Beads, Burials, and African Diaspora Archaeology: Documenting a Pattern of Black and White Bead Use within African-American Mortuary Contexts

Author(s): James Davidson

Year: 2018

Summary

African Diaspora Archaeology has its roots in Plantation Archaeology of the 1960s and 1970s.    One artifact initially associated with enslaved contexts was the simple blue-glass bead (though other colors were recovered), recognized by some as signifying African-derived culture and beliefs, and by others as a controversial and potentially erroneous stereotype.  Simultaneously emerging in the 1970s was the field of historical mortuary archaeology, where graves of African-Americans as well as other ethnicities were treated as archaeological resources for the first time.  When historical graves were studied scientifically, greater emphasis was placed on the skeletal biology than associated grave-goods, and a very different set of questions were explored.  Combining these two related-fields, this mortuary study documents a heretofore little-recognized pattern of not blue, but black and white bead use, almost exclusively associated with women and children, and ties these demographical patterns to specific African cultures and meanings, of fertility, birth and protection.   

Cite this Record

Beads, Burials, and African Diaspora Archaeology: Documenting a Pattern of Black and White Bead Use within African-American Mortuary Contexts. James Davidson. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2018 ( tDAR id: 441932)

Spatial Coverage

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

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 393