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June 2006 Newsletter

ISSN: 1933-8651

In this issue we present the following articles, news, announcements, and reviews:

Articles, Essays, and Reports News and Announcements Conferences and Calls for Papers Book Reviews

On Interpreting Slave Status from Archaeological Remains

By Jerome S. Handler and Frederick W. Lange


Newspaper reports in late January and early February 2006 announced the discovery of skeletal remains in a colonial period church cemetery in Campeche, Mexico; the reports stressed that these remains represent the earliest evidence of African slavery yet found in the New World.[2] A brief article in the latest issue of Anthropology News, under the header "Excavated Teeth Confirm African Slavery in Colonial Campeche," summarizes the research in Campeche, and implicitly makes a similar claim, though it is more equivocally stated.[3] The author of the article, Vera Tiesler (who had originally discovered the skeletons in 2000), notes that the excavations in Campeche "provide the first physical evidence. . . of [the] early African diaspora in the Yucatan peninsula, and perhaps in the New World" and that "The physical evidence . . . clearly confirms the historical sources that report the forced importation of Africans with the arrival of the Spanish." Although Tiesler does not explicitly claim these people were enslaved, as opposed to having some other form of servitude or a different social status, she maintains that in mid- 16th century Campeche there was "no economic need for hard-labor slavery"; further that "Africans were employed as servants in Spanish households, and their presence in a Catholic cemetery is not unusual for this time, as African slaves were converted to the Catholic religion upon arrival."

Tiesler's Anthropology News article is, in effect, a summary of a much longer article in the January 2006 American Journal of Physical Anthropology, under the authorship of T. Douglas Price, Tiesler, and James H. Burton.[4] The suspicion that some of the recovered skeletons may have been of African birth was first aroused by the presence of dental modification/mutilation in four of the skeletons. These individuals "had tooth filing and decorated chiseling in their permanent teeth characteristic of West African traditions."[5] More fundamentally, however, the case for African birth rests on analyses of strontium isotopes in dental enamel. The analyses, particularly of the four individuals with signs of dental modification, were conducted by Price and Burton at the Laboratory for Archaeological Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They found in these skeletons "unusually high" strontium ratios, "inconsistent with an origin in Mesoamerica, but consistent with origin in West Africa." In brief, they concluded, it is "highly likely" that the individuals with the "highest values" of strontium ratios "came from West Africa. "Although filing and chiseling could not be determined for one of these four," they write, "the other three exhibit the dental decoration characteristic of West Africa." Maintaining that these individuals were interred "sometime in the late 16th century or early 17th century," and are "likely to be among the earliest representatives of the African Diaspora in the Americas," the article avoids making any definitive statements about the social status of the individuals concerned; in fact, in a personal communication, Price emphasized this point: ". . . in truth we cannot know for certain whether these Africans were slaves or not. We know from historical records that there were slaves in Campeche at this time so it seems the most logical explanation."[6]

Price et al. have convinced us that the remains under discussion are, indeed, those of African-born persons and represent "some of the earliest representatives of the African Diaspora in the America"; moreover, it is quite possible, given the historical context of early Campeche, that these persons were enslaved. However, it is clear that the physical evidence in and of itself does not unequivocally demonstrate the social status of the people concerned. Persons of African descent in Campeche at this period could have been free or held other social statuses that were not chattel slavery as it is commonly known and defined in the New World slave societies. Whatever the case, the Campeche remains raise the issue of archaeological interpretations of social systems, in this case the social system of chattel slavery.

Figure 1. Handler & Lange study published in 1978.

In 1978 we published what was then the earliest full-scale monograph based on archaeological and historical research of an enslaved plantation population in the Caribbean (Figure 1; click on the images below to see larger illustrations by the authors). In that book, Plantation Slavery in Barbados, we described the excavations and findings at Newton plantation slave cemetery, as of today still the largest undisturbed plantation cemetery yet discovered in the Caribbean or North America.[7] We argued that archaeological remains alone cannot determine the presence of slavery, and believe the issue is still a timely one.[8] We reprint here excerpts from the final chapter of our book. We do recognize, however, that some of our comments are dated in light of the considerable work that has been done in African American and plantation archaeology since the early 1970s, when we conducted our research in Barbados.


Archaeological data and information derived from written sources (supplemented on occasion by ethnographic observations) have enabled us to describe various dimensions of the plantation system and slave life and to view cultural changes that took place during the slave period. A great deal of our information could only be acquired from the written record, but archaeology was the sole source of data for certain areas of investigation. This was particularly evident in our discussion of slave mortuary patterns. The documentary sources were crucial for ascertaining the nature of pre- and post-burial behavior, though only the archaeology provided data about the interment of the body in the grave and the use of grave goods. . . . In general, archaeology can make definite contributions to the study of plantation slavery and slave culture because it yields information and generates questions not available in the documentary sources. It nonetheless has limita­tions because many aspects of plantation slavery and slave life did not leave archaeological traces. . . .

Subsequent studies will probably alter some of our tentative and occasionally speculative conclusions. These conclusions advocate the use of the ethnohistorical approach for studying slave cultures and also have broader implications for archaeological objectives in the study of ahistoric and prehistoric populations. In this chapter, we utilize the synthesis of archaeological and historical data presented in earlier chapters to briefly examine the theoretical and meth­odological bases of archaeological, anthropological, historical, and ethnohistorical approaches to the study of slave cultures. In distinguishing between ethnohistorical and archaeological ap­proaches to the study of slavery, this chapter also emphasizes the methodological contrast between our study and studies traditionally conducted by many historical archaeologists. . . .


Within the framework of the research described in this book, ethnohistory . . . . is an approach to describing and understanding culture and cultural processes and, like archaeology, is defined primarily by a methodological criterion. Methodologi­cally, ethnohistory is not solely the companion of archaeology, ethnography, or history, but may also supplement such fields as historical linguistics or paleobiology . . . . Though none of these fields employs an ethnohistorical approach in every research situation, the most significant aspect of ethnohistory is its flexibility in bringing seemingly diverse sources of data to bear on particular problems.

In her study of a Tlingit community, Frederica de Laguna con­cluded "that archaeological, ethnological, and historical data, if combined and analyzed together, can give a deeper insight than any one type of material or any one methodology alone." . . . [David] Baerreis reemphasized this position in defining the archaeological approach to ethnohistory as " the means for coordinating diverse kinds of data in the solution of anthropological problems . . . . For archaeology, an ethnohistoric approach serves as a means whereby a fundamental link in the broad narrative of man's culture history is achieved." Barbados plantation rewards or incentives are excellent examples of the improved level of interpretation derived from integrating archaeological and historical data. Prior to our archaeological research, written sources yielded fragmentary information that indi­cated the various types of rewards or incentives and some of the social contexts in which they were allocated. These data, however, were dispersed throughout notes dealing with other dimensions of planta­tion slavery.

Figure 2. Excavations at Newton Plantation Cemetery, early 1970s.

In trying to interpret the archaeological remains from Newton cemetery, we had to account for apparently disparate allocations of artifacts in association with interments, particularly the presence or absence of whole clay pipes and coffins. During the archaeologi­cal analysis, notes from written sources were reexamined to isolate references to types of excavated artifacts. In the early stages of analysis we found that pipes and tobacco were sometimes distributed to slaves as rewards and that material assistance at the time of burial was sometimes given to certain slaves. We began to suspect that the occurrence of particular artifacts, such as coffins, with inter­ments may have been a manifestation of plantation rewards or incentives. As a result, the notes were more intensively reexamined, the presence of a reward-incentive system was established to a degree not previously understood, and the function of various archaeological materials as remnants of this system was inferred. In this case, the step-by-step articulation of the historical and archaeo­logical data utilized the historical data for a purpose for which they were not initially intended; furthermore, this articulation produced an interpretation that would have been difficult or delayed on the basis of historical data alone and probably impossible if only archaeo­logical data had been available.

In this instance, applying the ethnohistorical approach suggested a new perspective. Though the historical data were necessary to define the existence of the slave system before questions about rewards and incentives could even be asked, the encounter with specific archaeological data, for which the presence or absence of certain artifactual materials suggested cultural explanations, led to a useful organization and analysis of the historical data. . . . In general, the inability of either history or archaeology to individually deal effectively with the problem of slave culture lies in the limits of the data. The written record is fragmentary, selective, and biased and the slaves themselves did not contribute to this rec­ord. Although archaeological data can illuminate some areas of be­havior not covered in or obscured by the written records, they also have limitations. Some are practical ones, such as the preservation of cultural materials over time, while others are related to theoretical and conceptual limits of the archaeological record as a basis for interpreting past human behavior. . . .


Some of the practical limitations of our archaeological record reflect the fact that Barbados is a small island that has experienced heavy population densities, intensive agricultural exploitation and reuse of land, and the recycling of nonperishable building materials over long periods. Hurricanes and the tropical environment have also taken a toll. . . . Daily activities during the slave period also affected the archaeologi­cal record, through either redistribution of nonperishable items or changing patterns of settlement and land utilization.

The archaeological record on Barbados reflects the struggle between the island's limited surface area and its dense population. The slaves had no choice in settlement pattern. The criteria for locating slave villages were partially agricultural (not having people occupy­ing good agricultural land) and largely a matter of social control. The result of locating the villages near the plantation yard and the house of the owner or manager was intensive reuse of a limited area for slave habitation. After emancipation, when the ex-slaves were moved to the peripheries of the plantations, the limits of local resources dictated that materials should not rest unused or that land should be unproductive. Available building materials were reused and former slave villages became the sites of new buildings or storage for machinery or equipment or were placed under cultiva­tion. Thus, the limitations of the archaeological record in reflecting slave life on Barbados are partially practical problems of preserva­tion that may or may not be encountered in other situations.

Regardless of preservation, however, no artifactual remains were independently characteristic of slave culture and status. Positive delineation and isolation of data indicative of slave status and slave culture lay at the heart of our analytical problems with the archaeo­logical data from Barbados in general and the data from Newton plantation in particular. Though the written record established that the plantations on which we worked existed prior to 1834 and were, indeed, slave plantations, the archaeological data alone, without the support of documentary evidence, did not reflect an institution or behavioral system identifiable as slavery. This problem presents a major obstacle to any purely archaeological study of slavery and has also confronted others who have worked with the remains of slave cultures.

In Jamaica, for example, [Barry] Higman noted that despite documentary evidence that slaves lived at New Montpelier estate the artifactual materials recovered from house excavations did not reveal the social status of the occupants. The artifacts alone could not identify a slave system. In their excavation of a slave cabin in Georgia, [Robert] Ascher and [Charles] Fairbanks recognized that archaeology might recover data that were not found in literary sources or oral traditions They chose their excavation site, however, because historical sources documented the location of slave cabins, not because they independently arrived at the conclusion that the struc­tural remains they excavated were those of a slave house. Their objective was to gain an archaeological insight into known slave remains, not to test whether such remains were actually indicative of slave habitation. [John] Otto has also indicated that his choice of slave areas to be excavated was based on documentary evidence.

Although archaeological data clearly supplement historical data on the institution of slavery once the presence of slavery is known, the initial identification of a slave system in a society and at a particular site, or areas to be excavated, depends on historical proof. The historical data from Barbados indicated that most slaves were buried in plantation areas set aside for such purposes. There was no specific documentary mention of a slave burial ground at Newton, and in this sense the archaeological research helped to validate the generalization derived from the historical record. Whites were also sometimes buried on plantations, but their graves were usually clearly marked, and they were not buried in the same areas as slaves. Information from Barbadian informants also supported a belief that Newton cemetery was slave in origin. Though the characteristics of the burials were not wholly European, the artifactual material of glass beads, clay pipes, and coffin hardware indicated we were deal­ing with an historical population. Although metric cranial analyses of the skeletal population were not conducted, they undoubtedly would have demonstrated the Negroid physical identity of the population, but they would not have indicated that the individuals were slaves. All evidence supported a strong inference but nothing archaeological was independently diagnostic of a slave cemetery. . . .

Figure 3. Burial, Newton Cemetery. Coffin handles are visible by the skull, right arm, and lower legs.

It was generally difficult to identify archaeological materials reflecting the African background of the slaves. Historical evidence, of course, showed that many Africans and their descendants lived in Barbados during the slave period. Because most of these persons were slaves, we could assume with relative assurance that artifactual materials reflecting African motifs and patterns were slave-related; thus one means of identifying slave culture would be through identification of artifacts reflecting Afri­can technical or decorative traditions. However, we were unable to define an artifactual complex diagnostic of the slave population. . . .

One of the problems, then, in dealing with the artifacts recovered from the archaeological research was determining what was and what was not a part of the slave milieu. Slave manufactures reflecting African cultural traditions would most likely have been of either ceramic or organic materials, because these were the most readily available resources on the island. We found no organic material and could not identify any ceramics with decorative or manufacturing aspects distinctive of African derivation. Some non-wheel pottery was found, but its cultural affiliation is uncertain. . . .

Figure 4. Burial, Newton Cemetery. Among the artifacts found with this burial are the copper bracelets, visible on both arms. Neither the skeletal remains in Figures 3 and 4 nor their accompanying artifacts visually or analytically demonstrate slave status.

Similar problems in identifying slave artifacts are seen in [R. Duncan] Mathewson's study of Afro-Jamaican pottery. The ceramics were culturally distinguishable from English manufactured ceramics and some were clearly derived from African ceramic traditions. It is not, however, discernible from the pottery itself that it was made by slaves, although this was not a concern in Mathewson's study. Hig­man's work in Jamaica has also failed to identify archaeological material uniquely indicative of slavery, and Otto has made a similar observation about his research off the Georgia coast. In ob­serving the cultural materials recovered from excavations at the Kingsley plantation in Florida, Fairbanks reported: "It was surprising that no surely African elements in the material culture could be identified. It has long been known that blacks . . . did manage . . . to leave survivals of their language and other behavioral traits . . . which survive in Afro-American culture until the present. . . . Pottery, ornaments, game pieces, or ritual objects might well be expected in such a milieu. We found nothing, however, that could surely be identified as such. "Why no African-type materials were found in such differing slave situations as Barbados and the American South is not fully clear. Similar observations in these areas, however, suggest that verifying archaeological slave complexes cannot be dependent on survivals or materials derived from African backgrounds.

In interpreting artifacts of slavery or any other artifactual remains, the archaeological context is fundamental. [Michael] Schiffer detailed several ways in which an artifact may move through a so­ciety. The two parts of his model of most importance to our study are procurement and lateral cycling Applied to slavery situations, procurement is the manner in which slaves or other members of a slave society obtained material items from commercial or natural sources. Lateral cycling is the passing of items from one segment of the society to another, possibly with a change in function, prior to any permanent discard from active use.[10]

Barbadian slaves procured a large percentage of their nonfood materials from sources equally available to whites and free non-whites. To varying degrees, all segments of society utilized such locally available raw materials as wood, clay, and gourds. Slaves obtained such imported items as cloth, clay pipes, and some tools and cooking utensils by such means as theft, plantation allocation and rewards or incentives or by purchase and exchange on the internal marketing system. In other cases, as artifactual materials were dis­carded by planters and other free persons, they were laterally cycled into the slave or lower free classes and reused before their final archaeological deposition. . . . The money Barbadian slaves acquired from the sale of cash crops or stolen goods, the birth premiums paid mothers whose children survived their first month, the money given to various plantation officers, and the wages earned by slave tradesmen who were hired out also facilitated the entry of goods into the slave milieu by permitting slaves to purchase products from white and freedman shopkeepers and others. In brief, any patterns of purchase, trade, exchange, or gift giving would have tended to blur absolute artifactual distinctions between the nonslave and slave segments of the island's population.

One of our major interpretative problems was assigning shared artifactual material to a particular segment of a stratified, complex society -- in this case distinct social groups that, for archaeological purposes, occupied more or less the same area and separately, but concurrently, used many of the same resources. Fairbanks faced this problem on the Kingsley plantation and the problem is also seen in Otto's work in Georgia on dietary patterns Otto found the remains of domestic and wild foods used by planters, overseers, and slaves. His excavations were conducted in refuse middens associated with habitation areas of the three groups; the areas were located through documentary evidence and by analogy to other coastal plantations. Otto concluded that status differences could not be discerned among all three groups on the basis of either food or the remains of food procurement equipment. In all three cases, procurement equipment was present in approximately equal quantities. Minor differences were seen in the concentration of cer­tain fish and turtle species at the planter's house, but these items were equally present in the slave and overseer areas. The contrast derived from Otto's archaeological data is between slaves and overseers as a group, and planters as a group, rather than overseers and planters as opposed to slaves or, alternatively, a tripartite distribu­tion.

In Barbados (and apparently in other slave site studies) the arti­fact assemblages (such as imported and local ceramics, glass beads, clay pipes, hardware) consisted of materials available to and utilized by the slaves as well as other population segments: planters, middle and lower class whites, and freedmen of various socioeconomic strata. Various societal segments probably used the same types of artifacts, or indeed on many occasions the same artifact was dis­carded by one segment of society, acquired by another, and by a variety of other means transmitted vertically as well as horizontally through the society.


None of the archaeological data from Newton and other planta­tions investigated in Barbados are solely indicative of slavery and slave status. The limited comparative data from other research on slaves suggest this generalization may be acceptable from an archaeo­logical perspective. One problem in identifying the physical remains of slaves and artifacts indicative of slave culture is that slave status did not give people distinctive phenotypes or genotypes; nor did it give them material goods that were not found among other segments of the society. A somewhat different perspective on this problem might be derived from envisioning a grave in which two complete human skeletons, one an adult male and the other an adult female, were found. Once we have described their age, sex, manner of interment, and whether or not grave goods were found, we are left with the possibility of social interpretation: were they husband and wife, brother and sister, queen and courtesan, or lovers? We can never know, for these are arranged, genetic, and contractual human relationships that leave no artifactual remains. Despite extensive data on the Newton interments, the archaeological data as such do not establish if the individuals found in the concentrated burial areas, . . . were kinsmen, or what the relationships were, if any, between the adult men and women, or whether the adult in the multiple Burial 69-70 (regardless of whether it was male or female) was a parent of the interred child. Furthermore the archaeological data do not even establish that these persons were slaves.

An extreme but nonetheless useful illustration of potential difficulty in archaeological interpretation of status or social position was the interment of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. At the time of his assas­sination in the spring of 1975, Faisal was one of the world's wealth­iest men and the undisputed leader of his society and government. Although preinterment behavior differed somewhat from what would have occurred had a person of lesser status and prestige died, burial customs were those of the Islamic sect to which Faisal belonged. His body was wrapped in a simple shroud and was interred in a graveyard where commoners as well as royalty are buried. Like other graves in the cemetery, Faisal's had a small mound and was encircled by unmarked stones.[11] Subsequent excavation in the cemetery would yield the physical remains of other members of Saudi royalty, in­cluding Faisal's father, but they would be indistinguishable from the many other interments in the same area.

Lewis Binford has contended that "the formal structure of artifact assemblages together with the between element contextual relationships should and do present a systematic and understandable picture of the total extinct cultural system" and that "there has been as yet no attempt to assess the limitations of the archeological record for yielding different kinds of information". We submit, however, that our study of plantation slavery and slave cul­ture is such an assessment of limitation for one broad area of archaeo­logical research. "Even if all the material items in a culture are related to its non-material aspects, the archaeological remains may be so limited, altered, or destroyed that a complete description of the past cannot be reconstructed from them . . . because the complete past is simply not reflected in the material that remains." (Watson, LeBlanc, and Redman 1971:21).

In Barbados and in archaeological research on slave cultures elsewhere, the means for extracting a more useful body of data has been to utilize historical records dealing with slavery in the specific instances under investigation. Once historical documents have estab­lished the existence of slavery, excavated materials have contributed to the study of slave cultures and provide a new perspective on the written sources. The same perspective would have been impossible on the basis of the excavated materials alone. Slavery is an institution of variable structure that cannot be inferred, deduced, or otherwise derived from purely archaeological remains. A search of the litera­ture of prehistory has revealed a glaring lack of mention of slavery, not because prehistorians have been methodologically naive but simply because archaeological data do not identify slave status and slavery. The fact that there were blacks in Barbados who were free, Amerindians who were either free or slave, and poor whites who were free or indentured servants (but who lived at the same low economic level as some freedmen and even black slaves) is also a cause for interpretative concern when only artifactual or skeletal remains are used.

Although the archaeological record has definite limitations, ar­chaeology can in fact contribute to the sociocultural history of "inarticulate" peoples . . . who left no written records and about whom documentary sources are often silent, contradic­tory, or biased. We believe that plantation slavery and slave culture can be most profitably explored through the ethnohistorical ap­proach advocated in this book and that our work has shown more detailed results than might have been obtained by employing only one source of data or a single methodology. At the same time, the excavation results from Barbados and other New World slave sites clearly indicate that archaeologists who do not employ the ethno­historical approach cannot effectively deal with the problem of slavery and slave culture. As [Bruce] Trigger has noted in a more general vein, "Archaeologists must learn to live with the realization that their desire to study whole cultural systems cannot be realized. This, however, is not meant to be an unconstructive comment. On the contrary, the real weakness of much modern archaeology can be attributed to the tendency of many archaeologists to treat their discipline as being merely the 'past tense of ethnology' or a kind of 'paleoanthropology,' rather than defining its goals in terms of the potentialities of its data."

Our study has shown the substance of Trigger's remarks to be true for plantation slavery and slave life. In general, we have defined certain limits to one area of archaeological endeavor; we also believe that we have defined new directions in the study of plantation slavery and slave culture that can be undertaken by applying an archaeological methodology within the ethnohistorical framework.


[1]. Thanks to Jane Landers and T. Douglas Price for their help with our introductory comments.

[2]. See, for example, Wisconsin State Journal (31 Jan. 2006), Los Angeles Times (4 Feb. 2006), New York Times (31 Jan. 2006), and various wire service reports on LexisNexis.

[3]. Vera Tiesler, "Excavated Teeth Confirm African Slavery in Colonial Campeche," Anthropology News, April 2006, p. 18.

[4]. T. Douglas Price, Vera Tiesler, and James H. Burton, "Early African Diaspora in Colonial Campeche, Mexico: Strontium Isotopic Evidence," American Journal of Physical Anthropology, published on-line, 27 January 2006.

[5]. For evidence that dental modification/mutilation did not take place among persons of African descent in the New World and that its presence on skeletal remains is suggestive of African birth, see J.S. Handler et al, "Tooth Mutilation in the Caribbean: Evidence from a Slave Burial Population in Barbados," Journal of Human Evolution 11 (1982): 297-313; and J. S. Handler, "Determining African Birth from Skeletal Remains: A Note on Tooth Mutilation," Historical Archaeology 28 (1994): 113-19.

[6]. T. Douglas Price to Handler, e-mail communication, 13 March 2006; quoted with permission.

[7]. Plantation Slavery in Barbados: An Archaeological and Historical Investigation (Harvard University Press, 1978).

[8]. See, for example, the detailed and lengthy report on the "African Burial Ground" in Lower Manhattan, published on-line in February 2006, on the website of the General Services Administration.

[9]. For the sake of brevity we have eliminated references to this section; these can be found in the Handler and Lange volume cited above.

[10]. In our initial discussion of Schiffer's procurement and lateral cycling concepts, the focus was on artifacts of material culture slaves obtained on the island (white clay pipes, buttons, European pottery, coffin hardware and other items). Such articles appear to have been broadly procured. Artifacts that apparently came directly or indirectly from Africa, however, such as copper bracelets, a pipe from the Gold Coast, and carnelian beads (which ultimately originated in Cambay, India) had a much more limited distribution and did not cycle freely among all levels of society.

[11]. New York Times, 27 March 1975; Time Magazine, 7 April , 1975.

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Archaeology of the Boston Saloon

By Kelly J. Dixon

Abstract: Buffalo soldiers and Black cowboys are popular symbols of African American heritage in the West. The archaeological remains of the African American owned Boston Saloon provide yet another example of this legacy in the context of mining boomtowns. The Boston Saloon operated during the 1860s and 1870s in Virginia City, Nevada to serve that community's African Americans. Hollywood portrayals and western historical literature tend to present saloons and mining boomtowns as sordid places populated primarily by European Americans, with Chinese and Native Americans on the margins. Yet African Americans rarely enter this popular imagery. When synthesized with insights from documentary records, the Boston Saloon's archaeological remnants enhance an understanding of the cosmopolitan dimensions of the so-called, "wild West."


A gunshot pierced the smoky air in the small, boomtown saloon. It came from the poker table, where all but one the players sprang to their feet. One of the players writhed on the floor as blood spilled from his leg. The shot was an accident, caused by a pistol falling from someone's lap and discharging when it hit the floor. Although his leg was sore for a while, the victim survived. Except for the man shot in the leg, who happened to be the only white man in the saloon at the moment, all the participants in this scene were of people of color.

The Territorial Enterprise, a northern Nevada newspaper that once employed writers such as Samuel Clemens, reported the accidental shooting summarized above (Territorial Enterprise 7 August, 1866). The event occurred in the Boston Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, shortly after the American Civil War. Upon telling this story to friends and colleagues, I initially did not indicate that African Americans filled the saloon. I then proceeded to ask these individuals to describe how they imagined the characters in the scene. They gave Hollywood-inspired answers like "Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne." Although Hollywood's popular depictions forge a common, monotonous misperception of saloons that ignore their diversity, historical and archaeological records demonstrate the variety of these leisure institutions, including saloons that served as "popular resorts" for people of color living in mining communities (Territorial Enterprise 7 August, 1866).

Figure 1.Virginia City -- area circled and enlarged -- is situated southeast of Reno in the arid Virginia Range of northern Nevada.

The Boston Saloon represents one such establishment that operated between the 1860s and the 1870s in the mining boomtown of Virginia City, Nevada. Indeed, Hollywood portrayals and western historical literature tend to present saloons and mining boomtowns as sordid places primarily populated by European Americans, with Chinese and Native Americans on the margins. Even though they rarely enter the story of the diverse populations of mining boomtowns, people of African ancestry were there, and the Boston Saloon is but one instance that provides an opportunity to overcome the more Eurocentric stereotype of the mining West in places like Virginia City, the heart of Nevada's Comstock Mining District.

Figure 1. Virginia City -- area circled and enlarged above -- is situated southeast of Reno in the arid Virginia Range of northern Nevada.

Founded in 1859, the Comstock Mining District produced millions of dollars in silver and gold and inspired the invention of technologies and mining methods used throughout the world. Virginia City (Figure 1; click on the images below to see larger illustrations by the author) was the heart of the Comstock Mining District. The Bonanza television series popularly presented Virginia as a rustic town. Yet the people of the Comstock, particularly those in Virginia City, lived in an urbanized, cosmopolitan, industrial setting. At its peak of about 20,000 to 25,000 people, Virginia City and its sister community of Gold Hill merged into one of the larger cities west of the Mississippi (James 1998: 143-166; Johnson 2000). From around 1860 to the late 1870s, the Comstock's mining wealth captured international headlines and Virginia City developed a complex, cosmopolitan community, attracting immigrants from all over the globe. People from North, South, and Central America, Europe, Asia, and Africa came to the mining district, hoping to harness some of its globally renowned glitter of silver and gold. The silver and gold did not last, however, and beginning in the late 1870s, the Comstock mines began to fail. The ensuing exodus caused Virginia City to decline to a "ghost town" of fewer than 500 people by the 1930s. Today, multi generation residents, "Comstockers," and several entrepreneurial newcomers operate a series of shops, saloons, ice cream parlors, hotels, and restaurants that cater to droves of tourists seeking to experience vestiges of the "wild" West.

Figure 2. A present-day view of C Street shows a revived Virginia City, Nevada, with an array of saloons, restaurants, and shops catering to tourists seeking to experience the 'wild' West.

Virginia City's modern saloons engage the sensationalism of the region's legendarily notorious character, sporting names such as "The Bucket of Blood Saloon" and boasting roadside attractions, such as the "Suicide Poker Table" at the Delta Saloon (Figure 2). While networks of mine shafts and tunnels lay deep beneath Virginia City's streets, hundreds of thousands of artifacts lay much closer to the surface, beneath cracked boardwalks, creaking floorboard, and modern parking lots. For anyone interested in understanding the authenticity behind the mining West's mythic and complex history, Virginia City is an archaeological goldmine.

Figure 3. Overview of archaeological excavations at the site of the Boston Saloon, Virginia City, Nevada, July 2000.

Archaeologists and historians working in Virginia City joke about the excellent chances one has to place a shovel into the ground in this community and hit a saloon. The African American owned Boston Saloon was among these, and its remains lay in a parking lot behind the Bucket of Blood Saloon. An archaeological excavation (Figure 3) during the summer of 2000 recovered bottles, glassware, tobacco pipes, and animal bones from remains of the Boston Saloon beneath the Bucket of Blood Saloon's parking lot. This project represented a cooperative venture between the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Anthropology's Archaeological Field School, the Comstock Archaeology Center, the Nevada State Historic Preservation Office, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Reno-Sparks Chapter, the National Endowment for the Humanities, AmArcs of Nevada, and the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

Virginia City Saloons and the Archaeology of the Boston Saloon

Saloons were quite common along Virginia City's sprawling urban landscape and usually outnumbered all other retail establishments in mining boomtowns. Over 100 saloons reportedly operated in and around Virginia City during the 1870s (Lord 1883: 377; West 1979: xiv-xv; Duis 1983: 1). Public drinking houses clearly outnumbered many other business enterprises in that community. Numerous advertisements in historic newspapers portray the assortment of Virginia City saloons, including those that offered customers billiards, poker games, bowling alleys, reading rooms, meals, Havana cigars, female entertainment, female companionship, dancing, coffee, cock fights, "chicken arguments," dog fights, shooting galleries, and, of course, a range of alcoholic beverages (e.g., Territorial Enterprise, January-April, 1867 and September and February 1870; Virginia Evening Chronicle, November 1872; Daily Stage, September-October 1880; The Footlight March 1, 1880; Lord 1883: 93; Hardesty and James 1995: 4-5; Hardesty, et al. 1996).

This variety suggests the myriad ways shrewd entrepreneurs tried to fill niches in a saturated market. Well-paid miners worked in eight-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, in a physically and mentally challenging underground environment (James 1998: 58, 126, 140-142). Many Virginia City businesses, especially saloons, operated at all hours to cater to those getting off work at various times. It was common and wise business practice to mine the miners, as they tended to have disposable income, and because of a shorter-than-usual work day, they had free time, especially during mining bonanzas. Saloons were common places to while away free time, drink, get a hot meal, and spend money.

As boomtowns such as Virginia City expanded and became internationally famous, more people arrived from all over the world, amplifying the cultural and ethnic diversity of these communities (James 1998: 143-166; Johnson 2000). Well-established cities therefore supported saloons that filled additional entertainment niches by catering to specific cultural affiliations. Saloons came to reflect the diversity of these and other urban American centers more than any other social institution. As the variety of cultures and subcultures increased so did the need for drinking houses to service the needs of each group (West 1979: 43; Duis 1983: 143, 169). Upon arrival in the region's bustling boomtowns, immigrants frequently found a foreign, intimidating, and often hostile environment (e.g., Captain 1995), comprised of distinct groups of people living, working, and socializing in a setting of intense cultural contact. Saloons owned by a specific cultural group often accommodated customers of similar backgrounds and provided places of refuge and solidarity.

The Boston Saloon operated from the heart of the internationally-famous, mining boomtown, Virginia City, Nevada during the 1860s and 1870s. The mere existence of an archaeological site that once held an African American saloon has the power to revise more traditional, western historical stories that are overly Eurocentric and that have focused on the contributions of "English speaking white men" (Limerick 1987: 58; see also, Dixon 2005: 164). Upon perusing the literature related to the archaeology of free African Americans in the West, it became clear that there were only a few archaeological investigations related to this topic (e.g., Guenther 1988; Praetzellis and Praetzellis 1992; Wood, et al. 1999; Praetzellis and Praetzellis 2001). Thus, archaeological descriptions of these individuals are rather scarce west of the 100th meridian and absolutely lacking in the context of the mining West. The discovery of the Boston Saloon provided the opportunity to change that.

Historical records were essential to locate this nearly-forgotten business and to hone in on the locations of African American households and businesses in Virginia City. Elmer Rusco (1975) started this process. More recently, historian and Nevada State Historic Preservation Officer, Ron James, proceeded to examine a series of historical records, including directories and census manuscripts, to figure out how many people of African descent lived in Virginia City during the mining boom and to identify where they were living in that community (e.g., Kelly 1863; Collins 1865; Virginia & Truckee Railroad Directory 1873-1874). Significantly, James discovered that integration was the rule (James 1998: 152). In other words, African Americans in Virginia City did not appear to have lived in a distinct or designated community as did people of Asian ancestry, with their neighborhood of Chinatown. Instead, people of African descent were living in locations scattered throughout town and incorporated within Virginia City's diverse, international community.

People of color who lived in Virginia City and who visited the surrounding Comstock Mining District during the latter portion of the nineteenth century found themselves amidst a complex political climate that overtly and subtly pervaded many aspects of their lives and demonstrating an intriguing pattern of integration, marginal survival, and success (James 1998: 7, 152-153). On the one hand, they appeared to have more freedom and opportunity there than in many other parts of the country in terms of economic successes and an overall tone of integrated living. On the other hand, they consistently experienced racist undertones and overtly restrictive attitudes and laws. Their lives were composed of a complexjuxtaposition of integration and prejudice and of neighborly acceptance and ill treatment. Such variation in treatment of African Americans in the West was common, and experienced by African American soldiers stationed all over that region (Schubert 1971: 411).

Ironically, this fact initially hindered attempts to carry out an archaeology of the African Diaspora in this boomtown because of the probability for mixed cultural deposits. That is, integration rendered it impossible to locate archaeological remains that could accurately be linked with people of African ancestry. Furthermore, their business enterprises left few traces of their presence from an archaeological point of view because they, like many boomtown entrepreneurs, frequently changed locations. Given this, it initially appeared to be impossible to locate archaeological remains that could accurately be linked with their life and work in this community.

Then Ron James correlated several historical references to deduce the historic location of the Boston Saloon. Multiple lines of evidence, including historical newspaper articles from the Territorial Enterprise, the Virginia & Truckee Railroad Directory (1873-1874), and Nevada State Census records (1875) all pointed to the location of a saloon that was owned by African American William A. G. Brown and that catered to a clientele of comprised of people of color (e.g., Territorial Enterprise August 7, 1866). The long-lived Boston Saloon stayed at a single location, the southwest corner of D and Union Streets in Virginia City, for nine years (1866-1875).

Figure 4. Section of Virginia City as shown in 1875 Bird's Eye View. The Boston Saloon is shown -- circled and enlarged -- at the corner of D and Union Streets. Library of Congress Online Panoramic Maps.

William A.G. Brown, an African American from Massachusetts, owned the Boston Saloon and catered to people of African ancestry. Brown arrived in Virginia City by 1863, at which time he worked as a street shoe polisher. By 1864, he went into business for himself and founded the Boston Saloon on B Street, an upslope location along Virginia City's mountainside setting and well beyond the center of town. Sometime between 1864 and 1866, Brown moved his saloon from the B Street setting to a second locality at the southwest corner of D and Union Streets, where his business thrived until 1875, at which time it disappeared from historical records (Figure 4). The saloon's new and final setting at the corner of D and Union Streets happened to be the heart of Virginia City's entertainment and red light district. Historical records indicate that, in addition to cribs and brothels, this area housed Virginia City's finest opera houses and theatres, and many of the nearby saloons were considered respectable establishments. The Boston Saloon flourished at this location until 1875 (Kelly 1863; Collins 1865; James 1998: 154; Territorial Enterprise, August 7, 1866).

Entrepreneurial enterprises in Virginia City were at the mercy of mining boom and bust cycles -- or the mere threat of the latter. Given this economic reality, such business endeavors were fortunate to last a few months. In this context, William Brown's enterprise represents a major success. This success is perhaps even more profound when considering entrepreneurial discrimination of drinking houses in Massachusetts, where Brown was born. He named his Virginia City establishment the "Boston Saloon." Whether the paradox was intentional is unknown, but it is important to point out that in Brown's home state African Americans suffered major entrepreneurial discrimination that "all but eliminated their participation in the Boston liquor business" by the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Duis 1983: 170).

Historical documents described the Boston Saloon as "the popular resort of many of the colored population," and African American writers lamented the loss of "a place of recreation of our own" in Virginia City after the Boston Saloon closed (Pacific Appeal October 26, 1875; Territorial Enterprise August 7, 1866). Wording in such sources suggests that the Boston Saloon catered to people of African ancestry, and it is quite likely that the drinking house served various socioeconomic segments of that group. African American men and women in Virginia City occupied an array of occupational statuses, including bootblacks, servants, boarding house operators, and physicians (e.g., James 1998: 97-98, 153-154; Rusco 1975: 73-80). The Boston Saloon likely catered to the socioeconomic range of these individuals, whereas other Virginia City saloons catered to distinct socioeconomic segments of European and European American populations (Hardesty and James 1995: 3-5). Information from historical records helps shed light on people and events associated with the Boston Saloon, and this is outlined in Dixon (2005).

William Brown disappears from all records until 1893; he died on the Comstock on April 29, 1893 of that year, at the age of 63 (Storey County Death Vitals 1882-1911). John Martin, who served as a trustee of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Virginia City as early as 1867 and who worked as a bootblack in Virginia City during the mining boom, was among the witnesses to Brown's death (Rusco 1975: 177; V&TRR Directory 1874). Martin was an African American who had been in townjust as long as William Brown himself.

Archaeology at the Boston Saloon

Figure 5. The remains of the Boston Saloon lay beneath this parking lot behind the well-­known Bucket of Blood Saloon.

The above historical information on William Brown's Boston Saloon becomes even richer when one integrates archaeological discoveries into the story. Today, an asphalt parking lot covers the Boston Saloon's D Street location (Figure 5). This seemed a minor obstacle to carry out the first known archaeological excavation of an African American saloon in the American West, as well as the first known archaeological investigation of an African American site within the State of Nevada.

Once the backhoe removed the parking lot's asphalt barrier, the crew used a "Bobcat" to remove additional parking lot fill. After commencing with hand excavation, crew knew they reached the Boston Saloon's buried deposits by observing a distinct grayish-black-colored layer of ash and charred wood. This layer represented a blatant reminder of Virginia City's Great Fire of 1875. In the case of the Boston Saloon, that ashy temporal marker took on deeper meaning because, according to information from the historical overview described above, the establishment's proprietor, William Brown, closed his saloon in 1875, just months before the well-documented, devastating blaze. Due to his establishment's nine year operation at that single location, material traces of the saloon accumulated in tiny layers until they were capped by the charred wood, ash, and other debris associated with the 1875 fire.

After recording and processing the Boston Saloon collection, it became clear that the project had yielded an impressive array of late-nineteenth-century materials from a bustling corner of Virginia City's Red Light District. Even so, without comparing this collection to other Virginia City saloon collections, it would be difficult to make meaningful observations and interpretations about the Boston Saloon collection. Due to a series of previous historical archaeological endeavors in Virginia City (e.g., Hardesty and James 1995; Hardesty, et al. 1996; James 1998; Dixon, et al. 1999; Dixon 2005), three other contemporaneous Virginia City saloon collections had been recovered: an Irish-owned saloon and shooting gallery; a German-owned Opera House's "theater saloon"; and an Irish-owned drinking house in a notorious neighborhood. Considering the fact that there were at least 100 saloons operating in Virginia City at one time, these four are too small a sample to develop grandiose statements about the West's public drinking culture and about the Boston Saloon's role in that broader context. Still, this is a start. And the history associated with each archaeological collection establishes the framework for a study of diversity using an iconic characteristic of a cosmopolitan western boomtown -- the saloon.

Figure 6. This 'Essence of Jamaica Ginger' bottle was recovered from the Boston Saloon. Photo by Ronald M. James.

Unsurprisingly, archaeological excavations at the Boston Saloon and other Virginia City drinking establishments turned up a profusion of bottles and bottle fragments. The majority of these include dark green glass wine, champagne, and ale bottles. Mostly recovered in thousands of fragments, these beverage containers were the most common and abundant bottle type represented in the Boston Saloon assemblage, as well as in the other three saloons, suggesting a similarity in basic, mass-produced menu items across cultural and socioeconomic lines.

Figure 7. The Boston Saloon collection contained the largest percentage of high-quality cuts of sheep meat when compared to the other three Virginia City drinking houses.

Artifact quantities provided the best evidence for distinctions among these establishments. For example, the highest quantities of intact bottles unearthed during the Boston Saloon dig were aqua blue "Essence of Jamaica Ginger" bottles (Figure 6). This product consisted of a certain type of ginger, known as white ginger, and was prepared in Jamaica (Bradley 1901: 169). Historical newspaper advertisements describe this product as a cure for nausea and other "diseases" of the stomach and digestive organs (Territorial Enterprise, November 24, 1866). It also may have provided a substitute for alcoholic beverages (Kallet and Schlink 1933: 151). Additionally, ginger might have been added to ale to make a flavored beer, or it could have been combined with soda water to make a non alcoholic, ginger flavored drink. Although it is not currently possible to prove this product's use in such mixtures, there is evidence of soda water bottles and ale bottles at the Boston Saloon, suggesting that all of the above could have been menu options at that establishment. Whether those menu items were mixed in any way, however, is open to speculation.

Figure 8. The Boston Saloon collection contained the largest percentage of high-­quality cuts of beef when compared to the other three Virginia City drinking houses.

Advertisements for saloon lunches in Virginia City were quite common (e.g., Territorial Enterprise, 1 January 1867: 4; Virginia Evening Chronicle, 4 November 1872: 1). Meals were common among the various saloon offerings, and the "saloon-restaurant combination was a fixture in the mining camps" (Conlin 1986: 174, 176). Faunal remains, condiment containers, and trace elements of food residues indicate that the Boston Saloon was among those drinking houses that offered meals, and this is where William Brown's establishment appears to stand out from the other three establishments. A comparative faunal analysis indicated that the Boston Saloon served more expensive cuts of meat than the three other Virginia City saloons (Figures 7 and 8), with a much larger percentage of high-quality cuts of beef and lamb associated with the Boston than the others (Dixon 2002: 147-158; Dixon 2005: 87-95).

Figure 9. The rare Tabasco bottle recovered during archaeological excavations of the Boston Saloon is shown here, with a closeup view of the base mark. Photos by Ronald M. James.

Excavations at the Boston Saloon also unearthed fragments of a colorless glass bottle, with an embossed label, reading, "TABASCO//*PEPPER*//SAUCE." This bottle, with its thin lip, angular shoulder, and label, turned out to be something of a "missing link" in the pepper sauce company's bottle chronology, becoming the only known example of a transitional form of Tabasco® bottles from the company's earliest years of operation (Figure 9). The bottle's angular shoulder and its embossed basal mark with embossed six-pointed stars were not unusual, but the Boston Saloon's bottle stood out because it had those traits in combination with a relatively thin lip. Up to that point, Tabasco® historians believed that the earliest bottles made especially for the pepper sauce had much thicker lips (Shane Bernard and Ashley Dumas, 2002, personal communication).

Figure 9. The rare Tabasco bottle recovered during archaeological excavations of the Boston Saloon is shown here, with a closeup view of the base mark. Photos by Ronald M. James.

In 1868, Edmund McIlhenny produced his first commercial batch of pepper sauce on Avery Island, Louisiana using the pepper Capsicum frutescens, bottled in second-hand cologne bottles (Orser and Babson 1990: 107). By 1869, McIlhenny made bottles especially for his pepper sauce; the bottle type at the Boston Saloon may represent one of the earliest of these special-made containers for the product. The archaeology crew unearthed the bottle from the buried deposits affiliated with the 1875 fire. This provides a chronological control that places the bottle's appearance in the Boston Saloon sometime between 1869 and the Great Fire of 1875. The pepper sauce company, however, has no records of their product being shipped to Nevada during that period.

The Tabasco® bottle's presence at the Boston Saloon and absence from the other Virginia City saloons may suggest an affiliation with African American cuisine or beverages, given the evidence for pepper sauces in many traditional African, Afro-Caribbean, and African American dishes (Shange 1998: 29). This cannot be proven, however, and is an example of the ways in which artifacts can lead archaeologists only so far before their interpretations become mere speculation. In certain cases, oral history may be able to shed light on the meanings and used of certain products (e.g., Mullins 1999). Yet oral histories were not an option for the Boston Saloon project, since African American descendants, who could provide such insights, could not be found. They, like many others living in western boomtowns, moved away from these urban centers once the bustle and commerce associated with mining bonanzas.

Despite the uncertainties of interpretations associated with the Tabasco® bottle, one fact remained certain -- the sauce was actually used in a meat-based meal. This was indicated by gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer (GC/MS) testing on a red colored stain marking the surface of one of the artifacts recovered during the Boston Saloon excavation. GC/MS testing on that stain detected a mix of this red pepper sauce and lipids from animal fat (Dixon 2006).

Figure 10. A variety of tobacco pipes recovered from the Boston Saloon; the red clay pipe bowls represent a unique style found at the Boston Saloon.

Archaeological remains of fine meals and early Tabasco® use at the Boston Saloon are only segments of this establishment's story. Other artifacts enrich an understanding of this drinking house's daily operations. For instance, an array of tobacco pipes reveals an indulgent, smoky complement to the saloon's social atmosphere. While some were made of white clay in Glasgow, Scotland and represented a common find on nineteenth-century archaeological sites, a handful of others were made of red clay and are rather unique in that no other pipe styles of their kind have been found from this period for comparison (Figure 10).

Among the various artifacts representative of smoking paraphernalia, one tobacco pipe stem fragment stood out, because it was marred with teeth clench marks. Teeth clench marks indicate that this object made contact with the inside of someone's mouth, and this provided the opportunity to carry out DNA tests to see if any microscopic biological remains lingered from the pipe user's saliva. Testing on this item recovered one female DNA profile from the area near the borehole and the tooth marks (Dixon 2006). This provides evidence that a woman used at least one tobacco pipe from the Boston Saloon. While one woman's DNA does not overturn powerful stereotypes, this discovery provides an explicit incentive for rethinking the male-dominated imagery of the western saloon (West 1979: 145).

An array of fancy buttons and dress beads, also unearthed from the saloon, adds a bit more to this story (see Dixon 2005: 124-132). In light of the relatively small amount of women's clothing fasteners found at other Virginia City saloons, the quantity, diversity, and vividness of these objects at the Boston Saloon revealed a major distinction that set this place apart from the others: women -- and rather well-dressed women -- either patronized or worked in this establishment to a much greater degree than they did at the other places.

Figure 11. Gas light fixture, as it appeared during excavations of the Boston Saloon.

In addition to women, the saloon's atmosphere included the glow of gas lights. The pipes and fixtures emerged during excavations (Figure 11), but details about the gas lights became evident in the lab, with the observation of patent information on one of the light fixture fragments. Associated patent information indicates that the Boston Saloon's lighting represented a new technology that cut down on the fumes typically associated with such lighting (U.S. Patent Records, 24 December 1872). While some visitors to western saloons indicate a stale, fume-filled, dimly-lit atmosphere (e.g., West 1979: 42), the presence of these lights at least implies an attempt to provide a more clean ambiance within the Boston Saloon.

Figure 12. These fragments from elegant, crystal stemware were among those recovered from the Boston Saloon. Photos by Ronald M. James.

Other artifacts complement that setting, namely fine crystal stemware (Figure 12). Virginia City saloons spanned a range of decors, from simple pine bars to upscale drinking houses with velvet wallpaper and shiny decanters (Lord 1883: 93). It is clear the Boston Saloon was on the finer end of this scale.

Figure 12. These fragments from elegant, crystal stemware were among those recovered from the Boston Saloon. Photos by Ronald M. James.

Such elegant remains combat racist assumptions about African American saloons as described during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (e.g. Duis 1983: 160). Furthermore, an early journalist's description of the first early version of William Brown's saloon depicted it as "a dead fall" (Hoff 1938: 52). As discussed above, sometime after this, by 1866, Brown moved his establishment to the bustling intersection of D Street and Union Street. The archaeological record indicates that the new location was anything but a dead fall.

Descriptions of places like the Boston Saloon provide fodder for sanguine conclusions about life for African Americans in the West. Although racial prejudice was not as widespread in the nineteenth century West as it was in the Jim Crow South, it is important to bear in mind that the West was not a "utopian promised land" for people of African descent (Woods 1998: 182-183; see also James 1998: 152-153; Dixon 2002: 40-41; Schubert 1971: 411; Rusco 1975: 56-58). Even so, African American families worked together to make better lives for themselves, as did groups, or communities of African Americans in the West. The chronicles of these individuals are numerous and complex. The Boston Saloon is merely one of these stories, presenting an understanding of a place of leisure in Virginia City, Nevada.


Leisure studies call attention to the ways people developed and maintained self-ascribed ethnic, socioeconomic, and/or gender-based identity during their free, leisure time (Cunningham 1980: 10-12; Rosenzweig 1983: 152, 225; Peiss 1986: 4-10; Captain, 1995: 93-94; see also Murphy 1997). By providing opportunities to socialize with people with similar life experiences, leisure activities eased the transition for newcomers of various backgrounds to new and often hostile social settings and helped them maintain distinctions in those settings (e.g., Handlin 1941). As places of leisure, saloons encouraged such identity and became physical places which harbored the American West's cultural diversity and fostered its cosmopolitan culture.

Today, the site of the Boston Saloon is covered by a parking lot, which was replaced after excavations ended in the summer of 2000. A sign describing and dedicated to the Boston Saloon currently hangs on the main street, C Street, in Virginia City, on the south wall of the well- visited tourist location, the Bucket of Blood Saloon. This sign is intended to remind visitors that places like the Boston Saloon lay beneath the streets of this bustling town in the American West to cultivate a sense of mutual respect for the diverse cultures comprising the history and current character of the United States and of the rest of the modern world (e.g., Asante 1998: xi).


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Iron Smelting in Wollega, Ethiopia

By Temesgen Burka

Abstract: The author is a graduate student affiliated with Addis Ababa University and the University of Bergen, who is currently concentrating on ethnoarchaeological studies in Ethiopia. He has carried out ethnographic field work on iron smelting traditions in West Ethiopia among the Oromo. Mr. Burka has also worked on reconstructing iron smelting techniques and traditions that had a long heritage in that region but declined from regular use over four decades ago. In this field report, he describes his direct observations of methods and traditions of ore mining and treatment, charcoal making, clay extraction, tuyere making, furnace construction, and smelting. This ethnoarchaeological study should provide highly valuable data for other researchers to use in formulating ethnographic analogies for use in archaeological investigations of iron production activities at other sites in Africa and the Americas.


This paper presents my observations of iron smelting procedures at Walagee, in the district of Abee-Dongoroo in Wollega, Ethiopia. I carried out ethnographic work among members of the iron working community at Walagee in three separate trips. I will present my observations of the process of iron working recorded in two of those trips. The third trip was concerned with discussing the social place of the old smelters. The themes that are included in this description are extraction and processing of iron ore (gordana Sibiilaa in Afaan Oromo language), tuyeres preparation (buudaa, kololii, and madabii) , charcoal making (cilaattii), furnace preparation (boolla buufaa), and finally, smelting activities.

Smelting Reconstruction: First Round

        Mining and Preparation of Iron Ore (Gordana Sibiilaa)

In the first round of ethnographic work that I carried out in July 2005, we were taken to the old mining site at a locality called Faallee. Hence, the ore is locally called Gordana Faallee, or "Faallee's ore." We were led by Obbo Moosisaa Gaaggaa, one of the former owners of the mining sites at Faallee and a participant in smelting activities in the past. Members of the "forgers" who volunteered to demonstrate smelting activities also accompanied us. Descendants of "old smelters" of Malkee only helped in reconstructing the story, to which the new smelters and I listened carefully. I was later informed that old smelters used to complain that people are confusing them with the forgers (called the tumtuu). It was probably because the old smelters were afraid that they might be called forgers that they refused to participate in the demonstration activities. They were also too old to physically participate or organize labor. The positive part was that the forgers had many live memories of iron smelting activities as it was orally passed down in their society. Accordingly, I had to accept members of the forgers who volunteered to demonstrate based on the story they listened to as well as the help received by an individual who had participated in smelting in the early 1960s.

The former ore mining site is now covered by bushes and coffee plants. We were told to take care while walking in the bush and to avoid stepping on pits that were not visible because some of the old mining pits have collapsed and others had become covered with bushes as well as coffee plants. Obbo Moosisaa led us to one of the old mining pits, at which he knew there existed left-over deposits of ore from earlier mining. The pit belonged to the known smelter Obbo Wayyeessaa Bokoree. He asked the forgers to clear the bush and the top soil and they did this. Under the top soil, there lies a subsoil that is heavier in texture and consistency, but as red in color as the top soil. He told us the ore was mined from the bottom of the pit about 20 meters deep. He said that this ore is not different from what can be mined anew in the area, although some of the forgers doubted that claim (click on the images below to see photographs by the author of these and other reconstruction activities).

Extraction of ore from pit.

The new smelters then carried a sack of the ore to the river nearby, called Hagmsa Faallee, where cleaning of ore took place in the past. Before washing took place, the new smelters cut bark of an acacia tree and spread it near the edge of the stream as a surface upon which the cleaning would take place. One of the old smelters, Obbo Nagaash Fayyisaa, also participated in this process. Then washing was undertaken. As they continued to add water to the ore and the lighter impurities washed down, the color of the ore gradually changed from red to black. Since it was rainy season, the river in which they were washing did not have very clean water. As a result, the ore was not adequately cleaned from the other matrices. The washing was not thorough, because the participants also complained that they were tired. Then the ore was taken to the forgers' village and was weighed the next morning to be 17 kilograms. The ore was put aside for the smelting day.

        Making Tuyeres

In this discussion, I will mainly focus on the clay tuyeres known as madabii or qunxurroo. Two tuyeres made of clay are needed for the smelting. Another eight tuyeres are made from horn and iron sheets. Since the horn (buudaa) and iron (kololii or mundoo) tuyeres used for forging and smelting purposes were similar both in terms of size and preparation, there was no problem for every forger to own such tuyeres and maintain them at their cottages. I asked the smelter when he would prepare the other two clay tuyeres, and he said that he could do so when he prepared the bellows. He said these tuyeres do not need drying or much technique for preparing them and he makes them only for the new bag bellows. The buudaa and kololii tuyeres are permanently attached to a bag bellows. Unlike the madabii ones, the horn and iron tuyeres do not have direct contact with the fire, and once they were made they could be reused for different projects likely over a span of years. The buudaa tuyere is cut and prepared from the horn of cattle and inserted into the bag bellows through the mouth to protrude through the only opening at the bottom of the bag left for this purpose. The iron tuyere is inserted from inside the bag to protrude through the opening of the horn, sealing it tightly so that the air should not leak out. Leather string attached to the bag is used to wrap around the horn and the edge of the bag to prevent air from escaping. Preparation of the buudaa tuyere did not take much time since it needs no special attention.

Clay pounding and 'madabaii' tuyere making.

Darbush Kumsaa, a man of about late thirties in age, volunteered to demonstrate the smelting and assumed the place of master smelter. He also oversaw the production of the tuyeres. Clay (suphee) was obtained from a location that was about a ten-minute walk from Darbush's house and about five minutes from his forging (smelting) station. Early in the morning, Darbush led us to Laga Suphee (the Clay River), where his father, the master forger of the village, used to mine for clay to make his tuyeres. An individual named Kabaa Miijanaa, in the hamlet of Jawaj, corroborated this information and reported that his father, an old smelter, used to extract clay for madabii making from this same river. Darbush and his elder brother, Korentii, mined the clay soil after cleaning it from dirt and top soil until they found a coarse and masticated sample.

Then the clay soil was taken back to the masoo village. Although only two madabii tuyeres were needed, they decided to make four so that they could use the rest as a reserve supply. They undertook a division of labor for making the tuyeres. They said that pounding the clay was to increase its elasticity (walqabachisa). The process is known as tumuu, for beating or pounding. After they were satisfied that the clay was softened, they divided the clay soil among themselves to make the tuyeres. They made the tuyeres on the same day that the clay was extracted from the Clay River. I inquired as to whether this practice was undertaken in the past. I wanted to know Darbush's view. Otherwise, I had already been informed by old smelters that it took some days to prepare the clay, and that other materials, such as straw of teff, clay sherds, and sometimes slags, were added to temper it. Darbush told me that he had learned a lot about tuyere making from his father and that his father used to add some of these other materials to temper the clay. However, Darbush usually prepared the clay on the same day it was extracted. He said that his father used tuyeres made this way for over a year. Darbush added that one could wait for the tuyeres to dry on their own without having to expose them to direct sunlight or fire.

Each of the tuyeres was later pierced with a shaped wooden stick to make a tube. The tuyeres were about 70 cm tall; on the hudduu, or bottom end, they were about 34 cm wide and they narrowed in width down to the afaan, or mouth end. The clay tuyeres were left under the shed of Darbush's house for gradual drying for some time. After two days, Darbush brought the clay tuyeres near the fire at his forging place. Before he put them near the fire, he rubbed them first with dry soil and cold ash and then with hot ash. He then put them a little distance from the forging hearth. Afterwards, he began to fire them on his forging fire and then in a smelting pit furnace prepared under the same hut. Darbush also prepared the kololii tuyeres from iron sheet in his forging station.

One day before the smelting day, the participants discovered that two out of four of the clay tuyeres were cracked and non-functional. On the same day, one of Darbush's assistants stepped accidentally on one of the two remaining tuyeres and broke it beyond repair. We were all disappointed by these developments, since it was impossible to make another one under the circumstances. I asked Darbush whether we should carry out the smelting project using a single tuyere and bag. He told me that it might take us over a month to make another clay tuyere due to the heavy summer weather that was fast aprroaching. It was then decided to carry out the smelting demonstration using just one madabii tuyere.

'Makkalu' -- preparation of bag bellows.         Bellows (qalqala buufaa) Making

In the Walagee area, both smelters and forgers used bag bellows. Making the bag bellows, called qalqala buufaa, is a process known as makkaluu. The bag bellows are made of goat skin. Each forger has an extra bag prepared or tanned for making bellows. In this case, Darbush did not need to prepare a new bag out of goat skin. He decided to use the bags he had reserved for forging. Therefore, there was no fresh goat skin prepared for the smelting. He made (makkaluu) two bags for this smelting, since the bags he was using for forging were old and leaking air. By using two stick slats, he sewed the mouth (afaan qalqalaa) with a cotton thread for opening and closing the diaphragm. He left one aperture at the bottom through which the buudaa tuyere would protrude. The buudaa tuyere is inserted through the afaan qalqalaa so that the thicker part is left inside the bellows, closing the gaps tightly. Darbush cut the horn to an estimated length and inserted it into the new bellows. The two are permanently attached to each other.

        Furnace Making (Boolla buufaa)

It is the responsibility of a master smelter to prepare the furnace, the tuyeres, and bellows. Obbo Darbush and his assistants, guided by Obbo Nagash, prepared the furnace near the forging hearth. A new hut for smelting was not constructed, because it was a rainy season and it was not possible to find grass for building the thatched roof for a new hut. In addition to the story collected from old participants, one of the participants of old smelting practices helped in the preparation of the furnace. The furnace was prepared in the forging hut of Obbo Darbush. It was dug into the ground in an inclined position of about one meter deep.

Once the soil was cleaned, the master put in stalks of grass and wood and set fire to it. Then the fire was used for firing the clay tuyeres. Firing the inside was also meant to dry and harden it so that loose soil from the furnace wall would not affect the smelting. There was no additional treatment made on the furnace.

The furnace was prepared only one day before the smelting. According to Obbo Nagaash, the furnace should have been lined with clay soil. Nevertheless, Darbush did not seem to listen to Nagaash or the advice received from other participants particularly with regard to treatment of the furnace. Darbush's assistants sided with him in these arguments, because he had already proved himself a master forger like his father. He is known to make bush knives that are regarded as the best in the district.

        Charcoal Making

At present, charcoal is prepared in two different ways. The old way is to cut live trees and burn them in a pit that is covered with leaves and soil after quenching the burn pile with water. This mechanism is particularly used for when charcoal is needed for smelting and household use. This system is no more in use these days. Though charcoal is in high demand in the town, there is no one working on charcoal production in Walagee, because it is considered to be "dirty work." Therefore, it is a second type of charcoal production that is evident, particularly in forging areas. For forging purpose, charcoal is prepared in an open space on the ground in heaps where a fire is set and after the material is half burned it is quenched with water.

Charcoal preparation in a pit.

The only similarity between the traditional system of charcoal preparation in a pit with the surface preparation method is that after burning the material for a certain time, the workers quench it with water. Individuals who bring their tools to the forging place for repairing their tools either bring bundles of charcoal from their homes or prepare charcoal near the forging site, as wood is available in nearby farming fields. According to them, the difference between preparing in a pit and open space is that charcoal prepared in the pit burns gradually and gives heat for a long time, while charcoal prepared on the surface is used for shorter time periods.

However, the charcoal maker Obbo Rabbirraa used the traditional mechanism of preparing it since this charcoal was meant for smelting, not forging. As in past practices, the charcoal for this reconstruction of smelting methods was prepared from three selected tree species. These plants are in Afaan Oromo called Hambaltaa or Biiroo (Entada abyssinica) of the Mimosoideae family, Hudduu Fardaa (Trena orientalis) of the Ulmaceae family, and Baddeessaa (Syzgium guineense) of the Myrtaceae family.

Old smelters classified the tree species under two types. For them, Hambaltaa and Hudduu Fardaa produce a saliva-like (gorora) substance when burned and their burning helps to consolidate bloom fragments. For forging the bloom (which is still used by the forgers), they told us that they used the Baddeessa tree because that fuel tends to melt the bloom and any other scrap iron. Obbo Rabbirraa prepared the charcoal according to the information given to us by participants of old smelting practices of the Malkee group. He went down the stream of Laga Suphee in the farm field of Obbo Darbush, where he cut Hambaltaa and Hudduu Fardaa trees into regular-sized pieces. These trees were half dried since they were cut down previously as part of slash and burn farming. The master and his assistants participated in the charcoal making as part of offering labor to Rabbirraa. Then a pit was prepared where the sliced wood was heaped and fire was set. After it was half burned, water was fetched from the stream and poured onto the material. Then they collected leaves and covered all over the half-burned wood. The last procedure was to bury the material with soil. They inspected it closely to see whether there was a hole to allow smoke to escape. After they were sure it was all set, they left the material to gradually burn and cool down. For this first smelting, 60 kilograms of charcoal was used to smelt 12 kilograms of ore.

        First Round of Smelting

On the day of smelting (July 14, 2005) the preparation and arrangement of the bellows and tuyeres, a process called camaduu, was begun at 10:20 in the morning. In this case, at 10:50 a fire was lit in the pit. To start it they used fire from the hearth and charcoal. More and more charcoal was added while the blowing was taking place. Once the person who measures and adds charcoal (called the leeccaqtuu) was satisfied with the procedure, the participants began to add the ore. This role was given to Obbo Nagaash Fayyisaa because of his previous experience. Simultaneously, the master sacrificed a cock, praying for the help from the spirits (ayyaana) of his ancestors and the village. Obbo Darbush, who was now taking the place of master smelter, supervised each activity. Smelting activity, i.e. the blowing of the bellows, was carried out by using only one long, clay tuyere and two bag bellows.

Second smelting, with ore

and charcoal added by the 'leeccaqtu.'

The arrangement of the madabii tuyere did not seem proper, and Obbo Darbush instructed the blowers to stop pumping from time to time so he could inspect the progress. After three to four hours of pumping of the bellows, the blowers began to complain that they could not push air through the tuyere. Obbo Darbush stopped the blowing and pulled the madabii tuyere back a little, which Obbo Nagaash said was wrong. Instead, said Nagaash, the master would do better to use a long stick to open up the tip of the tuyere, which he believed was clogged with slag, and he insisted that the bellows chargers should work strongly and without interruption. A heated dialogue was held between the smelters. The new smelter boasted that he would know better than would the old, and he continued the process for about five hours.

At 3:11 that afternoon, the master told the leeccaqtuu to add his final charcoal and ore. At 4:00, the leeccaqtuu added more charcoal, and blowing continued up to 4:26, when the master announced that the smelting was over. When I asked the leeccaqtuu what he felt about the outcome, he said that he doubted whether we would see tangible results of the smelting. The smelted material was then left for cooling until the next day. The next morning every one of us accompanied the master to see the result of the smelting. However, it was found to be unsuccessful and resulted in material that was not very well consolidated.

Obbo Darbush, like any of us, was disappointed by the result of the work. Every participant offered one or another reason for the outcome. The smelters said that the reasons were mainly two: that due to wet weather the madabii tuyeres could not dry properly, and this resulted in three of them breaking and only one in use for the the smelting. Secondly, the blowing was not strong enough to attain the necessary heat. I later found out that the blowers may have conspired and did not fully cooperate with the master, claiming that he did not pay them well. In addition, some blowers blamed the poor results on the quality of the ore, claiming that Obbo Moosisaa might have cheated on them by giving them ore left over from past mining. The master then said that if he were given a second chance he would organize a better smelting activity. The second round of smelting was planned to take place after the rainy summer season was over, which meant after mid-September.

Smelting Reconstruction: Second Round

I made a second trip to Walagee in the month of September 2005 to observe another round of smelting reconstruction efforts. Preparations for conducting a second round of smelting began on September 16. Smelting was planned to take place as soon as the clay tuyeres were ready.

Obbo Darbush organized this voluntary demonstration of traditional smelting practices in accordance with his promise to carry out another attempt after the first smelt proved unsuccessful. In this second round of smelting, a number of modifications were made. When we again talked to the participants of the old smelting, they insisted that the smelters should take some additional measures in preparing for the smelt. These improvements in the second round included treatment of the ore, madabii making, and changes in the depth and internal treatment of the furnace.

According to Obbo Moosisaa, the ore should have been washed until it becames shinning black. As I noted earlier, in the first round the cleaning or washing of the ore was not sufficiently thorough to make it charcoal black. Therefore, in the second round the ore was well prepared in that washing took place two times in cleaner water than during the first round in July, when it was washed only once in the unclear water of the flooding river.

In this second round modifications were also made to the preparations of the madabii tuyeres. I did not observe those preparations first-hand, because I had to travel to a nearby town at the time. However, Darbush described these preparations to me later. As occurred in the first round of smelting reconstruction, the clay was obtained from the area of the Clay River, Laga Suphee. The pounding of the clay and efforts to keep the clay fresh as it was transported from the river were undertaken in a manner very similar to the methods used in the first round of madabii making. However, during this second round the smelter added some additional materials to the clay soil. For strengthening the clay, he added pottery fragments and straw of teff. In addition, this time the length of the tuyere was increased to an average of 1.07 meters.

Then, under better weather conditions than in the earlier attempt, the tuyeres were left under the shed of the house to gradually dry for 13 days. After that, the tuyeres were brought near the fire, because even after this passage of time the madabii tuyeres were not fully dry due to the humidity of the extended rainy season. Obbo Darbush began to fire them two days before the day of smelting. In this second round, only one tuyere was cracked, but not beyond repair.

Some changes were also made on the preparation of the pit furnace. The second round smelting was carried out in the furnace used for the first round smelting, but with some modifications. In the first round smelting, the depth of the furnace was about 80 cm, to allow 70 cm madabii tuyeres. For the second round smelting, the depth was increased to about 120 cm so that it would allow the average length of 107 cm madabii tuyeres. This modification on the pit furnace, in terms of depth in particular, was made to follow the traditional line as conveyed to us by participants in the old smelting practices. The other modification made on the pit furnace involved lining the inside walls. In this second round, the master lined the furnace with clay soil. However, three days before the day of smelting heavy rain mixed with ice fell and partly destroyed the lining. It was not possible to reline it since drying of the wall would take longer time than the next three days. To tackle this problem Obbo Darbush devised a new technique. He inserted the upper part of a broken pot into the bottom of the furnace, so that the bloom would form on it and the cracking of the walls would not affect this formation. Before he inserted the broken pot, however, he fired the tuyeres inside the furnace for two days, which also helped to dry up the furnace walls.

The day of the second round smelting was purposefully made on Tuesday. Tuesday is called guyyaa guutuu, for "full day" or "lucky day." Smelting was begun early in the morning. From about 5:30, Darbush went from house to house to awaken participants. Then at 6:00, every participant was summoned near the smelting hut, godoo bufaa. Then at 6:12, a fire was lit and the bellowing began. At an average of about 25 minutes, the participants added charcoal and ore in alternation and under a continuous and more organized bellowing than the first round. Unlike the first round, in this round of smelting they used two madabii tuyeres and four bag bellows. In this second round of smelting, the other new element was the use of rubber from a car tire for making part of the bellows.

Six blowers were hired for the second round smelting. All blowers belonged to the tumtuu caste. Some of them were already working with the master as assistants in forging activities. Because they complained about the payment Obbo Darbush had paid in the first round, I handled the negotiation of their wages in the second round. Smelting in this round took seven hours to finish, consuming 90 kilograms of charcoal carried in three sacks, to smelt 10 kilograms of ore. This was a little bit different from the first round. In the first round, smelting took five hours, using 60 kilograms of charcoal carried in one sack, to smelt 12 kilograms of ore.

In the second round, Obbo Darbush announced the end of blowing and smelting after 13 intervals of adding ore and charcoal and about an hour of blowing without adding any more ore. By that time, the color of the fire and the sound of blowing had changed; these changes were used as signs for stopping the blowing. On the next morning, Obbo Darbush and his assistant took out what looked like a block of black material. Darbush's older brother, Obbo Bookaa Kumsaa, inspected the material and told us that it was a successful smelt. However, Obbo Darbush was not able to make tools out of the dilalii, because he never learned how to make tools out of the locally smelted iron. Generally, the reconstruction of the smelting practices was accomplished through a trial and error process based on the information conveyed by the old smelters.

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Wealth in Ruins:
The History and Archaeology of a Caribbean Plantation

By Emily Yates

Figure 1. Locations of Water Island and Carolina Point

Water Island is a small Caribbean island just south of St. Thomas. In 1996 it was officially recognized as the fourth US Virgin Island. At less than 500 acres it is home to 161 residents (2000 Census). On the northwest end of the island is Carolina Point (Figure 1; click on the images below to see larger illustrations). This promontory offers a clear view overlooking the West Gregerie Channel and Charlotte Amalie Harbor. This was certainly a strategic location for monitoring the merchants, traders, settlers and visitors arriving on St. Thomas.

Figure 2. Excavations at Carolina Point, Water Island, USVI.

The plantation on Carolina Point was excavated in 1998 by a team of archaeologists from the National Park Service (NPS). Those excavations recorded the Great House, several outbuildings, and 3 slave cabins (Figure 2). On either side of Carolina Point are freshwater wells likely associated with this plantation. The rich and varied history of this plantation was first brought to light by Historian George Tyson and through continued research by the NPS Project Historian David Knight with the aid of Translator Gary Horlacher. The NPS excavations punctuate the rich history of Water Island.

The historic occupation on Carolina Point began in the early 18th century. The first known resident, Albert de Ruyter, is indicated on a 1718 map. Sea captain De Ruyter was employed as a steward of the Danish West Indies Company to host incoming merchant ships. Carolina Point offered the clearest view into the harbor, allowing de Ruyter manage the flow and movement into Charlotte Amalie. Livestock was also kept on the island for provisions to the colony on St. Thomas.

After de Ruyter's death around 1720 his Water Island holdings were turned over to his widow and her nephews. She soon remarried a St. Thomas builder named Olle Hennigsen. He had a growing business as a mason and lime burner on St. Thomas, and this union proved to be rather profitable for him. To support St. Thomas' growing population and mercantilism, the essential building material limestone was harvested from Water Island by various St. Thomas builders at least as early as 1711. Hennigsen continued to export limestone from the island, and being the prudent businessman, he petitioned the Danish West Indies government for a formal sanction of his rights to Water Island's resources soon after his marriage. He received this sanction on April 10, 1725.

Figure 3. Gray stone outcrops on Water Island.

After Henningsen's death around 1730 the main exports of the island were cut stone rather than harvested limestone. Also exported was prepared lime, evidence that the widow's nephews were investing their efforts in the lime burning and quarrying industries rather than harvesting, livestock, or agricultural enterprises. From 1737 to 1740 exports of gray stone (locally known as "Blue Bitch") from Water Island appeared in the St. Thomas records (Figure 3). This rock must be quarried and like harvesting limestone and burning lime, this required a considerable effort to cut and transport. This extreme effort could have been fuel for a local insurrection. From a 1732 tax roll we learn that all of the slaves had run away from the island, and that Jan Cramieu, the widow's nephew and Overseer, left Water Island. The following year all property belonging to the Cramieu family was liquidated.

Ownership of the island becomes a complex affair after the Cramieus, and legal ownership is not entirely documented. Title to the land was exchanged several times by marriage. Separate estates were established by split inheritances. A New York carpetbagger labored for years to finagle distant relations out of their inheritance to claim it for his own. Time after time the estate at Carolina Point fell into bankruptcy and was auctioned. And one family's oral history includes the story of Joseph Daniel being presented the island as a reward by the British Navy for his support during the War of 1812. The list of owners includes numerous St. Thomas planters and merchants involved in many aspects of maritime trade. A few owned and rented commercial and residential properties on St. Thomas, several were sea captains or in the shipping industry. Two were freed men of color who themselves owned slaves. Most were absentee landlords. Several were newly arrived immigrants to the colony.

In 1769 the rightful title to the island was transferred to Jean Renaud. Renaud was an established planter on St. Thomas and was part of the growing population of French Catholics in the colony. Originally from Martinique, he was one of the free men of color to own this plantation. For two decades he worked towards rehabilitating the plantation back into a productive agricultural enterprise. The plantation structures underwent massive growth and renovation during his tenure and he progressively added to his slave population and arable acres. He began this plantation with 18 slaves, within a decade the number rose to 39, and by 1786 Renaud had expanded his workforce to 60, an extraordinarily high enslaved population for a non-sugar producing plantation.

Figure 4. Detail of Oxholm's 1778 map showing Jean Renaud's plantation on Carolina Point.

The structures at Carolina Point reflect the bust and boom of the plantation as it moved from provisions to quarrying, and cattle to cotton. The growth and expansion of the plantation is coupled by the evidence from repeated attempts to repair and rebuild the bankrupt estate. The plantation structures are attributed to Renaud's ownership and the labor of his slaves. Now obscured from view by dense vegetation, the configuration of the plantation is similar to a 1778 depiction (Figure 4) of a large house on the bluff, 9 cabins, fieldstone walls, cleared land for pasture, two freshwater wells, and a house on the opposite bay.

Figure 5. Carolina Point Plantation (12-VAM-3-209) site map from NPS excavations in 1998.

NPS excavations focused on the Great House, Kitchen, Overseer's Quarters, and Slave Village where three cabins were identified (Figure 5). No documentation has been found that describes the architecture of any structure on Carolina Point. Typical Dutch architecture during the eighteenth century included half-timbered homes with a brick or rock foundation, and tiled roof. What remains today of the Great House are rock and coral foundations and brick wall supports. Having been destroyed by fire, the upper portions of the house could surely have been constructed of timber. Glazed ceramic roofing tiles were also found throughout the Great House rubble.

The Kitchen had a paved stone floor and plastered walls constructed of fieldstone and cut coral -- very typical for the time and area. Inside the kitchen was an iron skillet, placed upside down, on the floor; a large grinding stone; fragments of a cast iron pot; and the remnants of a baking sheet. The Overseer's Quarters likewise had plastered fieldstone and cut coral walls, but an unrefined floor. The original flooring may have been wooden planks, now long since deteriorated. Few artifacts were found within this structure. Two slave cabins had fieldstone walls, and one had a plaster floor. The artifacts recovered have a wide timeframe which indicates these cabins and this area was occupied for an extended period. The artifacts show the presence of both men and women -- evidenced by hand tools, buttons, and beads.

Upon his death in 1793 Renaud's holdings were given to his wife Rebecca, although this was not to last long. The next year Rebecca married Peter Tameryn, a freed man of color and the Captain of the Free Negro Corps. He inherited this position from his father Mingo Tameryn. Mingo was respected for his role in maroon hunts throughout the colony and for his efforts to quell the slave revolt on St. John in 1733-34. (This was the same time all of Cramieu's slaves ran away from Water Island!) In accordance with Renaud's will Water Island was divided equally between Rebecca's new husband and the children of Renaud's sister. Thus, by the turn of the eighteenth century Water Island became two separate land holdings and each was operated independently.

Figure 6. Arched cistern at Carolina Point Plantation. Note the brick patches and missing plaster.

Tameryn's control of Water Island was the northern half, where Carolina Point is located. Peter and Rebecca lived on the estate briefly from 1803 until his death in 1806. It took four times on the auction block until the property, all household furnishings, and 27 slaves were finally sold to Captain Archibold Kerr in 1807. He employed an overseer for four years and worked as an absentee landlord, as he was already a well-established merchant and ship owner on St. Thomas. Unfortunate for him, Water Island proved to be a poor investment as the British gained control of the Danish West Indies in 1807 and stymied the trade relations both in and out of the islands. Also, between 1807 and 1818 Kerr lost his Carolina Point slaves at an alarming rate due to a prolonged outbreak of yellow fever. And so he opted to make substantial upgrades and needed repairs to the main residence before putting it on the market. Evidence of his renovations and repairs are visible in the arched cistern (Figure 6).

Figure 7. Standard Willow Pattern by Spode, ca. 1820-1825, one of 61 willow patterned vessels recovered from the Great House.

Baron Lucas de Bretton purchased the estate in 1819 with the ambition to bring new life into the plantation. First he gave the plantation a name: what was simply known as the "Water Island Estate" became "Caroline's Lyst" which means "joy" or "folly". The vast majority of ceramics recovered from the Great House date to the Baron's ownership. At the height of early 1800's European dining fashion was ceramics that mimicked Chinese porcelain (Figure 7). The Baron likely bought or brought this service set while residing on Water Island. He kept production at a slow pace, running a gentleman's farm rather than a commercial undertaking. He ran the estate for 9 years, but each year he experienced a decline in the estate's value. In 1828 the plantation was again put up for auction, this time as the bankrupt estate of the Baron.

Within 3 years the plantation had 3 different owners. Each had bought the property, all furnishings, some livestock and slaves hoping to establish a productive estate. Each was disappointed and resold everything at auction. For a meager amount the plantation was then sold to an Italian immigrant named Cosmo Francovitch, an established planter on St. Thomas, and ran Caroline's Lyst as an absentee landlord. But when Francovitch died three years later Caroline's Lyst and 3 slaves were auctioned and gleaned about half of its appraised value. James Hazzel, Jr. bought the property and set his son as the estate manager. The Hazzels were a prominent family in the islands and owned a growing amount of property within the Danish West Indies. They were involved in a number of various enterprises from maritime trades to rental properties on St. Thomas and other nearby islands. The Caroline's Lyst estate saw no agricultural enterprises during Hazzel's ownership, rather it was used for commercial industry -- limestone and gray stone.

Figure 8. French-themed plates, ca. 1834-1839, found stacked in a corner of the room.

In 1842 James Hazzel, Jr. sold the estate to a St. Martin sea caption, Benjamin Barton. He and common-law wife Susanna Cohen lived on the estate for less than a year when Barton died suddenly. As they were not legally married and had no legitimate offspring, the property was given to Benjamin's sister Ann Quark, and the children of his deceased sister, Mary. Barton's brother-in-law became the executer of the estate in 1843 but was never in residence at Caroline's Lyst. He was a blacksmith on St. Thomas and leased the land to Raimond Certain of France. Certain labored to reestablish pasture and provision grounds while maintaining cattle, sheep, and goats on the property. Some of the artifacts recovered from the Great House are indicative of Certain's occupation. A stack of French-themed plates was recovered in a corner of the dining room (Figure 8). Other plates in the collection herald Napoleonic victories. The maker's marks indicate production between 1834 and 1839. Certain began leasing the plantation in 1843 when he arrived from France and likely brought these plates with him.

Certain was the last occupant of Caroline's Lyst to own slaves. When the 1846 plantation register (census) was taken he had 4 field laborers -- but they were no longer on the island when the first census after Emancipation was taken. While many freed slaves were tied to their locations by servitude or lack of a better option, Certain's slaves chose to leave the island altogether. Further notations on the 1850 census list three additional men in residence at the estate. Africa native Alfred, age 70; St. Thomas native, Johannes Paul, also 70; and St. John native, Jacob, 23 years old. The older men were listed as invalids, and Jacob's occupation was simply "unemployed". These men were likely former slaves, however not on Water Island. Their names do not appear on any register or census for the island prior to 1850. Their appearance on the island, however, may be related to the fact these men were infected with leprosy.

Leprosy was spreading at an alarming rate throughout the West Indies in the second half of the 19th century. The spread of the disease was not fully understood as medical writings of the time indicate it could be partly due to leprosy vaccines that were being administered. Several leper colonies throughout the Caribbean were established by the turn of the century. But prior to the inception of the St. Croix Leper Asylum, the closest "remote" locations were Hassel and Water Islands. A small leper colony was established on Hassel Island; however this is the first evidence of such on Water Island. More research is needed to determine if these men were part of a colony or just isolated individuals. A few years later a prolonged outbreak of Asiatic cholera on St. Thomas stalled the agricultural production Certain had reestablished at Caroline's Lyst. It appears that by 1853 there were no residents or production at the estate.

Meanwhile, Captain Joseph Daniel was methodically purchasing portions of Water Island. Daniel operated a ship repair and rigging yard business located in Charlotte Amalie, and ran a fleet of lighters which serviced approaching vessels into St. Thomas Harbor. He also owned a number of rental properties on St. Thomas, both commercial and residential. By 1859 he owned nearly all of Water Island. One small parcel, Caroline's Lyst, was co-owned with Eugene Pannet, whose two sons were living in the Great House. In 1862 Daniel petitioned the courts for a pardon from the yearly tax on Caroline's Lyst due to the main house suffering significant damage rendering it useless for residential living, and thus exempt from taxes. Pannet's son, according to Daniel, set a brush fire too close to the house.

The house was fully furnished at the time of the fire, and to the delight of the archaeologists, an outer brick wall fell in, sealing the contents of one room. Many of the ceramics recovered from within the house date around 1820, about the time Baron Lucas de Bretton took ownership of the plantation. It was after he went bankrupt that the property changed hands on an increasingly frequent basis due to bankruptcy. It is quite likely the estate was being auctioned with all furnishings intact. The archaeological record supports this idea -- the wide variety of artifacts and ceramics excavated in 1998 reflect the plantation's numerous owners since the Baron.

Figure 9. Reconstructed Vessel Collection, 176 vessels from the southeast room of the Great House.

The intensity of the fire was located in the southeast corner room of the Great House. The brick wall was found under one-and-a-half feet of building rubble and enclosed a thick layer of ash that covered the entire room. The artifact collection recovered from the Great House is typical of a nineteenth century plantation (bone buttons, brass tacks, rose-headed nails); but the most significant find was the large amount of broken pottery -- over six thousand pieces from the southeast room alone, over 190 pounds! Reconstruction of these pieces into vessels was a huge undertaking, but with fantastic results. The pieces recovered from just one room of the Great House have resulted in 176 reconstructed vessels. This is the largest known comparative collection of whole and nearly whole 19th century tableware ceramics (Figure 9).

Figure 10. Great House reconstruction based on artifacts.

From the reconstructed vessels and other artifacts recovered, reconstruction of the room, and house, is possible (Figure 10). For example, in the northwest corner of the room a large amount of bottle and drinking glass was found. This is also where the stack of French plates was, obviously stored, not displayed. The china cabinet in the southeast corner of the room fell over during the fire. Burn patterns on many vessels indicate they broke before burning. The resulting "spray" pattern of artifacts indicates where items were stored or displayed in the cabinet. Willow bowls were displayed below plates and larger serving dishes. Porcelain was above all Willow pattern vessels. And clear melted glass was found mostly among the porcelain.

Caroline's Lyst now lies in ruins. But there is wealth in these ruins. This is only a brief view of the plantation's Great House and three cabins. The outbuildings, including the kitchen, bake oven, and overseer's quarters have been largely uninvestigated. The remains of a privy have never been found and the entire Slave Village is a huge untapped resource. The wealth in these ruins are the windows into the past. The rich history, both documented and excavated, is only a fraction of what this plantation has to tell us.

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Graduate Programs in African Diaspora Archaeology

By Christopher Fennell

The following compilation provides a list of graduate school programs that can provide concentration and training in African diaspora archaeology subjects. There are currently very few programs that formally offer a graduate degree specializing in this subject area, but there exist many programs that offer graduate degrees in archaeology and include faculty members who specialize in African diaspora subject areas. The list set out below was compiled based on published directories, information provided by the departments, and details sent to me by graduate students and faculty members. This list of programs and of related faculty within each program is not exhaustive. If you are aware of other graduate programs in African diaspora archaeology not listed below, or of additional details concerning those that are listed, please contact me so I can include such information in future compilations.

In addition, graduate programs in African diaspora studies or African-American studies can also be of great benefit to a graduate student seeking to specialize in related archaeological approaches. A list of such programs in African diaspora studies and African-American studies is available on the web site of the Association for Studies of Worldwide African Diasporas, at:

Ball State University
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: The Master of Arts program with a major in anthropology is designed to provide students with a broad understanding of general anthropology as well as experience in a specialized area so they may pursue doctoral studies if desired. Core courses in three major subdisciplines are required, as well as a theory course. Related faculty: Mark Groover. Address: Department of Anthropology, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana 47306-0435, USA. / Ph: (765) 285-1575 / email: / URL:

College of William and Mary
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: The anthropology of the past, meeting place of ethnography, historical documentation and material culture, informs the program in historical anthropology. The archaeology of colonialism, whether in a Chesapeake, New World or Atlantic context, the archaeology of the lab, whether material culture, zooarchaeology or conservation, as well as theoretical training and field applications, informs the program in archaeology. The MA and MA/PhD programs in historical archaeology and historical anthropology at the College of William and Mary offer faculty expertise and research opportunities for the study of African Diasporic communities in North America, the Caribbean, and South America. The Department's Institute for Historical Biology maintains databases on the bioarchaeology of the Diaspora. Related faculty: Michael Blakey, Marley Brown, Grey Gundaker, Richard Price, Sally Price. Address: PO Box 8795 Washington Hall, Room 103 Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, USA. / Ph: (757) 221-1056/1055 / Fx: (757) 221-1066 / / URL:

George Washington University
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: Our master's program in Anthropology is designed to provide students with a comprehensive grounding in the four fields of the discipline: biological anthropology, sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistics. In addition, students may choose a formal concentration in folklife, international development, or museum training. Related faculty: John Michael Vlach, Stephen C. Lubkemann, and Pamela Cressey (head of Alexandria Public Archaeology). Address: Hortense Amsterdam House, 2110 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052 USA / URL: (G.W.U.) and (Alexandria Archaeology)

Illinois State University
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA/MS

Information from school's website: The Master's of Historical Archaeology is focused specifically on the study of cultures that either have inhabited the world since the beginning of modern history or which have a long literate tradition. The multidisciplinary approach of the program allows students to take courses from an array of departments including Sociology & Anthropology, History, and Geology-Geography. Instruction focuses on the analysis, examination, and presentation of professional reports on investigation and scholarly studies detailing original research in historical archaeology. Related faculty: Charles Orser, Jr., Elizabeth Scott. Address: 332 Schroeder Hall, Campus Box 4660, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4660 USA / URL:

Louisiana State University
Department of Geography and Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from school's website: Located at the gateway between the Mississippi Valley and Latin America, the department offers a wide array of field and regional expertise in each of these regions. Current faculty and students conduct field research in the Mississippi Valley and American South, Central America, the Caribbean, and West Africa, as well as Asia and Europe. Related faculty: Paul Farnsworth. Address: 227 Howe-Russell Geoscience Complex, Baton Rouge, LA 70803-4105 USA / Ph: (225) 578-5942 / Fx: (225) 578-4420 / URL:

San Diego State University
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: When the graduate student enrolls in the Department and achieves conditional or classified graduate standing, he/she is advised by the Graduate Coordinator to develop a program of study designed to provide the breadth, depth, and specialized training necessary for a professional career in Anthropology. Related faculty: Seth Malios. Address: 5500 Campanile Dr San Diego, CA 92182-4443, USA. / Ph: (619) 594-5527 / Fx: (619) 594-1150 / / URL:

Sonoma State University
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA (in Cultural Resource Management)

Information from school's website: The Master of Arts in Cultural Resources Management (CRM) involves the identification, evaluation and preservation of cultural resources, as mandated by cultural resources legislation and guided by scientific standards within the planning process. The primary objective of the Master's Program in Cultural Resources Management is to produce professionals who are competent in the methods and techniques appropriate for filling cultural resources management and related positions, and who have the theoretical background necessary for research design and data collection and analysis. Related faculty: Adrian Praetzellis, Margaret Purser. Address: 1801 East Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, CA 94928 USA / URL:

Syracuse University
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Graduate study in historical archaeology combines the theory and techniques of anthropological archaeology with the use of documentation and oral history. The department offers a strong program focusing on Africa and the African diaspora. The Maxwell setting provides access to interdisciplinary issues of historical archaeology, such as museum studies, environmental topics, historical preservation, and policy planning. Related faculty: Theresa Singleton, Christopher DeCorse, Douglas Armstrong. Address: 209 Maxwell Hall Syracuse, NY 13244-1090, USA / Ph: (315) 443-2200 / Fx: (315) 443-4860 / URL:

University of Bristol
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: Our research is based on Prehistory, Human Evolution, Mediterranean Archaeology, Historical and Maritime Archaeology, and Cultural Anthropology. International and local fieldwork opportunities often arise from our broad geographical base, which ranges from Bristol to Zanzibar, and from the Palaeolithic to the present day. Our graduate students are actively involved in a range of archaeological and anthropological projects. Related faculty: Dan Hicks. Address: Old Baptist College, 43 Woodland Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1UU UK / URL:

University of California, Berkeley
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Graduate study at Berkeley is characterized by its extraordinary breadth. The department's award-winning faculty, both social cultural and archeaological, engage diverse analytic and substantive problems and work across the United States and around the world. Related faculty: Laurie Wilkie. Address: 232 Kroeber Hall Berkeley, CA 94720-3710, USA / Ph: (510) 642-3391 / Fx: (510) 643-8557 / URL:

University of California, Los Angeles
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Though M.A.-level students specialize in the area of their choice, they are expected to have a basic understanding of all four fields in anthropology (archaeology, biological, sociocultural, and linguistic). A series of "core courses" are offered for those who lack background in one or more fields. In addition to course work, a thesis, based on original research, is expected of all M.A. students to demonstrate their ability to generate and analyze data. Students entering with a master's degree in any field need not repeat this degree, but a basic knowledge of the four fields, as well as competence in a foreign language, is expected and required before beginning doctoral work. At the doctoral level, students specialize more on their particular area(s) of interest than in one of the four subfields. Courses and research are tailored to personal interests and goals in consultation with faculty advisors. The doctoral dissertation is based on original research, typically involving fieldwork. Related faculty: Merrick Posnansky (emeritus). Address: 341 Haines Hall, Box 951553, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1553, USA / Ph: (310) 825-2055 / Fx: (310) 206-7833 / URL:

University of Chicago
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: The Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago offers doctoral programs in archaeology and in sociocultural and linguistic anthropology. Although doctoral students must complete an M.A. paper during their course of study at the University (or receive credit for an M.A. degree earned at another institution), no one is admitted to the Department solely to seek an M.A. degree. Terminal M.A. degrees are granted at the discretion of the Department of Anthropology. Related faculty: Shannon Lee Dawdy (U.S.), Stephan Palmie (Cuba), Kesha Fikes (Portugal, Cape Verde), Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff (South Africa). Address: 1126 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL 60637 USA / URL:

University of Florida
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Anthropologists at the University of Florida carry out research in Africa, Latin America and the Carribbean, North America, Asia, and Europe. Our teaching program, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and in all fields of the discipline, reflects a strong commitment to a cross-cultural, comparative perspective. We have continuing relationships with universities, research centers and institutes, government bureaus, non-governmental institutions, and development agencies in Latin America, the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. Related faculty: James Davidson and Peter Schmidt. Address: PO 117305, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA / Ph: (352) 392-2253 / Fx: (352) 392-6929 / URL:

University of Houston
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: The programs of the Department of Anthropology focus on archaeology and ethnology as specialized areas of study. A diverse curriculum provides courses in the major subfields of ethnology, archaeology, linguistics, and physical anthropology as well as in the study of important world regions, such as the United States, North America, Latin America, and Africa. Related faculty: Kenneth Brown. Address: 233 McElhinney, Houston, TX 77204-5020, USA / Ph: (713) 743-3780 / Fx: (713) 743-4287 / / URL:

University of Idaho
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Justice Studies
Degrees offered: MA

Information from school's website: The University of Idaho's Department of Sociology/Anthropology/Justice Studies offers a Master of Arts degree in Anthropology. This program includes class work, seminars, directed studies, independent research, a thesis, and a combined final oral exam and thesis defense. The curriculum provides sound training in general anthropology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and ethnology. Department research specialities include historical archaeology; prehistoric Northwest archaeology; Plateau Indian ethnography; human evolution; and indigenous peoples of South America. Related faculty: Mark Warner. Address: Phinney Hall Room 101, Moscow, Idaho 83844-1110 USA / URL:

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Our program offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees, including a new M.A. track concentrating on Cultural Heritage and Landscape studies, offered in conjunction with the Department of Landscape Architecture. Our graduate program provides students with in-depth training and education in a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to archaeological investigations. Graduate research and coursework opportunities are also available through the University's African American Studies and Research Program and the Center for African Studies. Related faculty: Christopher Fennell, Helaine Silverman, Marc Perry, Rebecca Ginsburg, Arlene Torres, and Norman Whitten (emeritus). Address: 109 Davenport Hall, 607 S Mathews Ave, Urbana, IL 61801, USA / Ph: (217) 333-3616 / Fx: (217) 244-3490 / / URL:

University of Maryland
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MAA, PhD

Information from the school: The University of Maryland's Master of Applied Anthropology (MAA) is an innovative, two-year professional degree designed for those students interested in the practice and application of anthropology in careers outside of academia. Program emphasis is on the utilization and mediation of anthropological knowledge in practical settings. Skills are developed through internships and enhanced by working with professionals in related and complementary fields. Opening of a new PhD program in Anthropology beginning in 2007. Related faculty: Mark Leone, Paul Shackel, Fatimah Jackson, and Tony L. Whitehead. Address: 1111 Woods Hall, College Park, MD 20742-7415, USA / Ph: (301) 405-1423 / Fx: (301) 314-8305 / / URL:

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from school's website: The graduate program in anthropology enables students to become fully competent anthropologists. Robert Paynter conducts research at the W.E.B. Du Bois Boyhood Homesite. This work is greatly facilitated by access to and staff support for Du Bois's Papers that are in the Special Collections and Archives of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst. Enoch Page and Amanda Walker Johnson, colleagues in the Anthropology Department, share research interests in related aspects of the African Diaspora. Faculty and students in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro American Studies and in the Public History Program of the History Department also share interests in African Diaporic research and presenting it to this country's many publics. Related faculty: Robert Paynter, Enoch Page, and Amanda Walker Johnson. Address: 215 Machmer Hall, Amherst, MA 01003 USA / URL:

University of Massachusetts, Boston
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from school's website: Unlike many other programs in the U.S. that offer M.A. degrees in archaeology, the UMass Boston program is currently devoted solely to historical archaeology and its integration with anthropology and history. The sharpness of focus yet depth of coverage is made possible by the significant number of historical archaeologists and associated colleagues in the program's primary academic departments and affiliated research center, and their joint commitment to a significant set of critical themes in historical archaeology. Related faculty: Stephen Mrozowski. Address: Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Boston, MA 02125-3393 USA / Ph: 617-287-6854 / Fx: 617-287-6857/ URL:

University of Montana
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: The Cultural Heritage Option is a way to earn the MA degree in anthropology while focusing on methods and theories related to preserving the culture, heritage, and diversity of all peoples. It is designed to produce professionals in the many areas of culture heritage preservation who are firmly grounded in the fundamentals of anthropology. Related faculty: Kelly J. Dixon and Gregory Campbell. Address: Social Science Bldg 235, 32 Campus Drive Missoula, MT 59812, USA / Ph: (406) 243-2693 / Fx: (406) 243-4918 / / URL:

University of Pennsylvania
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from school's website: Our department is unique in that it offers a 4-field approach, providing breadth of training. The core courses for the Masters (MSc) and PhD programs provide an in-depth introduction to Anthropology as a whole. Because of the broad education offered, graduates and advanced students of the program would be qualified to teach in areas beyond their own specialty, resulting in multiple teaching opportunities. Related faculty: Robert Schuyler. Address: University Museum Rm. 323, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6398 USA / URL:

University of South Carolina
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: The Department offers the M.A. and, as of 2005, the Ph.D. in Anthropology. Our program offers instruction in the four traditional sub-fields of anthropology: archaeology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and physical/biological anthropology. In this we are unusual. As of 1993, the American Anthropological Association had noted that only 28% of all departments had faculty in all of the four traditional sub-fields. While students are asked to specialize in one of these fields, we particularly seek students who wish to cross the boundaries between fields and combine them in their graduate work. Particular areas are ethnobotany and Eastern North America (Wagner), African American historical archaeology (Kelly and Weik), African prehistoric archaeology and ethnoarchaeology (Casey), African historical archaeology (Kelly) and bioarchaeology in Mexico (Cahue). The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology also has several archaeologists working on prehistoric and historic archaeology of the Southeast and a very large collection of materials from the state. Related faculty: Kenneth Kelly, Terrance Weik, Joanna Casey, Gail Wagner, and Leland Ferguson (emeritus). Address: 1512 Pendleton Street, Hamilton College Room 317, Columbia, SC 29208, USA / Ph: (803) 777-6500 / Fx: (803) 777-0259 / / URL:

University of Southern Mississippi
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
Degrees offered: MA

Information from the school: The graduate program emphasizes exposure to the four fields of anthropology as a means of preparing for further graduate study, applying anthropological principles in the public service or government sectors, or teaching at the undergraduate level. At the same time we expect students to develop an in-depth grounding in their subfield of interest, from theoretical, methodological, and practice standpoints. We also encourage development of a personal research interest as quickly as possible, ultimately expressed as thesis research. We encourage students to explore topics about which the faculty can provide useful input either through coursework, directed reading, or personal expertise. Related faculty: Amy L. Young. Address: 118 College Dr #5074, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001, USA / Ph: (601) 266-4306 / Fx: (601) 266-6373 / / URL:

University of Texas, Austin
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: Archaeology at the University of Texas reflects the breadth of specialization of its faculty, and its strong links with other disciplines. The program enjoys strong ties with Geography, Classics, Latin American Studies, Asian Studies, Social, Cultural, Folklore and Public Culture, Linguistics, and Physical Anthropology. A strong and active group of graduate students, the presence of the Texas Archeological Research Lab, major CRM firms, and offices in State Government make Austin's community of archaeologists and related scholars exceptionally large and diverse. Graduate programs and tracks within Anthropology include the African diaspora graduate program, Borderlands, and Activist Anthropology. Related faculty in Archaeology and African Diaspora studies: Maria Franklin (historical archaeology, North America), Samuel Wilson (prehistory and ethnohistory, Caribbean), James Denbow (prehistory, Africa), Edmund Gordon (social anthropology, Latin America), Jafari Allen (social anthropology and folklore/public culture, Caribbean and North America), Joao Vargas (social anthropology, Brazil and North America), Jemima Pierre (social anthropology, West Africa and North America). Address: Department of Anthropology, 1 University Station C3200, Austin, TX 78712-0303, USA / Ph: (512) 471-4206 / Fx: (512) 471-6535 / for information on the anthropology graduate program and admissions contact Andi Shively at / URL:

University of Virginia
Department of Anthropology
Degrees offered: MA, PhD

Information from the school: The archaeology section of the department includes eight faculty whose research and teaching examine anthropological questions through the study of past societies. The interests of the faculty and graduate students span the Old and New Worlds -- specifically North America, South America, Africa, and the Near East -- and the prehistoric through historic periods. In each of these areas we emphasize the integration of anthropological theory with archaeological field methods, artifact analysis, and analytical approaches. Related faculty: Jeffrey Hantman, Adria LaViolette, Dell Upton, and Fraser Neiman. Address: PO Box 400120, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4120, USA / Ph: (434) 924-7044 / Fx: (434) 924-1350 / URL:

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New Dissertation

Medicating Slavery: Motherhood, Health Care, and Cultural Practices in the African Diaspora, By Ywone Edwards-Ingram, PhD
American Studies Doctoral Program
College of William and Mary in Virginia
December 2005

New Book

Afro-Atlantic Dialogues: Anthropology in the Diaspora
Edited by Kevin A. Yelvington
School of American Research Press, approx. 500 pp., 9 color and 29 black-and-white illustrations, 4 tables, notes, references, index, 2006.

Yelvington book cover
Description from the Publisher:

This book breaks new theoretical and methodological ground in the study of the African diaspora in the Atlantic world. Leading scholars of archaeology, linguistics, and socio-cultural anthropology draw upon extensive field experiences and archival investigations of black communities in North America, the Caribbean, South America, and Africa to challenge received paradigms in Afro-American anthropology.They employ dialogic approaches that demand both an awareness of the historical fashioning of anthropology's categories and selfreflexive, critical research and define a new agenda for the field. Paying close attention to power, politics, and the dynamism of never-finished, open-ended behavioral forms and symbolic repertoires, the contributors address colonialism, the slave trade, racism, ethnogenesis, New World nationalism, urban identity politics, the development of artworlds, musics and their publics, the emergence of new religious and ritual forms, speech genres, and contested historical representations.The authors offer sophisticated interpretations of cultural change, exchange, appropriation, and re-appropriation that challenge simplistic notions of culture. Contributors: Kevin A. Yelvington, Faye V. Harrison, J. Lorand Matory, Robert Price, Sally Price, Sabiyha Robin Prince, John W. Pulis, Joko Sengova, Theresa A. Singleton, Arlene Torres, and Peter Wade.

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Hotel Site Yields History

Story by Emily Battle
Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star

April 23, 2006

Article posted online by the
Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star at:
Copyright 2006 Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.

Archaeological dig at downtown hotel site yields groundbreaking finds.

Just a few feet below the asphalt parking lot at the corner of Caroline and Charlotte streets, archaeologists believe they may have uncovered remnants of the first slave quarters ever found in Fredericksburg.

At a dig site that has become a popular stopping place for tourists, City Council members and local residents, Kerri Barile of the Dovetail Cultural Resource Group points to the 12- by 16-foot foundation of a structure that she believes may have housed slaves.

Barile admits that she and her archaeology crew don't know for certain that the building was a slave quarters, but all the little clues seem to indicate that it was.

They think it was built sometime in the 1830s. Its chimney is too small for the building to have been a kitchen, and it was behind a bigger house that fronted Caroline Street. The tiny building also is listed as a "dwelling" on old insurance maps.

If Barile and the archaeologists she's working with are reading the clues correctly, it would be a significant find for the city. Because urban properties tend to be developed and dug up over and over again, it can be hard to find well-preserved remnants of buildings that were torn down in the past.

And because space in cities is usually so tight, Barile said not a lot of dedicated urban slave quarters were built. Sometimes kitchens, attics or basements doubled as housing for slaves.

"In the entire United States, very few urban quarters have been excavated," Barile said. "To have an urban slave quarters here, it can tell us a lot."

The foundation lies in what was once the backyard of a house that was built after the Indian Queen Hotel, which took up that whole corner, burned down in 1832.

All of these layers of history are visible at the site. You can see the old sandstone foundation of the Indian Queen -- built in 1771 -- underneath the foundation of the newer dwelling.

And underneath the Indian Queen foundation, Dovetail crews have dug down to find artifacts from the early to mid-1700s.

The Dovetail team has been at the site at Caroline and Charlotte streets for the past two weeks. The city hired them to look into the site's history before the land is sold to a developer that plans to build a Courtyard by Marriott hotel there.

City officials are planning a May 9 public hearing on the hotel plans. Tommy Mitchell, who has partnered with two Northern Virginia hotel operators on the Marriott project, said he plans to show the latest plans for the hotel to the Architectural Review Board on Monday.

The archaeological work will go on through much of this week. The $26,920 price for the work is being paid partly with private donations.

Doris Buffett's Sunshine Lady Foundation gave $13,500, the Silver Cos. gave $3,000, city resident Tom Byrnes gave $1,000, Councilman Matt Kelly gave $500 and Downtown Retail Marketing Inc. gave $100. The city picked up the rest.

Barile and her crew are trying to learn as much as they can about the site in the three-week time period the city gave them. They'll work a few days this week to make up for some rain delays.

The site has become a sort of gathering spot downtown.

Barile said that last Saturday, she had to have someone on the site all day dedicated to talking to tourists about what was going on. She estimates that a couple of hundred of them came by as students from the University of Mary Washington's historic preservation program helped with the digging.

City Council members also have stopped by and helped with digging or sifting the dirt for artifacts.

Mitchell was at the site sifting dirt on Friday morning. He said he's talking to his partners about incorporating some of the site's history into the new hotel. He said they're talking about maybe naming a room or the lobby bar after the Indian Queen.

Brian Hyland, co-owner of J. Brian's Tap Room, was out helping at the dig site on Thursday. He said he's been at the site the past five or six days, and plans to keep coming until Barile and her crew wrap up their work.

Hyland said he's been fascinated by the artifacts that the dig has turned up. Things like butchered animal bones, pieces of ceramic plates, doll legs, eyeglasses, a toothbrush, buttons and marbles all reveal details about the lives of the people who frequented the Indian Queen, which was one of Fredericksburg's central gathering spots in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Hyland said it's a way of learning about the history of the hospitality business.

"I'm connecting with people who were here 200 years ago doing the same thing I'm doing," he said.

Hyland may share another connection with the site.

The building that houses J. Brian's was originally built in 1833, Hyland said, before it burned and was then rebuilt.

It was formerly the Exchange Hotel, and since it was built just one year after the Indian Queen burned, Hyland and Barile both think it might have been built to replace the Indian Queen.

Now that the Exchange and several other downtown buildings that once housed hotels have been converted into offices and apartments, the Courtyard by Marriott could be the next chapter in the downtown hotel story.

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N.H. African Burial Ground Stirs Emotions

By Beverley Wang
Associated Press

April 1, 2006

Article posted online by the
ABCNews Online at:
Copyright 2006 Associated Press.

Discovery of African Burial Ground in New Hampshire Stirs Emotions.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. - Amateur historian Valerie Cunningham was sure she knew what lay buried beneath Chestnut Street.

Forty years of combing through old documents for clues about this small seaport's black history told her what physical evidence did not that a few blocks from the trendy downtown shops, buried and all but forgotten below the brick and asphalt of Chestnut Street, lay the remains of Portsmouth's earliest black inhabitants, freed and enslaved.

"You can park on it, if you've got a quarter," said Cunningham, who co-authored "Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage" with Mark Sammons.

The evidence included 19th century newspaper clippings that said workmen laying pipe had "disturbed numerous remains of negroes" and a map in Charles Brewster's "Rambles about Portsmouth," published in 1859. The map showed the "Negro Burial Ground" at the foot of Chestnut Street, then Prison Lane, in 1705.

Six years ago, the nonprofit Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, of which Cunningham is president, placed a marker near the site. But the location was too imprecise to justify tearing up the street. Without burial records, the search for more information stalled.

Then, on Oct. 7, 2003, contractors repairing a sewer line hit a pine coffin. Cunningham got the news at work at the University of New Hampshire.

"I don't even have the words to describe it, I could not believe it," she recalls.

In the following days archaeologists identified 13 sets of remains, removing eight that were damaged by sewer runoff. Some of the coffins were stacked, leading researchers to estimate that as many as 200 bodies could be buried in the block-long space.

Further testing confirmed their African heritage; forensic analyses revealed they endured heavy labor and died young.

"There isn't any one bit of information that says, 'OK, this is definitely a slave.' But putting it all together, it kind of gives us really strong evidence that it couldn't be anything but that," said Ellen Marlatt, a senior researcher with Independent Archaeological Consulting LLC, which excavated and studied the remains.

New Englanders typically owned fewer slaves per family than in the South, and dead slaves usually were buried in unmarked graves on their owners' property. Over time, nearly all the sites disappeared. (One local exception is on land now owned by Christ Episcopal Church.)

Marlatt said that is why Chestnut Street is so important.

"This is the only example of an 18th-century African burial ground, like a centrally located African burial ground, in New England," she said.

Two larger burial grounds for slaves and free blacks also were discovered by construction workers in recent years. One found in New York City in 1991 was recently made a national monument. In Brazil, efforts are under way to preserve a huge burial ground discovered in Rio de Janeiro in the mid-1990s.

The Portsmouth discovery raises many unanswered questions. Aside from the coffins and a single shroud pin, no artifacts have been found. Researchers say the chances of locating any living relatives are slim. They also were unable to determine how anyone died.

The discovery has been an uncomfortable reminder not only of slavery in Portsmouth, but of more recent racism, or at least callousness. The excavations showed the 19th century workmen not only "disturbed" the graves, but punched pipes through at least two coffins.

Cunningham said race may not have been the reason, or the only reason.

"People now refer to it as a shameful event that the cemetery, the burial ground, was lost all these years. It was unmarked and unknown and it had been built over," she said. "We know that it happened all the time. Not only to black people but to any poor people during the period."

Histories show that slaves were bought and sold throughout the 1700s at Portsmouth's taverns and docks. Captured Africans were brought to Portsmouth by sea captains with names now associated with historic events, buildings and even a town names such as Rindge, Odiorne, Morse and Wentworth.

By 1773, records show there were 674 slaves in New Hampshire. The largest group, 160, was in Portsmouth.

"One of the results of this discovery and the investigation and so forth is to bring to the forefront issues of slavery in New Hampshire. It was here, it was real, and it's a reminder to us," said Richard Boisvert, state archaeologist. "I think at a certain point in time people were happy to forget that it existed, because they were frankly embarrassed by it."

Now that it's been rediscovered, this burial ground won't be forgotten again. Plans are not final yet, but the city intends to close Chestnut Street to traffic and create a memorial park there.

"We wanted to do something to make amends for the oversight of those people 250 to 300 years ago, who left us with an unresolved reputation for having been a slave-trading city, having used slaves and buried them without any burial stones or any respect to some degree," said City Councilor John Hynes, chairman of a committee planning the memorial.

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Call for Papers:
World Archaeological Congress, WAC-6

Location: Kingston, Jamaica.
Date: May, 2007.
CFP Deadline: May 30 and November 30, 2006.

The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) was founded in 1985 as the only representative, fully international organization of practicing archaeologists. It encourages open dialog between archaeologists and others concerned about the past, including First Nationals people whose pasts are told by archaeologists. One of WAC's primary functions is to hold an international congress every four years to offer discussion of new archaeological research, as well as archaeological policy, practice and politics. Previous congresses have been held in England, Venezuela, India, South Africa and Washington, D.C. WAC-6 will be held in the Caribbean for the first time. In May 2007, the Caribbean will celebrate 200 years since the abolition of the Atlantic Slave Trade. This will be an important backdrop for the staging of WAC-6.

Congress Registration: Early registration will begin in April 1 through September 30, 2006. Regular registration will commence November 1, 2006 through to May 2007. The cost of registration will be stated in the 2nd announcement.

Program Deadlines: Proposals for themes will be accepted for consideration through May 30, 2006. Proposals for sessions will be accepted through August 31, 2006. The deadline for abstracts for individual papers is November 30, 2006. Individual papers may be submitted prior to February 28, 2007, and will be assigned to appropriate sessions and themes.

Guidelines for Proposing a Theme or Session: WAC-6 will be organized into themes and sessions. A theme contains a number of sessions relating to the same overall issue. Example: Theme -- The African Diaspora; Sessions: Maroon Societies, Plantation Archaeology, and Post-Emancipation Free Villages. Both themes and sessions should emphasize international participation and global perspectives. Sessions can be organised in different formats, including demonstrations, workshops, debates, panels and forums. Selected sessions will provide simultaneous translation into different languages, including Spanish and French.

Guidelines for Proposing a Paper: Abstracts of 150-250 words should be submitted via email or mailed the following addresses:
Email: OR WAC-6 Academic Committee, c/o Mr. Dorrick Gray, Archaeological Society of Jamaica, Archaeology Lab, Department of History and Archaeology, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Jamaica W.I. OR WAC-6 Academic Committee, Archaeological Society of Jamaica, PO Box 4, Kingston 19, Jamaica, W.I.

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Call for Papers:
Race, Memory and Reclamation

Location: University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.
Date: September 7-9, 2007.
CFP Deadline: August 1, 2006.

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." -- Zora Neale Hurston.

2007 marks the 200th anniversary of the ending of the slave trade throughout the British Empire. Following this step by the British government the relatively young republic of the United States of America passed a federal law prohibiting the external slave trade with Africa, which effectively outlawed the transatlantic slave trade between this country and the continent of Africa. Whilst this legislation saw the slave trade outlawed, slavery itself continued via the domestic slave trade that developed between the southern states until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865, marking at least officially, the ending of slavery in the United States.

All sorts of questions are raised by this anniversary of the formal ending of the slave trade within the United States -- How important is this commemoration given that slavery continued within the interior of the United States until 1865? Have African-American communities been able to reclaim the history of enslavement for themselves and in what ways? And to what extent can the legacies of slavery ever be done justice to?

The anniversary of the ending of the slave trade will serve as a peg on which to hang wider questions relating to subaltern people within the United States and the ways in which they have sought to reclaim the histories of their ancestors that for so long have been subject to the master narrative. The conference will therefore be reflecting on questions regarding the commemoration of various histories within the United States and will consider issues such as:
How have the histories of subaltern groups been commemorated within these specific communities?
How has the nature of the ways in which various peoples have scripted their remembrances of theses pasts changed over time?
Can the remembrances of these histories in their various forms be regarded as a form of cultural resistance and/or resurrection?
What are the implications of commemorative history to both dominant and subaltern groups within American society?

Papers are invited from various disciplines including, (but not exclusive to), history, literature, gender studies, cultural studies, and folklore.

For more information or to submit proposals please contact Dr Rebecca Griffin ( or Dr Malcolm McLaughlin ( in the school of American studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Web site:

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Call for Papers:
Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807

Posted on H-Net Announcements (May, 2006).

Location: University of York, UK.
CFP Deadline: July 31, 2006.

The University of York is organising an international bicentenary conference looking at the meaning and impact across the Atlantic world of the formal abolition of the slave trade in 1807. The city of York was one of the political arenas in which the abolitionist William Wilberforce fought the cause, and the department of history has long been associated with pioneering scholarship on the history of slavery and black studies in the UK.

Scholars new and established, and from all disciplines, are invited to contribute to Abolitions, 1807-2007 on the themes listed below:
Africa and abolition;
The European slave powers and the legacy of slavery and abolition (Denmark, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, UK);
The Caribbean and abolition;
Depicting slavery and antislavery: satire, caricature, portrait and landscape painting, theatre writing;
Slavery and anti-slavery: poetry, memoirs, auto/biography, the novel
The first centenary of abolition: 1907;
Slave cities: Liverpool, Bristol, Glasgow, Nantes, Bordeaux, Charleston, New Orleans, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Cartegena;
The legacy of abolition in the modern anti-slavery movement;
Heritage studies and anti-slavery;
Anti-slavery memorials.

Postgraduate bursaries to support the cost of attending the conference will be available.

Contact information: Professor Miles Taylor, Dept. History, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
+ 44 1904 432974 // fax: + 44 1904 432986
Visit the website at

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Call for Books: Louisiana State University Press

By Joseph B. Powell

May, 2006. Press contact:
Joseph B. Powell, 225-578-6466 /

Louisiana State University Press is now accepting manuscripts for publication on a wide range of cultural and environmental research topics on the Caribbean and U.S. South. If anyone is working on topics such as environmental history, political ecology, cultural studies, ethnobotany, African American archaeology, historical archaeology, and plantation archaeology LSU Press would be very pleased to consider your proposal or finished manuscript.

Please direct all inquiries or manuscripts to:
Joseph B. Powell, Acquisitions Editor, Anthropology, Geography & Environmental Studies, Louisiana State University Press, 3990 W. Lakeshore Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70894-5053. Office: 225-578-6466 / Fax: 225-578-6461 / e-mail: /

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Book Review

Davis book cover

David Brion Davis. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. 440 pp., illustrations, 8 pp. halftone plates, 8 maps. $30, ISBN 0195140737.

Review by Ira Berlin, May 16, 2006.

Review posted online by the
New York Times at:
Copyright 2006 New York Times.

Slaves in the Family

It wasn't so long ago that few Americans spoke of slavery, least of all historians. Except at a handful of black colleges, it rarely entered the classroom. History texts gave it scant recognition, other than noting how its presence burdened white Americans. Perhaps the only exception was discussion of the Civil War, but even then slavery made only a brief appearance -- since everyone knew the great conflict was about states' rights.

Now slavery is everywhere, with movies like "Amistad," "Glory" and "Beloved," and television documentaries like "Unchained Memories" and "Slavery and the Making of America." Nearly every major museum has mounted an exhibition on slavery, while new museums devoted entirely to the subject are being planned. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, two presidents representing very different constituencies, have visited the West African slave trading post of Gorée and peered out the "Door of No Return." Congress has mandated that the National Park Service address the question of slavery at all Civil War battlefields, and federal and state courts have adjudicated numerous cases regarding profits extracted from slave labor centuries ago. In today's history books, slavery has become the foundation for our understanding of the past, and almost all universities in the country offer some course on the subject. Books pour from the presses; by one count more than 75 have been published this past year. More are on the way, along with the usual array of CD's and Web sites.

But despite this enormous outflow, controversies continue. For some, slavery is a handy metaphor for exploitation (thus "wage slavery" and the "slavery of sex"). Today's sweatshops, they say, are indistinguishable from yesterday's sugar mills and cotton fields. For others, however, chattel bondage is not just one kind of coercion. Its specific attributes distinguish it from all other forms of oppression, giving it a unique place in human history. And for all Americans, there is the enduring contradiction of their republic as both the beacon of liberty and the world's largest slaveholder.

So the publication of David Brion Davis's "Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World" could not be more welcome. As much as any single scholar, Davis, a professor emeritus and the former director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, has made slavery a central element in modern historiography. Although the focus of "Inhuman Bondage" is largely on the Americas, he appreciates that the slavery of the recent past cannot be understood apart from its long history, one that reaches back to antiquity and stretches across the globe. [read more >>>].

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Book Review

Luna and Klein book cover

Published by H-Slavery, (May, 2006).

Francisco Vidal Luna and Herbert S. Klein, Slavery and the Economy of Sao Paolo, 1750-1850. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003. xii and 273 pp. $26 (paperback), ISBN: 0-8047-4859-4.

Reviewed for H-Slavery by James Oakes, Department of History, CUNY Graduate Center.

Sao Paulo is doing well these days, and it's all because of sugar. It seems that sugar cane produces ethanol at least eight, and possibly ten, times more efficiently than corn. With some well placed incentives from the government, plus Volkswagen's introduction of dual fuel automobiles a few years back, Brazilians have developed a flourishing market in home-grown energy. The once depressed sugar fields around Sao Paolo have come back to life, with an efficiency that puts the U.S. ethanol industry to shame. But we should not be surprised. As Francisco Vidal Luna and Herbert Klein show in Slavery and the Economy of Sao Paolo, 1750-1850, ever since the eighteenth century the region has prospered as a savvy producer of commercial crops.

For U.S. historians, the history of slavery in Brazil continues to shake loose one preconception after another about the nature of new world slave economies. As youngsters we were assured that slavery was incompatible with urban life, only to discover that at the height of the slave trade Rio de Janeiro was a bustling metropolis with a diversified economy with slavery at its core. We were told that slavery encouraged a stifling monoculture, only to learn that Brazilian slaves produced not only sugar and coffee, but corn, grains, and livestock; they dug the gold from inland mines and manned the docks of Brazilian ports. In large numbers Brazilian slaves were sailors, soldiers, and factory workers. Not since the fall of Rome were slaves put to such varied uses in such large numbers. Moreover, they worked efficiently and their work set in motion a pattern of sustained economic growth that survived the downfall of slavery.

Luna and Klein follow right along this revisionist pathway, demolishing yet another generalization that has long hovered over the historiography of slavery in the New World: that sugar plantations did not produce the food they needed to sustain themselves. That may have been true in the Caribbean, and even in northern Brazil. But it was not true in the Sao Paulo region. Perhaps because the region grew slowly, in the shadow of the sugar producers of Rio de Janeiro to the north and the gold mines of neighboring Minas Gerais, Sao Paolo's commercial agriculture took root as a producer of food supplies for the bigger, more heavily enslaved economies nearby. Once sugar plantations did develop, particularly in the rich inland soils of the West Paulista region, the production of food crops was a well established habit that the sugar planters never abandoned.

Based on the extensive use of recently discovered censuses of population and production, Luna and Klein trace with meticulous care the origins and growth of sugar plantations in the Sao Paolo region. They distinguish between the Valley of Paraiba -- closer to the coast, more influenced by Rio, and in the end less prosperous -- and the interior West Paulista -- far from the market centers with poor roads, it began as a region of subsistence farms and Indian slaves but went on to become a rich center of diversified commercial agriculture based first on sugar and later, in the nineteenth century, on coffee.

The turning points for Sao Paolo were the relative decline of Brazilian sugar with the growth of the Caribbean plantations, the discovery of gold in Minas Gerais, and the frontier wars with Spain. Gold brought slaves in large numbers to the region, providing Sao Paolo farmers with a market for their food crops. War led the Portuguese to invest in Sao Paolo's infrastructure, giving its farmers better access to regional, national and then international markets.

With commercial agriculture and access to markets well established, Sao Paolo transformed itself between 1750 and 1800 into one of the major sugar plantation economies of the world. The censuses make it possible to track this development in various ways: the increasing size of the plantations, the growing number and proportion of slaves, as well as the rising sex ratio of the slave population, and the rising output per slave.

But the thing that strikes the authors above all is the fact that the paulista economy never abandoned the production of foodstuffs, for both subsistence and sale. Rice and beans, corn and pork, and a host of lesser items, were produced for sale by small farmers and large planters, by those owning only one or two slaves and by those owning dozens, by those who produced nothing but foodstuffs and by those who produced mostly sugar and coffee. And this remained true even as the growth of sugar and coffee plantations increased the concentration of land and slaveholdings. "Thus, the bedrock of paulista agriculture remained food-crop production," the authors conclude, "which expanded along with the export crops during the first part of the nineteenth century" (p. 106).

There was a time when U.S. historians imagined that the antebellum South stood alone among New World slave societies in its ability to feed itself. No more. In both Brazil and the South, slaves provided some but not all of their subsistence, and small farmers could prosper by producing food crops for sale in local and regional markets. Even the distribution of slaves was roughly comparable: Luna and Klein find slaves in perhaps 20 to 25 percent of Sao Paolo households; most owners had only a few slaves; and plantations with more than a hundred slaves were rare.

Not so the slave population. Except for a blip in the first decade of the nineteenth century, the proportion of Africans in the slave population steadily declined in the United States from the middle of the eighteenth century onward, until by 1860 native Africans were a tiny fraction among the slaves. The reverse was true in Sao Paolo, where the rise of sugar and coffee depended on a steadily rising proportion of Africans among the slaves, until by the mid-nineteenth century they were "the dominant element in the slave labor force" (p. 133). The massive importation of African men skewed the slave population, depriving it of women of childbearing age and thus depressing the ability of the slave population to reproduce itself. In addition, Luna and Klein cite recent scholarship suggesting that the disproportionate manumission of women in Brazil also helped prevent the slave population from achieving robust reproduction rates. (This contrasts sharply with the U.S. experience, where the near absence of manumission, combined with the relative insignificance of lethal sugar plantations, allowed southern slaves to reproduce themselves rapidly without any further imports from Africa.) Paradoxically, the rising dominance of males in the slave population did not alter the fact that a majority of paulista slave children -- like their counterparts in the American South -- grew up in fatherless households.

In the American South there was no large slave sector of the southern economy outside of plantation agriculture, nothing comparable to the mining sector of Brazil -- which provided the first important market for paulista food producers. Nor was there anything in the South remotely comparable to the huge proportion of free blacks in Brazil. Of the 91,000 Africans and their descendants in Sao Paulo in 1803, more than half (47,000) were free colored. Besides being disproportionately young women, freed slaves were disproportionately mulattoes, with the result that the free colored class had the largest concentration of pardos (browns) in the population. These differences showed up as well in the distribution of wealth. Free colored households were less likely to have slaves, and those that did were likely to have fewer slaves. As Luna and Klein note, this may be less the result of racial bias against free coloreds than of their original impoverishment as slaves.

In a final chapter the authors explore one other element in Sao Paulo's economic diversity -- the high proportion (40%) of paulista households employed outside of agriculture altogether. By U.S. standards, this is quite high for a region whose economy was based in plantation agriculture. These households ranged all the way from impoverished day laborers, to craftsmen, to professionals, to wealthy merchants. These merchants, with strong ties to the planters and the export economy, were the wealthiest and most powerful group in the region. By the time readers finish the book the enduring success of Sao Paolo's economy is easy to understand -- which is precisely what the authors hoped to accomplish.

There is not one thing wrong with this book. Luna and Klein have done impressive research in previously unused sources. They present their findings in clear, unpretentious prose. They have a firm sense of the historical as well as historiographical significance of their material. They make apt comparisons along the way. All in all, Slavery and the Economy of Sao Paolo is a model monograph, nothing less than we have come to expect from its distinguished authors.

Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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Book Review

Penningroth book cover

Published by H-South, (April, 2006).

Dylan C. Penningroth, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. 192 pp. Index. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8078-2797-5; $19.95 (paper), ISBN 0-8078-5476-X.

Reviewed for H-South by Martin J. Hardeman, Department of History, Eastern Illinois University.

Property and Kinship

Winner of the Organization of American Historian's 2004 Avery O. Craven award, Dylan C. Penningroth's Claims of Kinfolk presents a fresh interpretation of African-American life before and after emancipation. Displacing -- or at least modifying -- traditional dichotomies such as black versus white, resistance versus accommodation, and African "survivals" versus Creole acculturation, he inserts property ownership and the complex relationships within kin networks at the center of his analysis.

As Penningroth acknowledges, other historians, such as Phillip D. Morgan, have examined property ownership among slaves, and still others -- Ira Berlin, John W. Blassingame, Eugene D. Genovese, Herbert Gutman, and Deborah Gray White, for example -- have explored the importance of family, kin, and community to nineteenth-century black American life. But Penningroth has combined both to create a new investigative key. Also, by extending his analysis to 1880, he demonstrates the continuing connection between property holding and kinship.

At the same time, he reminds his reader that under the antebellum American legal system, slaves were barred from owning property and had no legal claims to kinship. Any acquisition of property came at the sufferance of their masters and surrounding white communities. Such property had to be displayed and commonly acknowledged. And, as a general rule, property could only be acquired with the assistance of others -- most often members of a kin network. Yet despite these restrictions, Penningroth insists, property holding was widespread.

Evidence supporting this assertion comes from a variety of sources, including slave narratives, travelers' accounts, newspapers, plantation ledgers, and court documents. Penningroth's richest source, however, is the post-Civil War records of the Southern Claims Commission, a federal agency created to compensate loyal southerners for property confiscated by Union forces during the war. More than 22,000 claims were filed. "About 5,000 of the allowed claims . . . have been preserved with their testimony," he writes, and "nearly 500 of these were filed by former slaves" (p. 10).

Yet, because property ownership was most frequently a joint rather than an individual achievement, problems arose that were foreign to Anglo-American jurisprudence. The resolution of these issues, therefore, was generally left to the slave communities. Postwar reliance on committees made up of kinsmen or family elders as well as appeals to ministers and other local notables seem to reflect earlier methods of settling disputes and negotiating differences. Significantly, the same methods were used for managing interpersonal issues as well as those related to property.

Former slaves adapted to freedom. After 1865, tens of thousands traveled considerable distances to reconstitute kin networks. Encouraged to regularize their relations by state and federal authorities, couples married. They affirmed legal responsibility for their children. And while their informal economy and its dependence on "acknowledgment and display" gradually diminished, ex-slaves increasingly took advantage of the judicial forums provided by the provost marshal, Freedman's Bureau courts, and, after 1871, the Southern Claims Commission.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, American legal theorists had transformed the relationship between property and the law. According to Penningroth, the officials who went South "represented a northern society that . . . had come to embrace two major assumptions about property: that law defined property and that property was an indivisible, individual possession" (p. 132). These assumptions, however, were shared completely by neither the black people of the region nor the white. For both, property existed within a social framework and for the freedman especially, the "indivisible, individual" nature of the property was problematic.

In the post-Civil War South of white landowners and African-American sharecroppers and tenants, these assumptions could not be easily applied. Ownership of land was more or less clear, but the more valuable ownership of the crops on the land was a matter of claim and counter-claim. Who owned the cotton, tobacco, or rice? At what point did control migrate from one party to the other? These were questions of continuous dispute.

Even the minority of freedmen who owned land, often purchased it with the aid of family members -- real or fictive. Black freeholders also depended on white supply merchants who advanced credit in return for an interest in the crop. Such post-emancipation realities complicated assumptions about property. In addition, Penningroth points out, they helped produce conflict and division as well.

Investigating the internal workings of a community or family is full of interpretative difficulties; although Penningroth's discussion of the freedmen and their extended families frequently uses words like "hints" and "suggests," he believes some things are certain. The extended families and kin networks of African Americans grew in size, for example. Kinship also became more exclusive, more aware of the distance between itself and outsiders. Husbands and parents (in part because of their new legal status) asserted power over the ability of wives and children to claim property or even control their own free time. As a consequence, internal disagreements were more apt to become public and rancorous.

Evidence of such disputes, however, did not mean that the "black family was weak or broken." On the contrary, Penningroth writes, "such conflict reflects how expansive kinship became after emancipation, how strong its claims on people, and how important it remained for people's access to property and labor" (p. 186).

The insights of Penningroth's study rest heavily on the ideas of anthropologists, archeologists and historians involved in African Studies. His first chapter, in fact, explores questions of slavery, emancipation, property ownership, and the meaning of kinship among the Fante of the British Gold Coast (Ghana) from 1868 to 1930. This chapter reflects prodigious research in Ghana's national archives. It investigates the similarities and dissimilarities between West African slaves and freedmen, and those of the American South. But too often the comparison seems to be one of apples and oranges. The social, historical, and cultural gaps between the two regions ultimately appear unbridgeable.

Dylan C. Penningroth's Claims of Kinfolk is well worth reading. His interpretation of slavery and freedom is new and fruitful. The study is reminiscent of both Blassingame's The Slave Community and Steven Hahn's A Nation under Our Feet, with their emphasis on the sometimes claustrophobic interior relationships of black families, kin networks, and communities.[1] And that is not bad company to be in.


[1]. John W. Blassingame, The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (New York, Oxford University Press, 1972); and Steven Hahn, A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South, From Slavery to the Great Migration (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003).

Copyright (c) 2006 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes.

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