The archaeology of New World slave societies : a comparative analysis with particular reference to St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles
In this thesis, a synthetic analysis of historical and archaeological material from slave sites across the Americas is used to identify the cultural role of the slave holder in transforming African-American societies. Using a comparative approach, I have reviewed patterns associated with each European colonial power. It is generally believed that environmental conditions determined much in the way of slave architecture and foodways. However, I will show that ther are specific patterns in slave related architecture, foodways, religion and laws that are linked to Euro-ethinic cultural patterns in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Danish colonies during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. I have also identified the temporal changes in the treatment of slaves during the pre-emancipation period that have specific material cultural patterns associated with the Euro-ethnic identity of each colonial power. Using St. Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles as a case study, I demonstrate the efficacy of comparative analyses in identifying Euro-ethnic cultural trends that guided and affected enslaved African's lives and are reflected in material cultural remains. These cultural markers can be classified within three thematic catagories that will provide common threads thoughout the thesis. First, ethnicity, comprising the Euro-ethnic origins of masters, Native American communities, and diverse African cultural legacies, influenced slaves' lives. Second, slave roles as agricultural labourers, skilled tradesmen, soldiers, watchmen and then as natives of the various colonies clearly affected their sense of identity. Third, power relations between masters and slaves influenced aspects of slaves' daily life to varying degrees in each colony. On St. Eustatius the comparisons are articulated on two levels. First, slave involvement in the colonial economy on St. Eustatius was unlike that found in the other colonies in that slaves were much more active actors within it. The Statian economy was not based upon plantation monoculture but on providing a free trade port that was then unequalled in the West Indies. In this economy, slaves were not commodities but also direct participants as merchants and traders themselves to a degree not found anywhere else. No previous researcher has attempted to reconstruct how slaves worked in this trade economy. Second, this involvement of slaves in the economy led to a unique position in the cultural and economic landscape as perceived by their masters on the island. This is reflected in the location of slave housing, laws governing slave participation in economic activities, slave religion, and in opportunities for escape and resistence. As part of this comparative analysis, I have also conducted a thin-section analysis of slave produced ceramics or Afro-Caribbean ware from St. Eustatius, Nevis, St. Lucia, Antigua, St. Croix and Barbuda. The goal was to examine any island specific differences in clay types to provide evidence for possible circum-Caribbean trade networks for these ceramics. I have determined that each island produced unique ceramic types and that there may have been some exchange of these vessels among islands. The conclusion reveals that only a comparative analysis on a global scale can identify the unique parameters impacting slave material culture under each European power. It is hoped that this thesis will encourage further comparative research, particularly in French, Spanish and Portuguese colonial areas.