4th Annual Spring Symposium Paper Titles and Abstracts

  • Judith Carney

    Judith Carney

    Department of Geography

    Keynote Lecture - “Out of Africa: Botanical Legacies of Atlantic Slavery in the Americas.”

    A striking feature of plantation era history is the number of first-person accounts that credit the enslaved with the introduction of specific foods, all previously grown in Africa. This lecture lends support to these observations by identifying the crops that European witnesses attributed to slave agency and by engaging the ways that African subsistence staples arrived, and became established, in the Americas. In emphasizing the African components of the Columbian Exchange, the discussion draws attention to the significance of the continent’s food crops as a crucial underpinning of the transatlantic commerce in human beings, the slave ship as a means of conveying African crops to the Americas, and the enslaved as active participants in establishing African foodstaples on their subsistence plots.

  • Georgia Fox

    Georgia Fox

    Department of Anthropology
    California State University, Chico

    “Depleted and Defeated: Resource Scarcity at Betty’s Hope Plantation, Antigua”

    For almost 300 years of sugar cane and rum production at Betty’s Hope Estate, the Codrington family employed a number of strategies to assure successful crop yields for one of Antigua’s largest and most prolific plantations. This industrial complex of animals, people, and plants was dependent on the availability of enslaved labor, water, and other resources that could make or break the whole enterprise. Nine years of archaeological investigations combined with research in the archive of the Codrington Papers, illustrate how the plantation lurched from one crisis to another. In an entangled web of established agricultural practices, an enslaved labor force, and being at the mercy of weather and geopolitical events, human health and Antigua’s environment suffered through a prolonged and unsustainable system that eventually collapsed. After the plantocracy ended, post-colonial land-use practices and a legacy of invasive plant species and free-roaming domesticates wreaked further havoc on this island nation.

  • Mark Hauser

    Mark Hauser

    Department of Anthropology
    Northwestern University

    “Objects without History: Substance and Portability in New West Indian Plantations”

    This paper explores the shifting boundary between Nature and culture on one Island during the apogee of the slave trade. In this paper I would like to provide insights from the materiality of late 18th century New World plantations, a very narrow topic that has received an enormous amount of scholarly attention by historians, anthropologists and archaeologists.  Here I use the lens of water and the cultural features used to manage and store it, to analyze the social relations on plantations in Dominica during the 18th C. I focus on the eastern Caribbean as it was an area of rich environmental, political and cultural diversity.   I examine how distinct environmental zones, created by high mountains, narrow valleys, and thin coastlines, required denizens to come up with myriad strategies to subsist, or to make profits, in this region. I look at the last quarter of the eighteenth century because it was a time of transition. England's first empire became Britain’s second. ‘Uncolonized frontier islands’ like Dominica, became colonial strongholds and most importantly a few islands experienced a‘sugar revolution’ that bears strong similarity to the ‘crop boom’ and ‘land rush’ literature that inhabits agricultural studies of contemporary communities (Hall, Hirsch, and Li 2011). 

  • Paul Lane

    Paul Lane

    Department of Archaeology and Ancient History
    Uppsala University

    “An Outline Historical Ecology of Nineteenth Century Plantation Slavery in East Africa”

    During the late nineteenth century clove, sugar and other plantations geared toward the production of export commodities were established on the East African mainland and on the nearby islands of Pemba, Mafia and Unguja (Zanzibar). The plantations were initially worked by enslaved individuals from the interior, and the plantation were owned and managed by wealthy Swahili, Omani and other ‘Arab’ landowners. Although the institution of slavery was already well-established in these areas, and slaves are known to have been exported to various points around the Indian Ocean since the early first millennium CE, the growth of plantations initiated a significant reduction in the status of enslaved individuals and their opportunities for manumission, and a worsening of living conditions for the majority. Slave raiding may have also intensified. Using a multi-sited archaeological approach, this paper will sketch out the socio-ecological changes introduced by the rise of plantation chattel slavery and review some of its lasting ecological legacies.

  • Amanda Logan

    Amanda Logan

    Department of Anthropology
    Northwestern University

    “Turbulence and Loss: How Chronic Food Insecurity Emerged in Banda, Ghana, during the 18th-early 20th centuries”

    My in-progress book, Beyond Scarcity: Excavating African Food History, counters expectations of Africa as a scarce place through empirical data on shifting food security over the last millennium in Banda, Ghana. For this conference, I plan to workshop a chapter that focuses specifically on processes of turbulence and loss in the 18 th to early 20 th centuries as the region was subsumed by the Asante and subsequently British empires. In the 19 th century, considerable violence and upheaval was unleashed as the Atlantic slave trade drew to a close, ushering in increased demand for enslaved labor internally for the production of so-called “legitimate” trade goods. Using archaeobotanical data I illustrate how these forces acted to create chronic food insecurity in Banda during what was otherwise an environmentally optimal phase.

  • Marco Meniketti

    Marco Meniketti

    Department of Anthropology
    Sans José State University

    “Living in the Margins: The Legacy of Laborer’s Housing in the Landscape of Vernacular Architecture on Nevis”

    The houses of the enslaved populations on Nevis, West Indies, were ephemeral and often built on the margins of estates. The best that can be determined from archaeological evidence is that the structures on Nevis were built of local materials of impermanent quality. The dwellings were temporary and easily moved. This paper examines archaeological evidence of laborer’s housing on Nevis at three sites located in contrasting environments and explores these houses had a lasting legacy and influence over vernacular styles on Nevis to this day. In the way that provision grounds came to be considered “property” and a “right” among enslaved workers, the houses also constituted a vital element of personal space.  Such spaces in the context of slavery may also have incorporated elements of African heritages through familiar physical structures (Ferguson 1992) and served important social functions (Haviser 1997:359) as landscapes within landscapes.

  • Fraser Neiman

    Fraser Neiman

    Monticello Archaeology
    Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

    “Historical Ecology of Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation”

    This paper draws on recent geo-archaeological, dendro-ecological, and documentary research at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation to infer shifting patterns of land use during Jefferson’s lifetime and explore the historical dynamics responsible for them. Independent lines of evidence point to a two-phase ecological sequence. The first phase featured swidden cultivation of tobacco and extended from initial settlement of the region in the third quarter of the eighteenth century by Europeans and enslaved Africans until the century’s final decade. This was followed by a more diversified agricultural regime based on the plow cultivation of wheat that featured extensive land clearance, permanent fields, crop rotation, fertilizer, and new labor requirements for enslaved laborers. I show how the two regimes were the outcomes of elite production strategies engineered take advantage of shifting Atlantic markets and local environments and how they affected the lives of enslaved workers.

  • Lisa Randle

    Lisa Randle

    Department of Anthropology
    University of South Carolina

    “When your Neighbor is your Kin: Panopticism along the East Branch of the Cooper River, South Carolina”

  • Meredith Reifschneider

    Meredith Reifschneider

    Department of Anthropology
    San Francisco State University

    Enslavement and Institutionalized Care: The Politics of Health in 19th Century St Croix, Danish West Indies”

    This talk will discuss Danish colonial healthcare policies enacted towards enslaved people in St Croix, Danish West Indies, during the 19 th century. After the slave trade ban of 1803, colonial administrators in Denmark and the West Indies implemented specific healthcare policies in an effort to curb the demographic decline of enslaved populations. Both the colonial government and European physicians developed a variety of methods to maintain the physical fitness and viability of enslaved populations. Policies included a series of practical measures, including constructing hospitals at privately owned plantations. Plantation hospitals were overseen by European physicians and planters, but daily care was provided by enslaved nurses. I discuss how healthcare was practiced within the context of a plantation hospital at Estate Cane Garden, St Croix. Archaeological findings indicate that enslaved nurses drew from a range of local plant and animal resources to provide care for their patients. The lack of easily definable medical artifacts from the hospital further draws into relief the need for archaeologists to reconsider how healthcare and healing in the past are interpreted.

  • Elizabeth Reitz

    Elizabeth Reitz

    Georgia Museum of Natural History

    “Cattle and the Ecological Consequences of Slavery in the Carolina Low country”

    Site formation processes such as disposal practices and on-site butchery make it difficult to define an animal economy that unquestionably reflects the imprint of slavery within 18th-century Charleston (South Carolina). A more clear signature of slavery’s impact on the lowcountry’s animal economy and ecosystems is found at cowpens operating in the Carolina lowcountry. One of these, the Grange Plantation (9CH137) trading post and cowpens (1734 - 1746), was staffed in part by slaves, many of whom (though not all) were Africans. Some argue that managing large herds of free-range cattle, burning canebreaks to improve grazing, and harvesting forest products prepared the land for subsequent agricultural production of commodities on large plantations. This landscape transformation was a major ecological consequence of the colonial enterprise. The site was owned and operated by Mary Musgrove, a Native American women, further demonstrating the complex social and economic conditions prevailing in the 18th-century colony.

  • Krish Seetah

    Krish Seetah

    Department of Anthropology
    Stanford University

    “Landscapes of disease: An Indian Ocean case study”

    Between 1855-59, the island of Mauritius, with a landmass of only 2040 km2, was producing 10% of the world’s sugar: a staggering testimony to the power of imperial influence on ecology. The transformations that this intensification in cane production resulted in were far reaching. One facet that remains poorly understood is the context of disease, despite a well-developed historic narrative. This paper presents details of a series of malaria epidemics that plagued the island from the 1850s onwards. In 1867, some 41,000 people died from malaria, 10% of the entire population at that time. This massive death toll made the island of particular interest to the medical profession; notably, Roland Ross undertook his first major field research on Mauritius following his seminal discovery of the nature of malaria transmission. The presentation concentrates on the imperial response to malaria. It also discussed how archaeology is contributing to a clearer understanding of the historic context, and potentially, may have utility for contemporary studies of vector borne disease.

  • Diane Wallman

    Diane Wallman

    Department of Anthropology
    University of South Florida

    “Socio-Environmental Histories and Legacies of Colonial Subsistence in the Insular Caribbean”

    With European Colonialism and the subsequent establishment of large-scale plantation agriculture supported by chattel slavery, the insular Caribbean experienced dramatic landscape transformations. The human-environment relationships within these islands were quite complex, with food insecure communities of enslaved peoples often becoming dependent on a combination of exotic and local flora and fauna for survival under the severely oppressive requirements of the plantation structure. These creolized systems of food procurement and production became important focal points within enslaved populations. Here, I present several archaeological case studies examining plantation foodways from Caribbean islands, each with unique socio-political and economic histories. Many of the economic practices developed during slavery continue in some form today, but are now vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change, habitat destruction and resource depression, all markers of the Anthropocene. Using zooarchaeological analysis, I explore the intersection of colonial power structures, plantation slavery, food insecurity, foodways traditions, and long-term human eco-dynamics.