Plantation sites, especially those in the southeastern United States, have long dominated the archaeological study of slavery. These antebellum estates, however, are not representative of the range of geographic locations and time periods in which slavery has occurred. As archaeologists have begun to investigate slavery in more diverse settings, the need for a broader interpretive framework is now clear.
The Archaeology of Slavery: A Comparative Approach to Captivity and Coercion, edited by Lydia Wilson Marshall, develops an interregional and cross-temporal framework for the interpretation of slavery. Contributors consider how to define slavery, identify it in the archaeological record, and study it as a diachronic process from enslavement to emancipation and beyond.
Essays cover the potential material representations of slavery, slave owners’ strategies of coercion and enslaved people’s methods of resisting this coercion, and the legacies of slavery as confronted by formerly enslaved people and their descendants. Among the peoples, sites, and periods examined are a late nineteenth-century Chinese laborer population in Carlin, Nevada; a castle slave habitation at San Domingo and a more elite trading center at nearby Juffure in the Gambia; two eighteenth-century plantations in Dominica; Benin’s Hueda Kingdom in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; plantations in Zanzibar; and three fugitive slave sites on Mauritius—an underground lava tunnel, a mountain, and a karst cave.
This essay collection seeks to analyze slavery as a process organized by larger economic and social forces with effects that can be both durable and wide-ranging. It presents a comparative approach that significantly enriches our understanding of slavery.