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"Jouer sur du velours": Archaeological Evidence of Gaming on Sites of Slavery in the Caribbean and United States

Author(s): Jillian Galle ; Lynsey Bates

Year: 2017

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Hand-carved ceramic discs excavated from historic-period sites across North America and the Caribbean suggest the widespread growth of gaming culture during the third quarter of the 18th century. From Spanish missions and French forts to villages of enslaved people across the British, French, and Spanish colonial domains, people fashioned discs from flat portions of ceramic vessels for use in a variety of games. We begin by exploring the production and use of hand-carved ceramic gaming discs of over 60 sites of slavery in North America and the Caribbean. Significant regional differences in gaming practices are revealed through a fine-grained analysis of disc attributes and a comparison with other manufactured gaming pieces such as dice and dominoes. We then focus on gaming among enslaved laborers in the Caribbean, with a close look at the exceptional assemblage of ceramic gaming discs from the Morne Patate Village on Dominica. Our analysis indicates a preference for refined earthenware vessels within a specific thickness range and decoration that could produce discs with decoration on one side, which could effectively result in "heads" and "tails."

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"Jouer sur du velours": Archaeological Evidence of Gaming on Sites of Slavery in the Caribbean and United States. Jillian Galle, Lynsey Bates. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431074)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 17132

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