Dungeons, Altars, and Slaves: The Subterranean Material Culture of Christian Slaves in Early Modern Morocco

Author(s): R. Scott Hussey

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "SAA 2019: General Sessions" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The treatment of European Christians held in servitude in Early Modern North Africa continues to be the subject of contention. Robert Davis argues that, out of the million or so Christians brought to North Africa between 1530 and 1780, most were never ransomed and died as slaves. Nabil Matar questions Davis’ claims, in part, because of an absence of corroborating material evidence. Structural evidence is rare, likely destroyed by time and urban expansion. One of the few sites to remain is a subterranean dungeon for European Christians in Northern Morocco: the Mazmorras of Tetouan. In this presentation, I examine the material culture of enslaved Christians in the Mazmorras through its sacred spaces, ceramics, and its carceral function. My research considers the dungeon interior and its relation to the city above together as an object of incarceration. The mechanisms of incarceration is a consistent theme with primary source accounts, including an emphasis on the iron barrier demarking the transition between free and unfree space. Additional themes in the historical accounts are the presence of sacred spaces and the use of ceramics. My research provides support for these historical accounts through architectural evidence and the identification of ceramics within the Mazmorras.

Cite this Record

Dungeons, Altars, and Slaves: The Subterranean Material Culture of Christian Slaves in Early Modern Morocco. R. Scott Hussey. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450311)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -10.151; min lat: 29.459 ; max long: 42.847; max lat: 47.99 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23897