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Junk Drawers and Spirit Caches: Alternative Interpretations of Archaeological Assemblages at Sites Occupied by Enslaved Africans

Author(s): Garrett Fesler

Year: 2016

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Summary

In this paper I examine how archaeologists make sense of the archaeological record at sites occupied by enslaved Africans in the Chesapeake region during the antebellum period.  In particular, I offer an alternative explanation for some assemblages of artifacts that are routinely interpreted as African Diasporic spirit caches.  In addition to sharing similar cultural belief systems, enslaved Africans experienced comparable levels of privation.  Poverty may have motivated some enslaved Africans to squirrel away items—things broken, lost, discarded, or natural curiosities—that the master class considered worthless.  This penchant to possess seemingly valueless objects that might later come in handy or gain value is not unlike the function of the modern junk drawer, a place to keep items that may eventually become useful.  I attempt to untangle the mundane from the meaningful at quartering sites, suggesting that some artifact assemblages interpreted as spirit caches may be masquerading as junk drawers.


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Cite this Record

Junk Drawers and Spirit Caches: Alternative Interpretations of Archaeological Assemblages at Sites Occupied by Enslaved Africans. Garrett Fesler. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434279)


Keywords

Temporal Keywords
19th Century


Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 291

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