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African-American Archaeology

Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network

Number 12, Winter 1994

Thomas R. Wheaton, Editor

Update #4: New York's African Burial Ground

Submitted by Jerome S. Handler, Southern Illinois University

This newsletter has provide three earlier reports on the African burialground in lower Manhattan (Spring 1992, Spring 1993 and Winter 1993). This update covers the period ending October, 1994.

Artifacts from the burial site, as well as the neighboring Five Points site, are still housed in a laboratory at the World Trade Center where they are being conserved by a team from John Milner Associates. The burial groundartifacts will be separated from those recovered at Five Points, and they will be shipped to Howard University for analysis. All of the approximately 400 skeletal remains are now at the Bioanthropology Lab at Howard where their analysis is supported by a contract between the General Services Administration and Howard University (see the accompanying article by Mark Mack). After being analyzed, the skeletal population will be reinterred at the burial site. The formal ceremonies that will accompany reinterment have yet to be formulated.

In April, 1994, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the National Park Service (NPS) entered into an agreement concerning the Interpretative Center to be located within the new Foley Square Federal Office Tower Building, adjacent to the burial site. This agreement provides for the NPS to design and construct the Interpretive Center which will encompass an approximately 2,000 square foot area. Through the use of archaeological data and historical records, the Interpretive Center will interpret the African burial ground within the wider context of the sociocultural history of Africans and their descendants in the New York area in the early colonial period.

The Federal Advisory Committee (or Steering Committee on the African Burial Ground) was established in 1992 for a two year period to make recommendations to the GSA concerning the skeletal remains and associated issues relating to the burial ground. The committee, of which this author was a member, met monthly at the Schomburg Center in New York. With the expiration ofits charter, the final meeting of the committee was held on August 22, 1994. Further information concerning the current status of the African Burial Ground Interpretive Center and related issues can be obtained from the Office of Public Education and Interpretation of the African Burial Ground, U.S. Custom House, Room 239, 6 World Trade Center, New York 10048; phone 212-432-5707; fax 212 432-5920.

Searching for West African Cultural Meanings in the Archaeological Record

Submitted by Patricia Samford, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

As archaeological data on African Americans has accumulated over the last twenty years, archaeologists have taken two major approaches to analyzing and explaining their information. The first approach seeks archaeological patterns which would allow the recognition of slave sites and serve as signalsor markers when these sites are discovered. The second, centering around the search for objects with physical or behavioral links to West Africa, has moved from the simple transference of objects and ideas from Africa to a more refined focus which integrates behavior with material culture. The aim of the latter is not on direct, unaltered transferences, but onhow West African cultural traditions were modified in the face of the new environments, different social groups, and altered power structures in which slaves found themselves. One facet of these changes was with respect to the material aspects of life. Since the discovery of archaeological artifacts crafted by slaves has been fairly limited and difficult to validate, archaeologists are now realizing the importance of looking at other types of objects. No longer having access to the same commodities once at their disposal, West African slaves and their descendants lived in a material world populated largely with goods of English or European manufacture. It is likely that the enslaved thought about and used some objects differently than their creators had originally intended, adapting these new forms of material culture for use within African American cultural systems. In his study of the relationship between society and material culture, Daniel Miller argues that individuals and social groups can recontextualize and transform the traditional or manufactured images and meanings of objects in ways that construct and reproduce culture. It is to the reinterpretation of these manufactured goods to meet African American uses which archaeologists should look for ways to understand processes of cultural transformations by African Americans.

These meanings become most readily evident when artifacts have been altered in some fashion or recovered archaeologically in atypical contexts, which can then be analyzed to gain insight about their new use. An assemblage of objects interpreted as a conjurer's kit from a standing quarter at Jordan Plantation is an example of artifacts which gained meaning through the use of this approach. Another example are the shaped and sanded fragments of eighteenth-century English earthenwares found at African-American sites in Virginia and Jamaica and believed to have been used in the African game of mancala. Additionally, a pocketknife found at one of the Somerset Plantation slave quarters in North Carolina and pewter spoons recovered from Kingsmill Plantation in Virginia and Garrison Plantation in Maryland exhibited incised markings similar to the West African Bakongo cosmogram. What the shaped pottery, spoons, and knife represent are English manufactured objects modified in ways to make them gain West African-based cultural meanings.

In order to formulate a model for understanding objects recovered from slave sites, the need exists to establish the parameters of an Afrocentric, or more specifically, a "West" Afrocentric, approach. An understanding of the art, religion, social structure, material culture, and archaeological findings of those West African cultures who were most heavily impacted by the slave trade to North America is crucial to creating this perspective. Despite a growing awareness of the cultural diversity of African and African-American slaves, archaeologists have often tended to treat slaves as single cultural group, basing this consolidation on what they consider to have been common African traits such as religion, subsistence and kinship structure. Even, however, if the slaves arriving in the New World had not originated from various cultures with differing belief systems, situational factors would greatly affect behavior across space and through time and thus archaeological data.

What is needed is a thorough search of the archaeological, ethnographic, and ethnohistorical data of the West African cultures which were present in the American Southeast. This information will allow the creation of a model which reveals cultural and material practices evident within West African archaeological and historical records. The following discussions of spiritual beliefs and musical traditions suggest how an approach informed by West African cultural traditions can be used to reinterpret African-American archaeological data and guide research designs on future excavations.

Spiritual Beliefs - Religion is one of the strongest elements of the African American community and the importance of spirituality in life can be traced back to West African belief systems. While beliefs are difficult to recover archaeologically, humans often use physical manifestations to help express their beliefs. The Jordan Plantation conjurer's kit and a similar find from the basement of the Carroll House in Annapolis, Maryland are two situations where objects were recovered in contexts indicating they had been used in religious ceremonies.

Additional archaeological findings indicative of African American religious beliefs have most likely been misinterpreted either because their context was not as tightly defined, or through lack of a perspective informed by West African traditions. For example, during the destruction or renovation of several standing nineteenth-century slave quarters in Virginia and North Carolina, objects have been discovered inserted between the interior and exterior walls of these buildings. These objects, including a bottle containing a button, several cloth sugar and tobacco bags holding with plant material and an iron knife, are fairly innocuous until they are examined in relation to cultural practices of the Bakongo. Bakongo religious and medicinal practices involve using minkisi, sacred objects which embody the spiritual being and generally consist of some type of container, such as a gourd, pot, bag, or snail shell filled with medicines, such as chalk, nuts, soil, or stones.

The use of minkisi has not been restricted to Africa; Robert Farris Thompson discusses examples in Cuba and New York City. The objects placed intentionally within the walls of slave cabins were probably also associated with African American translations or adaptations of Bakongo or other West African religious and medicinal practices. These two slave cabins do not appear to be isolated examples. Two peeled and sharpened forked sticks discovered between the inner and outer walls of the Stagville Plantation quarter in Durham, North Carolina were interpreted, based on slave narratives, as objects to ward off witches. Similarly, an English delftware drug jar found buried underneath the floor of the eighteenth-century Brush-Everard kitchen in Williamsburg, Virginia and another earthenware vessel from a slave work area at Oxon Hill Manor in Maryland may have also been related to similar practices.

Using late eighteenth-century Virginia store accounts, Ann Smart Martin has found that, among other items, enslaved African Americans were purchasing mirrors. Mirror glass has been found at numerous 18th and 19th-century slave sites in Virginia. While these mirrors may have been used in the traditional sense as looking glasses, research has indicated that mirrors held spiritual significance in West African cultures and those of their descendants. Mirrors are believed to have represented the reflective surface of water, which constituted the world of deceased ancestors, and have been documented as decorating early twentieth-century graves in the African Kongo and in Georgia and South Carolina. Other forms of material culture, such as cowrie shells, beads, and pierced coins, were also likely to have been used in religious practices.

Music - As indicated here, the presence of West African based religious traditions is strongly suggested in the material culture of slave sites. The same appears true in music as well. Music traditions from West Africa have been documented in African American culture through nineteenth-century paintings, photographs, and traveler's descriptions. Given the importance of music in African and African-American life, and its documentation in these other sources, musical evidence should be evident archaeologically. Excavations to date, however, have recovered only limited evidence of musical instruments, primarily mouth harps. Other types of artifacts, however, could also have been used in making music. For example, two commonly recovered items are iron keys and jawbones from large mammals, such as horses, pigs, and cows. These generally have been interpreted as functioning in their typical uses as security devices and as food. An alternate explanation for these objects would be a musical one. The practice of scraping an iron rod or key over the jawbone of a large animal occurs within African, as well as African-American music traditions. This hypothesis could be easily tested by examining the jawbones for wear patterns caused by the scraping of the keys. Additionally, playing metal washboards by placing thimbles over the fingers, popular in African American blues, was derived from the practice of playing the jawbone and spoon playing originated from the African tradition of playing the bones.

The presence of buttons in larger percentages on slave sites than on those of other ethnic origins, has been interpreted as a byproduct of using old clothing in quiltmaking. An alternative explanation is that in some instances buttons may have been used in a fashion similar to that of cowrie shells strung around gourds as a percussion instrument called a shekere. Since the recovery of gourds from a typical archaeological context would be rare, testing this hypothesis would involve soil sampling from archaeological contexts containing large quantities of buttons to test for traces of pollen or carbonized seeds.

Conclusion - These discussions provide a few suggestions for ways African American archaeology can be viewed from a West Afrocentric perspective and how it affects the way artifacts and other findings can be viewed. This work is at a very preliminary stage and the next task is to systematically test these and similar hypotheses on excavated site data. As suggested by these examples, enslaved Africans and African Americans retained and modified West African spiritual traditions in ways that canbe documented archaeologically. In doing so, they appear to have used European manufactured and natural objects in way which had relevance to West African spiritual traditions.

New York Burial Ground Project - From the Field to the Laboratory

Submitted by Mack E. Mark, Howard University

The New York African Burial Ground Project involves the curation, reconstruction and analysis of the skeletal remains of approximately 400 ancestral Africans who lived, labored and died in colonial New York. The results of this research will shed light on their origins in West Africa, the stresses they faced while being enslaved on these shores, as well as the processes of biocultural adaptation they underwent. In essence, giving a voice to our ancestors who have been silenced for over two centuries.

The initial stage of the research entails the cleaning, reconstruction, anthropomorphic recordation, pathological assessment and photographic documentation of the skeletal remains. The target date for the completion of this phase is February, 1996. Presently, 130 individuals have gone through this process.

The preliminary research has already yielded some interesting findings. There are many examples of individuals exhibiting work or load bearing stresses. Most of the hypertrophy of muscle attachments uncovered so far are in theupper body (shoulders and arms). Enthesopathies have been observed, where lesions are left in muscle attachments due to muscle tears as a result ofextreme labor. Osteophytosis has been found in several cervical vertebraeof individuals prior to old age, resulting from carrying heavy burdens ontop of the head. Additionally, squatting facets have been found in the tarsal bones of three individuals, showing that they tended to squat, rather thansit, while working, which is customary in some West African societies.

Evidence of tobacco smoking (pipe notches in the dentition) has been found in several men and women. Another significant discovery is that dental analysis has uncovered at least five different dental modification patterns (tooth filing). These cultural practices will aid in determining the West and Central African sociocultural origins of these individuals. The reconstruction, recordation and preliminary analysis of the numerous infants and children have revealed the severe and disproportionate impact of stresses upon the youngest members of this population. Porotic hyperostosis and craniosynostosis have been observed in a number of children. Dental pathologies, such asenamel hypoplasia and hypocalcification, as well as caries formation have been found in the deciduous and permanent dentitions of children. Along with numerous examples of delayed skeletal growth and development, these skeletal indicators point to the stressful conditions that these children faced.

Finally, there are a number of cases of traumatic fractures, the most interesting of which involves two women. One exhibits trauma to the head that led to a circular fracture at the base of the skull which may have caused her death. In the other woman, it is clear that she was shot in the back or side by a musket ball which fractured her left ribs and scapula. In addition, she has a perimortem torsion fracture of her right radius andulna and multiple fractures of the face. Obviously, these traumatic fractures are clear signs of the violent conditions this population faced under enslavement.

Specialized studies in the future will include DNA sampling and chemicalisotope analysis, histomorphometry, demographic profiles, analysis of burial artifacts and practices, the analysis of disease processes, as well as studies focusing on biocultural continuity and change for this population. The entire phase of data collection of the New York African Burial Ground skeletal population will be completed by 1998, and the reburial of the remains will follow.

Tours of our laboratory facilities at Howard University are available to the public and visiting scholars on Friday and Saturday mornings. We can accommodate tours of 30 persons or less. Alternative times for tours also can be arranged. Call Mr. Mark E. Mack (202) 806-5256 to schedule a tour (all tours must be scheduled prior to arrival).

Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Submitted by Barbara Heath, Poplar Forest

Archaeologists at Jefferson's Poplar Forest are currently excavating the site of an early nineteenth-century slave cabin located approximately 650 feet east of the octagonal dwelling house which Jefferson constructed in 1806 to serve as "an occasional retreat." Artifacts recovered at the site from feature fill and the plowzone suggest that the cabin was occupied from the mid 1790s through the first decade of the nineteenth century. The artifactual data combined with documentary evidence suggests that the building may have been torn down during Jefferson's campaign to reorganize the plantation landscape in 1812-1813. Still later in the nineteenth century, the site was plowed.

The site was discovered during testing of Poplar Forest's property boundary during the spring of 1993, when a test pit came down on the corner of what turned out to be a root cellar. Testing to the north and south have identified the limits of the site and the probable location of another dwelling onan adjacent knoll. The site sits on a gentle slope, and the predicted location of additional buildings at the top of the knoll lies on land no longer owned by Poplar Forest. To date, archaeologists have uncovered the footprint of a building that measures roughly 15 by 25 feet. Three shallow, unlined pits, or root cellars, sat within the structure. No in-situ evidence of chimneys was preserved; however, the presence of daub in the fill of the root cellars suggests the presence of wooden chimneys at each gable end of the structure. Like most piedmont Virginia dwellings, this structure was probably built of log.

A variety of artifacts have been excavated from the root cellars, including buttons (bone, silver plated and brass), a small assemblage of glass beads, architectural debris and hardware, imported ceramics, bottle glass, what appears to be the bowl of a pewter spoon, a small faunal assemblage and a collection of charred seeds. Faunal analysis conducted by Susan Trevarthen Andrews of Poplar Forest resulted in the identification of one cow, onepig, one chicken, one turkey, one white tailed deer, one opossum, one eastern grey squirrel, one eastern cottontail rabbit and unidentified fish. Eggshell was also recovered. Floral analysis undertaken by Leslie Raymer of New South Associates will be completed this winter.

Excavations have continued around the structure in an attempt to document the layout of the yard. A total of 30 ten-foot units have been excavated to date. All units have been subdivided into five by five foot units for removal of plowzone, and all have been screened through one-quarter inch mesh.

Artifacts recovered in the plowzone indicate both domestic and industrialactivities occurring at or near the site. A quantity of clinkers, pieces of iron waste and tools that appear to have been reworked suggest that a blacksmith's shop was near the dwelling. No structural remains of such a building have been located.

Sixteen fragments of soapstone tobacco pipes have also been recovered from the site, one of which came from the fill of a root cellar. Two larger pieces of broken soapstone may be byproducts of pipe making on the site. Research into these objects is currently underway. The archaeology department has recently received a two year grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, half of which will support continued investigations at this site.

Black History Project Update

Submitted Charles Orser, Illinois State University

In June 1994, the McLean County Historical Society and the local Black History Project co-sponsored a two-week dig at the Wilbur Barton homesite in Normal, Illinois, occupied by the Barton family from the 1890s to the 1980s. Volunteer workers, directed by Edward B. Jelks, explored the backyard of the house, where a privy and the remains of a horse barn were partially excavated. From these features and from an extensive sheet midden a sizeable sample of artifacts was collected. The archaeological finds, augmented byoral history from members of the Barton family, document the utilization of space on the home lot, as well as domestic activities in general.

This is the second archaeological project in the ongoing Black History Project: a study of the Bloomington-Normal black community from the initial Euroamerican settlement ca. 1820 to the present. The first took place in 1992, when excavations were carried out around the Weyman Methodist Church and attached parsonage in Bloomington, dating from the 1840s, under the direction of Mark Groover and Melanie Cabak. Their report on the Weyman Church project will appear soon in Historical Archaeology.

Afro-European Archaeology in Barbados

Submitted by Thomas Loftfield, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington is currently conducting historical archaeological investigations of African-European acculturation in Barbados, West Indies. The project started as an outgrowth of excavations at the site of Charles Towne on the Cape Fear, a failed seventeenth-century colony in North Carolina which was supplied, funded and peopled from Barbados. The dearth of excavated seventeenth-century sites and materials in Barbados needed for comparative purposes led Dr. Thomas Loftfield of UNCW, Dr. Robert Keeler of the Oregon Committee for the Humanities, and Dr. Lindley Butler, Historian-in-Residence at Rockingham Community, Wentworth, North Carolina, to examine possible sites on the island for further excavation. Of all sites visited the most promising was Codrington College on the rugged and isolated east coast. The Codrington estates started as very successful sugar plantations in the 1640s. At the death of Christopher Codrington III in 1711, his Barbadian estates were willed to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the developing missionary arm of the Church of England. The S.P.G. set about the task of developing a college on the property which, according to the terms of the will, was to teach surgery and theology to attend to both the bodies and souls of men, especially the African slaveson the island. The building was designed in 1714 by Christian Lilly, a member of the Royal Engineers. Construction began in 1715 with the fabric completed by 1723, but fluctuations in the price of sugar delayed opening until 1745. Up until 1983, when the Codrington Trust was repatriated to Barbados, the S.P.G. kept meticulous records of not only the college, but the plantations which continued to support the college, as well. Because the grounds around the seventeenth-century mansion house and sugar factory had become a college yard, prehistoric, seventeenth-century, eighteenth-century and nineteenth-century materials all lie in the ground virtually undisturbed. Combined with S.P.G. records and Codrington papers, the rich archaeological deposits at Codrington constitute an excellent laboratory for investigating many problems dealing with early colonial settlement, the development of sugar, the development of the institution of slavery, and the process of creolization which melded elements of European and African heritage to create the modern Barbadian culture.

To date, excavations have been undertaken in seventeenth-century deposits of refuse from the great house, the kitchen for the great house, and a the sugar factory. Materials recovered have yielded information on European and African diets, on the development and use of locally made ceramics,and on the early development of the sugar industry. Most recently, testing has been undertaken at the seventeenth to nineteenth-century Codrington Pottery Manufactory, where the plantation made redwares for use in the sugar industry and for domestic use, as well. The ceramic data have shed interesting light on the role of industrial production in the survival of African traitsin pottery.

The work at Codrington has progressed by means of field schools in archaeology held each summer since 1991. The field schools are jointly sponsored by UNCW and the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, in Barbados. In this setting students from the U.S. work and learn with students from UWI, producing an international, intercultural, interracial learning experience.The project benefits students in the U.S. while assisting local Caribbeanstudents in the exploration of their own particular heritage. Students interested in participating in this project can obtain information from Dr. Thomas Loftfield, Department of Anthropology, UNCW, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403-3297.

Nina Plantation, New Roads, Louisiana

Submitted by New Orleans District COE

R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. under contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District, recently completed extensive excavations at the site of Nina Plantation in New Roads, Louisiana. Located approximately 20 miles upriver from Baton Rouge, the plantation was originally called Pecan Grove when it was established ca. 1822 by Jean Ursin Jarreau. It remained in the Jarreau family until 1857 when Charles Allen purchased the plantation, with its house, slave cabins, kitchens, cotton gin, sugarhouse, other outbuildings, and 84 slaves, and renamed it Nina Plantation.

The plantation grew both sugar and cotton through the nineteenth century, but by the late nineteenth century, riverine erosion had forced the relocation of the artificial levee to the rear of the plantation complex, leaving it unprotected from frequent flooding. Most of the buildings were abandoned and subsequently razed. Excavations in 1993-4 revealed alluvial deposits of up to 1.5 meters covering the remains of the buildings.

A 3600 square meter area was found to contain the remains of the mainhouse, two outbuildings, two cistern foundations, and a wood-lined well. One of the two outbuildings was a detached kitchen that also served as a residence, probably for the cook. The other outbuilding probably served as residence for household slaves/servants. The main house had been raised on substantial brick piers, while the outbuildings were constructed using earthfast techniques. A substantial alluvial deposit from a documented, mid-nineteenth century flood separates antebellum and postbellum deposits across the site, thus allowing analysis of spatial and temporal changes in activity patterns. The 150-200,000 artifacts recovered during the excavations are currently undergoing analysis.

The River Road African-American Museum and Gallery, Burnside, Louisiana

Submitted by Paul Farnsworth, Louisiana State University

The River Road African American Museum & Gallery opened earlier this year at Tezcuco Plantation in Burnside, Louisiana. The museum is the creation of the Hambrick family, and is directed by Kathe Hambrick. It is dedicated to collecting, preserving and interpreting artifacts related to the history and culture of African-Americans. The museum pays tribute to the hundreds of slaves who were purchased and brought to Burnside, Louisiana, and their descendants who continue to live in the rural communities along the Mississippi. It is a much needed attempt to redress the balance of history as presented at most of the antebellum plantation houses along the river. The museum houses African-American art and memorabilia collected from the surrounding parishes, as well as artifacts, photographs and historical documents. Artifacts from recent archaeological excavations at Oakley and Ashland-Belle Helene plantations are included in the exhibits. The museum's hours are Wednesday-Sunday 1-5 p.m. For more information contact Kathe Hambrick at (504) 644-7955.

Burnside Cemetery, Burnside, Louisiana

Submitted by Paul Farnsworth, Louisiana State University

The Burnside Cemetery is a rural African-American cemetery located in a rectangular wooded area approximately 500 meters behind (northeast) of Houmas House plantation home. The cemetery is surrounded on all sides by sugar cane fields, and has become completely overgrown. Although the cemetery first appears on the 1935 U.S.G.S. map, its location relative to Houmas House suggests that it may date back as far as the antebellum period.

At the suggestion of Kathe Hambrick, as a community service activity in cooperation with the River Road African American Museum and Gallery, students from Louisiana State University's 'African-American Experience in Louisiana' course spent two weekend days in late May locating, clearing and recording the graves under the direction of Dr. Paul Farnsworth. The goals were to locate graves, make them accessible for family members to visit, clear them of fallen trees and vegetation, map their precise location, and record all information from headstones, etc. The map and grave marker information is being used by Kathe Hambrick to trace the families of the deceased to arrange for visits and restoration of the graves.

In total, 18 graves were positively identified, and a number of other possible graves were also recorded. Four burials were in concrete vaults, four were low mounds of earth, three just had simple headstones, three hadcrosses (2 iron, 1 concrete), three were covered by cement slabs (one ofwhich had a low concrete wall around three sides), and one grave was enclosed by a low brick wall. Eight grave markers gave names, dates and a variety of other information. Three males and five females were represented. Death dates ranged from 1935 to 1961, while age at death ranged from 34 to 73 with a mean of 55.9 years (n=7).

While not an archaeology project, the application of archaeological mapping and recording techniques to a community service project and the cooperation between the River Road African-American Museum and the anthropology and archaeology students and faculty from LSU provides an example of the sorts of community outreach activities that archaeologists can participate into develop bonds with the African-American communities which we study.


Whom We Would Never More See: History and Archaeology Recover the Lives and Deaths of African-American Civil War Soldiers on Folly Island, South Carolina. By Steven D. Smith. Topics in African-American History 3, South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, 1993.

This monograph is a popular account of the discovery and excavation ofa Civil War brigade cemetery containing the remains of members of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and the 1st North Carolina Colored Infantry from New Bern and James City, North Carolina. The soldiers died while stationed on Folly Island, South Carolina during the siege of Charleston, and some of their exploits were recounted in the movie Glory. In 1987, the cemetery was discovered during the development of a residential community, and theSouth Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology conducted excavations to remove the remains before they were destroyed. Later, the Institute returned to excavate portions of the surrounding camps. The monograph discusses the history of the siege, the two regiments, and how archaeologists determined which regiments were represented by the human remains. One chapter is devoted to life and death on Folly Island, based on the history and archaeology. The final chapter discusses the military reburial of these soldiers after their study. The monograph avoids archaeological jargon and overwhelming technical data and concentrates instead on relating the story with excellent illustrations, maps and a popular writing style. It is a most successful attempt at bringing the conclusions and interesting facts of history andarchaeology to the general public.

A little grey literature

Over the past few years I have received, in one fashion or another, publications that the academic world is wont to call "grey literature", but which for most of us in contracting is our bread and butter. I mean, ofcourse, contract reports and other unpublished or not very widely distributed reports. Some of these have proved useful to me, and I feel they deserve wider distribution. The following is a brief synopsis of a few which you might find useful along with where to get a copy.

In Those Days, African-American Life Near the Savannah River (Sharyn Kane and Richard Keeton 1994). This is one of a series of nicely printed publications that the National Park Service in Atlanta has been producing recently using non-technical authors. This 91 page booklet is a popular synthesis of the extensive work conducted by the Corps of Engineers at the Richard Russell Lake prior to its inundation in the early 1980s. It is based in part on portions of a two volume technical synthesis by David Anderson and Joe Joseph of perhaps the largest project or series of projects ever conducted in Georgia and South Carolina. The present volume deals only with the African-American sites, documents and oral interviews. It is well illustrated and provides a good background for the general reader and the interested professional. The archaeological discussion relies heavily on Chuck Orser's work at Millwood Plantation, and Elaine Ramsey was primarily responsible for the history and oral interviews. Best of all it is free, and still available at Interagency Archaeological Services, National ParkService, 75 Spring Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30303.

Prehistory and History Along the Upper Savannah River: Technical Synthesis of Cultural Resource Investigations, Richard B. Russell Multiple Resource Area (David G. Anderson and J.W. Joseph 1988). You can tell this is a contract report by its title and length (641 pages). This is thetechnical synthesis upon which the popular report noted above was excerpted. It has more detailed data on all aspects of the archaeology and history of the lake area. It, too, is free, and is necessary for anyone doing archaeology or history in the piedmont southeast. Unfortunately, copies are no longer available, but if IAS were to get enough requests, who knows, maybe they would print up a few more.

In the last issue, I mentioned Richard Westmacott's African-American gardening volume. There is also a thesis on African American gardening in piedmont Georgia written by Elise Eugenia LeMaistre, and entitled In Search of a Garden: African Americans and the Land in Piedmont Georgia. Westmacott was her major professor. It was written for her master's in landscape architecture in 1988 and provides descriptions and a typology of gardens and general farm layouts. It should be available through the department of landscape architecture at the University of Georgia in Athens, which, by the way is one of the better landscape architecture schools around.

A few years ago (1989 to be exact), the faculty and staff of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina rounded up a series of invited papers for a volume entitled Studies in South Carolina Archaeology, Essays in Honor of Robert L. Stephenson. Three articles touch upon African-American themes. Martha Zierden and Jeanne Calhoun provide a synthesis of recent urban archaeology in Charleston with a discussion of urban slave sites. Leland Ferguson provides some pre-Uncommon Ground thoughts on the place and interpretation of slave-made and Indian-made ceramics. This subject is further explored by Pat Garrow and Tom Wheaton in an article on the slave and Indian-made ceramics from the Yaughan and Curriboo plantation slave quarters. The volume is nicely printed, edited by Glen Hanson and Al Goodyear, and available as Anthropological Studies #9 of the Occasional Papers of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology (note the new spelling) and Anthropology at USC in Columbia.

Archaeological Data Recovery at Long Point Plantation (38CH321), Mark Clark Expressway (I-526), Charleston County, South Carolina is a contract report by Eric Poplin and Michael Scardaville of Brockington and Associates in 1991. While it does not present much in the way of interpretation or analysis it does contain useful comparative data on plantation artifacts including slave material. As the South Carolina Department of Highways and Public Transportation is one of the few agencies around that attempts to fulfill its obligation to make data available to the public that pays for it, copies of the report may still be available from the department in Columbia.

Finally, but certainly not least, is a tome by David Babson on investigationsat Belle Helene plantation in Louisiana entitled Pillars on the Levee: Archaeological Investigations at Ashland-Belle Helene Plantation, Geismar, Ascencion Parish, Louisiana. The report recounts work undertaken at the slave quarters and other outbuildings in 1989. The project was a testing program to determine the National Register eligibility of the site, and not data recovery. It was therefore unable to provide an indepth analysisof the site, but like the Long Point Plantation project, it does provide useful comparative data on artifacts and artifact distributions. This report is still available from David at the Midwestern Archaeological Research Center, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois 61761. There is a small fee, at least there was for me.

There is also a journal that many people may not be aware of that occasionally has a bearing on African-American archaeology. This is Nyame Akuma, the bulletin of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists. For those of you wanting to build up your bibliography on African archaeology, this may bea place to start, although nearly all of the articles are prehistoric; it also helps to know some French. The journal is more of an extended and intensive set of current research notes, which provides a broad perspective on a necessarily very broad subject. Illustrations of pottery profiles and decorative motifs are interesting, but so far, there are no incised Xs. It costs $20 to subscribe, payable to SAFA. Write to Dr. Steven A. Brandt, Treasurer-SAFA, 427 Grinter Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.


Call for Papers

Washington, D.C. November 1 -- The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society will celebrate its eighteenth anniversary at its Annual Conference, April 27-29, 1995, with scholarly presentations on issues important to African Americans interested in history and genealogy. Papers and proposals for presentations are requested for this historic gathering. Submissions should focus on the use of public records in documenting the African American presence and contributions, including:

  • use of Federal, state, county and city records
  • sources in and outside Washington, D.C.
  • collecting and preservation of books and family heirlooms
  • contributions of women and other minorities
  • Native Americans in genealogy especially the Eastern Indians
  • African American social history
  • involvement in historical events
  • military, political, legal
  • how to write and publish
  • use of bulletin boards and on-line services

Requirements: Submissions should include a cover letter, a one-page biographyand a one-page abstract and/or two-page abstract for a panel which can be used in preparing the preliminary program. Send to:

P O Box 73086
Washington, D.C. 20056-3086

No proposal may be faxed. No exceptions. The deadline for receiving topic proposals is February 1, 1995.
Conference site: Howard University Hotel (Washington, D.C.)
Sponsors: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and Public History Department of the History Department of Howard University
Conference working theme: Historians and Genealogists: Using Public Records -- Writing Our History

Call For Presentations

Annual Conference, National Association of African-American Studies:14-18 February 1995, at Virginia State University.

Those wishing to make presentations, the deadline for 50-word abstracts of papers (on letterhead) is 17 December 1994. For more information, contact Lemuel Berry Jr., Executive Director, NAAAS, Virginia State University, P. O. Box 9403, Petersburg, VA 23806. Telephone: 804/524-6708

Position Announcement

Georgia State University, Department of Anthropology, invites applicationsfor an anticipated tenure-track assistant professorship in urban archaeology beginning September, 1995. Geographic focus should be on the Southeast U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America. Applicants should have a Ph.D. in anthropology and a record of research, including publications, in urban archaeology. The applicant will be expected to teach undergraduate and graduate courses in archaeological theory and methods. Salary commensurate with qualifications and experience. Women and minority candidates are encouraged to apply. Application deadline: March 1, 1995. Send letter of application, vita and names of three references to Chair, Search Committee, Department of Anthropology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3083. Georgia State University, a unit of the University System of Georgia, is an equal opportunity andaffirmative action employer.

In The News

Living History of Undying Racism
Colonial Williamsburg 'Slave Auction' Draws Protest, Support

The following are excerpts from an article published in the Washington Post about the "slave auction" held on October 10, in Colonial Williamsburg. I tried to get a formal statement from Colonial Williamsburg, or at least a copy of any press releases they may have prepared. They suggested the newspaper articles about the event. The NAACP did not return my calls. Many readers outside the mid Atlantic may not have heard about the re-creation of a slave auction, and even though such an event does not deal directly with archaeology, archaeology has provided and will continue to provide one of the main sources of information on slave life. As such, we as archaeologists cannot ignore the social and political impact of what we do and how it is viewed and used by the public. As the following excerpts show, there is no clear, "politically correct" position on whether or not such auctions should be held. My own personal view is that it is not only wrong, but it is potentially dangerous, to pretend that slavery did not exist or was too painful to talk about, and that events such as the one at Williamsburg, if done in the proper context and with a seriousness of purpose, can bring to life for people who might otherwise ignore it, the trauma and personal price of slavery. What would really be a travesty would be a Disneyesque depiction of plantation life.

Excerpts from Washington Post October 11, 1994

Tamara Jones, Staff Writer

. . .

For the first time, the tourist attraction that calls itself living history was depicting the most shameful chapter of Williamsburg's past -- the buying and selling of human beings.

The performance was an emotional departure on the streets of Colonial Williamsburg, where the usual Monday fare includes such presentations as"How Now, Red Cow: Dairying in the 18th Century" or "Thomas Jefferson Discourses About Horticulture." It was a far cry, too, from the wandering history lectures of costumed characters such as the cobbler or constable, or some 30-minute film on "The Process of Making a Barrel."

Featuring four black staffers from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's African-American research department portraying slaves on the auction block, the skit proved to be as much a commentary on the present as the past.

As the crowd outside swelled to several hundred -- people coming out of curiosity or coincidence or for the controversy -- the event's organizers and performers inside joined hands and prayed for strength before opening the doors of the moss-covered tavern.

A small group of protesters immediately broke into a chorus of "WeShall Overcome" as the presentation's announcer emerged.

. . .

Speakers from the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference threaded their way through the crowd to angrily decry the pending performanceas "the degradation" and "trivialization" of AfricanAmericans and their heritage.

. . .

Christy Coleman, director of the foundation's African-American department and organizer of the performance, came out in costume and cheerfully told the crowd: 'We came here to teach the story of our mothers and grandmothers so each and every one of you will never forget what happened to them.'

. . .

After urging the audience to withhold judgment until the program was over, Coleman retreated and the auction began. The spectators were silent. Sukie, a laundress, was sold first, for 42 pounds sterling to her free husband. Billy, a carpenter with his tools, went next for 70 pounds; then Daniel; and finally a weeping Coleman as the pregnant Lucy. The show was over.

Coleman then took the mike to answer questions from the crowd. How were runaway slaves punished? First time, up to 39 lashes on the bare back. Second time, pilloried. Third time, death. Were children slaves too? Yes, Coleman replied. A 3-year-old cold pick worms off tobacco leaves. A 4-year-old could feed chickens.

[Upon being allowed a chance to address the crowd at the conclusion of Coleman's question and answer period, the protesters declined.]

. . .

As the crowd began to disperse, Rosalind Smith, a black mother of two, gathered her children. She had taken the oldest, 9-year-old Christina, out of school 'so she could see this history. I wanted her to see it so she would really know that it happened and that there's nothing to be ashamed of.

'When I was in school it wasn't taught,' Smith said.

. . .

The decision to play Daniel did not come easily to Owens, 26, who reflected afterward on the 'myriad emotions' he went through standing on the auction block. 'I felt proud. I felt angry. I felt extreme sadness,' he said.

'So many people don't know what's going on,' he added. 'The protest [by the NAACP & SCLC] gives the appearance of being ashamed, instead of being proud of our triumph.

Coleman isn't sure whether she'll try to put on another such reenactment, but her hesitation has nothing to do with what she believes to be the integrity of the project. 'Is it dehumanizing? No, it's not! It's humanizing,' shesaid. 'It puts a face to what happened. People will remember what they seeand feel and hear far more than what they read.'

From the Editor

I appreciate the interest in the Newsletter and the encouragement I have received from you throughout the year. I especially appreciate the support you have shown by way of submissions. Just when I think I will not have enough material, my trusty regional editors come through and I end up with a larger Newsletter than I had planned. Thank you all.

Please remember that the Newsletter can now accept photos and line art, but you will have to submit any artwork in a camera ready format. Please let others know about the Newsletter and consider submitting something yourself. You can submit printed text, a Mac or DOS diskette, or, even better, e-mail me at See you on HISTARCH.

Do not forget the African-American Cross-Cultural Workshop at SHA inWashington. Esther White and Barbara Heath have organized quite a show on Colonoware ceramics.

Tom Wheaton

Electronic version compiled by Thomas R. Wheaton, New South Associates, Inc.

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2005 African Diaspora Archaeology Network
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