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Enslaved Christian Captives in Early Modern North Africa: Resolving Historical Contentions Through Archaeology

Author(s): R. Scott Hussey

Year: 2017

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Establishing estimates of European Christians enslaved in North Africa during the Early Modern Period (1500-1800) is highly contested among scholars. On one hand, historian Robert Davis argues that more than a million Europeans were captured, enslaved, and left unransomed in North Africa in the Early Modern period. On the other hand, Nabil Matar suggests that both the historical accounts and Davis’ estimates are exaggerated, in part because of a lack of physical evidence and the ambiguous characteristics of known and remaining prisons for Christian slaves in North Africa. During historical archaeological research into enslaved Christians in North Africa, I excavated a separate sealed subterranean dungeon associated with Christian slavery Morocco: the Mazmorras of Tétouan, Morocco. My archaeological research corroborates historical accounts of Christian slavery through archaeological evidence. Building on these links allowed me to situate the Mazmorras' within local networks of capture and ransom between Spain and Morocco. In establishing a strong association of archaeological evidence with archival sources and primary texts, this research helps to resolve a decade-long historical debate about enslaved Christians while orienting Tétouan within a larger system of ecclesiastical and royal power as well as interfaith relations in the Early Modern Mediterranean.

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Enslaved Christian Captives in Early Modern North Africa: Resolving Historical Contentions Through Archaeology. R. Scott Hussey. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430239)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17585

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America