Material Worlds: Archaeology, Consumption, and the Road to Modernity

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  • Commoditization, Consumption and Interpretive Complexity: The Contingent Role of Cowries in the Early Modern World (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barbara Heath.

     The commoditization of cowrie shells in the 17th and 18th centuries was central to the economics of the consumer revolution of the early modern world. Cowries drove the Africa trade that cemented economic relationships between rulers, investors, merchants, and planters in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. From their origins in the Pacific, to the markets of India, from Europe to West Africa, and from West Africa to the New World, cowries played a central role as both commodities and...

  • Gender and Health Consumerism among Enslaved Virginians (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lori Lee.

    This paper explores health consumerism of enslaved laborers in antebellum central Virginia. Health consumerism incorporates the modern sense of patients’ involvement in their own health care decisions and the degree of access enslaved African Americans had to resources that shaped their health and well-being experiences. To emphasize the multilayered nature of health and illness, this analysis engages Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes "three bodies model." The three elements comprising this...

  • Illicit Trade and the Rise of a Capitalistic Culture in the 17th-century Potomac River Valley: An Analysis of Imported Clay Tobacco Pipes. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lauren K. McMillan.

    Scholars disagree about the impact of English mercantilist and Dutch free trade policies on the development of the 17th-century British colonies in the mid-Atlantic region and many argue that because the Dutch were rarely mentioned in the records of Virginia or Maryland after 1660 and the passage of the Navigation Acts, Dutch merchants were absence from the colonies. However, my research, which draws on a close reading of the archaeological and historic record focusing on trade patterns,...

  • New Methods for Comparing Consumer Behavior across Space and Time in the Early Modern Atlantic World (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jillian Galle.

    Unlike primary sources, archaeological assemblages can be used to estimate per-capita discard rates that reveal the flow of goods through time and the complexity of purchasing patterns on a range of sites.  In addition to filling these gaps, the archaeological record provides data on individuals and groups not represented in probate inventories and wills, two document types most often used to track consumer habits on both the small and large scale.  Unfortunately measuring and comparing...

  • The Stagville Plantation Stores: Shopping in the Shadow of the Big House (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anna Agbe-Davies.

    The Bennehan-Cameron family fortune started with a single store in the 18th-century North Carolina Piedmont.  Over several generations, their wealth expanded to include the ownership of up to 900 individuals, scattered across many farms in several states.  This paper examines the intersection between these two spheres: an emergent consumer society and the institution of slavery.  People owned by the Bennehans, Camerons, and their neighbors are among the purchasers enumerated in daybooks and...

  • Thomas Jefferson’s Acquisition of Transfer Printed Ceramics for Poplar Forest (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jack Gary.

    Archaeological research at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson’s retreat home in Bedford County Virginia, has revealed numerous transfer  printed pearlware patterns on ceramic vessels interpreted as being owned by Jefferson. Despite their mass produced nature, the imagery on these ceramics connects very closely to the aesthetics he tried to achieve in the design of the house and landscape. Did Jefferson or a member of his household, seek out specific patterns through specialized merchants or was the...

  • Underpinning a Plantation: A Material Culture Approach to Consumerism at Mount Vernon Plantation (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Eleanor Breen.

    This paper adopts an object-centered, material culture approach that triangulates between three primary sources – George Washington’s orders for goods through the consignment system, inventories from a local, Scottish-owned store, and the archaeological record at Mount Vernon plantation – lending fresh insight into the nature of the mid-eighteenth century consumer revolution and addressing questions about elite and non-elite consumer behavior.  By quantifying the robust dataset of Washington’s...