examples of the usefulness of the excavated data (e.g., Brandon 1999), while this data set has the potential to be mined for many veins of fruitful research-including landscape studies, commercial and industrial aspects, the economic and social connections between plantations and "urban" service centers, material culture studies and, of course, the studies of gender and both the Jewish and African diasporas (Cande and Brandon 1999:23-29).

From the perspective of diasporic studies, the surface of the potential of Old Washington's collections has only barely been scratched (but see Stewart-Abernathy 1995, 1997; Stewart-Abernathy and Ruff 1989); a potential which interestingly springs largely from an unexpected source-architectural history. Similar to the situations at many other "living history" museums or parks throughout North America, the major role of archaeologists at Old Washington has been to provide information for architectural reconstruction. This element of archaeological work is made all the more important since the original outbuildings, which can tell us a great deal about the fabric of the lives of those residing in the antebellum town, were largely removed by the mid-20th century (Guthrie and Witsell 1985:54-58). Several of these outbuildings have been archaeologically relocated, including the detached kitchens, privies, and wells associated with the Sanders House, the home of Simon T. Sanders, a city official from 1845-1882 (see Guendling 1993 for details) and the Block House, occupied between the 1830s and 1857 by the Block family, successful local merchants (see Guendling et al. 1999; Stewart-Abernathy 1985).

It is the contexts of these outbuildings, especially the detached kitchens, that offers us a glimpse of both race and gender on the antebellum urban farmsteads of the Old Southwest. For instance, Abraham Block, patriarch of the aforementioned Block family and himself a part of the Jewish diaspora and personally involved in the slave trade through his mercantile activities, (see Stewart-Abernathy 1995; Stewart-Abernathy and Ruff 1989), owned at least 25 human beings who worked on land holdings spread throughout the county (Montgomery 1981:19-21, 25, 27). The census data, however, tell us that the Blocks only kept between two and three slaves at their home in the town of Old Washington. All were women who appear to have lived in the detached kitchen (Stewart-Abernathy 1995:5). More tantalizingly, to date several artifacts have been recovered from Old Washington's detached kitchens which hint at the possibilities of dramatic interpretations. Artifacts such as a pierced 1856 seated liberty dime (from the Block detached kitchen) and a porcelain doll head which appears to have been painted black (from the Sanders kitchen) point to the potential of interpreting enslaved African-American life in urban Old Washington, but without placing these artifacts within the proper, broader contexts such interpretation would be over-simplistic and possibly misleading (cf., Deetz 1995; Fesler and Franklin 1999:5).

Thus, the purpose of this article is to alert interested researchers to the existence of these collections, their condition, and their rich potential, especially for African-American Archaeology. It is hoped that in the future more researchers may use these collections and help bring about a synthesis that has "fallen through the cracks" of our discipline.

Thanks go out to ANCRC and the AAS for making it possible for the authors to work with the Old Washington Skip Stewart-Abernathy for the years he has devoted to the site. Anyone interested in research involving the Old Washington collections should contact either Lela Donat, AAS registrar (ldonat@comp.uark.edu) or Kathleen Cande, Senior Research Assistant, AAS Sponsored Research Program (kcande @comp.uark.edu).

References Cited

Brandon, Jamie C.
1999    Appendix E: Analysis of Selected Provenience, OWHSP, ANCRC Grant 98-001. In An Old Washington for a New Millennium: Archeological Collections Management and Research Design for Old Washington State Historic Park, Hempstead County, Arkansas, 1980-1999. ANCRC Grant 99-001. Report submitted to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resource Council by the Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Cande, Kathleen H., and Jamie C. Brandon
1999    An Old Washington for a New Millennium: Archeological Collections Management and Research Design for Old Washington State Historic Park, Hempstead County, Arkansas, 1980-1999. ANCRC Grant 99-001. Report submitted to the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resource Council by the Arkansas Archeological Survey.

Deetz, James
1995    Cultural Dimensions of Ethnicity in the Archaeological Record. Keynote address, annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, DC.

Fesler, Garrett, and Maria Franklin
1999    The Exploration of Ethnicity and the Historical archaeological Record. In Historical Archaeology, Identity Formation, and Interpretation of Ethnicity, Franklin and Fesler (eds.). Colonial Williamsburg Research Publications, Williamsburg.

Guendling, Randall L.
1993    Archeological Assessment of the Sanders Block, Old Washington State Park, Hempstead County, Arkansas. Final Report, Project 847. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville. Submitted to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Little Rock.

Guendling, Randall L., Mary L. Kwas, and Jamie C. Brandon
1999    Archeological Investigations at Old Washington State Park, Arkansas: The 1836 Courthouse Block (3HE236-0) and the Block-Catts House Block (3HE236-19). Final Report, Project 99-02. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville. Submitted to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Little Rock.

Guthrie, Anne, and Charles Witsell, Jr.
1985    Master Plan: Old Washington State Park, Washington, Arkansas. Witsell, Evans, and Rasco, PA and Arkansas State Parks, Little Rock.

Harcourt, James P.
1994    Archeological Testing at the Confederate State Capitol, Old Washington State Park, Hempstead County, Arkansas. Final Report, Project 883. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville. Submitted to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Little Rock.

Montgomery, Don
1981    Block-Catts House: Historic Structure Report. Report submitted to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Little Rock.

Stewart-Abernathy, Leslie C.
1981    Preliminary Report: Sanders Kitchen Archeological Project. Journal of the Hempstead County Historical Society 5 (2).

1984    The Block House Piers: A Contribution to the Archeological Underpinning of Historic Preservation in Washington, Arkansas. Final Report, Project 575. Arkansas Archeological Survey, Fayetteville. Submitted to the Arkansas Department of State Parks and Tourism, Little Rock.

1985    The Block House Cellar. Arkansas Archeological Society Field Notes 203:9-11.

1986    Urban Farmsteads: Household Responsibilities in the City. Historical Archaeology 20 (2):5-15.

1988    Queensware from a Southern Store: Perspectives on the Antebellum Ceramics Trade from a Merchant Family's Trash in Washington, Arkansas. Paper presented to the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology ,Reno.

1991    Cutting Christians into Shoestrings in the Twinkling of a Bedpost: Urban archaeology on the Cotton Frontier. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Kingston, Jamaica.

1993    History Below Ground Level: Historical Archaeology and Washington, Arkansas. Paper given at the annual meeting of the Historical Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, Washington.

1995    Separate Kitchens and Intimate Archaeology: Constructing Urban Slavery on the Antebellum Cotton Frontier in Washington, Arkansas. Paper presented at the 1995 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, DC.

1997    "Just Putting it Back the Way it Was": Construction of an Antebellum Townscape in Washington, Arkansas. Paper presented at the 1997 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Corpus Christi, TX.

Stewart-Abernathy, Leslie C., and Barbara Ruff
1989    A Good Man in Israel: Zooarchaeology and Assimilation in Antebellum Washington, Washington, Arkansas. Historical Archaeology 23(2):96-112.


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Testing the Oral History at Middleburg Plantation, Berkeley County, South Carolina

Kerri S. Barile, University of Texas at Austin & University of South Carolina, Columbia

Middleburg, a rice plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, was home to the Simons, Lucas, and Ball families from 1699 through the 1970s. The families themselves, however, comprised only a small percentage of the plantation's historic population. Middleburg was also "home" for several hundred enslaved Africans. As with many plantations, many of the former slaves took up residence on land directly surrounding the estate upon emancipation. The continued presence of both the white owners and the free blacks fostered a rich and detailed oral tradition, which illuminate persisting racial conflicts in the area.

In his 1992 work Uncommon Ground, Leland Ferguson discusses his search for the slave quarters at Middleburg. Archaeological excavations and documentary research revealed their location east of the main house and the period of occupation from around 1770 through the first quarter of the 19th century (Adams 1990:93). Sometime after the quarters were removed, a large two and a half story structure was built on the site (Figure 1). This building is colloquially referred to as the Commissary, a name derived from the period in the early 20th century when the structure served as a local store (Hill 1988). It is believed to have served as a storage building during the 19th century. The ground level is made up of a single large room to the west and two small (three feet by five feet) exterior chambers that open on the east elevation (Figure 2). It is these exterior rooms that have been the focus of a growing oral tradition. Among white descendants, these two rooms were believed to have been used to teach new slaves English. The new slave would be put in one room and an American-born slave would be put in the other, with the slaves divided by a wall of brick. They would be let out of their "school-rooms" when the lessons were over.

A very different tradition exists among black descendants who continue to live in the area. Their belief, passed down through generations, is that these two rooms were, in fact, the plantation jail cells used for holding and inflicting harsh punishments (Ferguson 1998: personal communication). These two traditions mirror the way each group of descendants differentially, and even oppositionally, interpret the history of slavery at Middleburg. In Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball (1998) collected oral histories from the descendants and relations of both white owners and black slaves to explore his family's heritage. A 90-year old white family member said: "We lean over backwards where the Negros are concerned. But they live like animals, you know" (Ball 1998:53-57). The descendants of the Middleburg slaves who still live in the area told Ball of the splitting and selling of families, the beating and flogging, and the harsh work conditions. As one said, "that was an awful time. I'm glad I wasn't there then" (Ball 1998:395).

In January and February, 1999, archaeological excavations and architectural analysis were undertaken to answer some of the contrary interpretations of the Commissary. Two excavation units were placed around the exterior of the Commissary foundation to answer questions about the building's construction and the deconstruction of the slave quarters below. One unit was placed inside the southern exterior chamber to reveal construction details and insights into the room's purpose. The two units at the Commissary foundation revealed that the slave quarters in the area were purposely burned to clear the area and the Commissary was immediately constructed on the spot around 1820 (Barile 1999). The interior of the structure revealed a different picture. Upon investigation, the interior dividing walls that separate the two exterior chambers from the large main area were found to have a "cold" joint with the exterior foundation walls on both sides and, further, these walls are not tied into the roofing members. Archaeologically, the builder's trench in the unit inside the southern chamber contained fragments of aqua bottle glass, which has a terminus post quem of 1860 (Jones and Sullivan 1985:13-14). Together, the archaeological and architectural analyses show that not only were the walls that create the two exterior chambers added after the initial construction of the building, but these changes were made after 1860. During the period of slavery at Middleburg, the Commissary appears to have had only one large room on the ground floor, not three. With this knowledge, these chambers could be neither schoolrooms nor jail cells.

As both oral traditions regarding the Commissary appear to be inaccurate, what can this say about the validity of oral histories on archaeological and architectural research? Anne Yentsch (1988:5,16) makes a point to note that many times, such traditions were not truths to be passed down as completely factual histories, but were instead methods of "binding society and promoting solidarity" among different societal factions. For this reason, architectural historians and archaeologists have been hesitant to include this information in their studies. She also recognizes, however, the inherent value in the hidden meaning of oral traditions, for "encoded within them is ethnographic information on social values and folk ideas about kinship, community identity, society, history, culture and nature" (Yentsch 1988:5).

It is with this idea that the oral histories of the Commissary at Middleburg reveal the past. Even though the chambers were found to have been constructed after emancipation, the oral traditions themselves divulge a plethora of information about the 18th-, 19th -, and 20th-century relations among the white and black populations in the area. This information can be used to decipher meanings among the plantation landscape and the dissemination of power among its' inhabitants. It can also yield possible clues to living conditions, social actions, and the daily lives of both the white elite family and their enslaved African-American workforce that are not seen in the written record and cannot be determined archaeologically or architecturally. Like many aspects of researching the past, archaeology can benefit from a multidisciplinary approach so that an attempt can be made to illuminate the past in the present.

References Cited

Adams, Natalie
1990    Early African-American Domestic Architecture from Berkeley County, South Carolina. Unpublished Master's thesis. Department of Anthropology. University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Ball, Edward
1998    Slaves in the Family. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York.

Barile, Kerri S.
1999    Causes and Creations: Exploring the Relationship Between 19th Century Slave Insurrections, Landscape and Architecture at Middleburg Plantation, Berkeley County, South Carolina. Unpublished Master's thesis. Department of Anthropology. University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Ferguson, Leland
1992    Uncommon Ground. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Hill, Mackie
1988    A Brief History of Middleburg Plantation. Unpublished manuscript. Department of Anthropology. University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Jones, Olive, and Catherine Sullivan
1985    The Parks Canada Glass Glossary. Studies in Archaeology, Architecture and History, National Historic Parks and Sites, Environment Canada, Quebec.

Yentsch, Anne E.
1988    Legends, Houses, Families, and Myths: Relationships between material culture and American Ideology. In Documentary Archaeology in the New World, edited by M. Beaudry, pp. 5-19. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


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2005 African Diaspora Archaeology Network
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