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Unformatted text preview: um my: uuur u s. Todorov, T. 1985 The Conquest of America. New York: Harper & Row. Walker, I. C. 1972 Binford, Science, and History: The Probabiiistic Variability of Explicated Epistemology and Nomothetic Paradigms in Histori» cai Archaeology. The Conference on Historic Site Archaeology Papers 7(3)::59—201. Historical Archaeology’s Contributions to Our Understanding of Early America Kathleen Deagan HISTORiCAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE EURO—AMERICAN ENCOUNTER There are many important lessons to be gained from research commemorating the first encounters betWCen Europeans and in— digenous Americans. These pertain not only to our understand— ing of post—Colun‘ibian cuitural development in the Americas, but 3350 to our understanding of the new global worid resulting from that encounter. Both of these resuits of the encounter are essential to our attemtats to provide new perspectives and fresh insights into the nature and dynamics of Early American life and the role of America in the early modern world. james Deetz has underscored one of the most important of these lessons, and that is the irreversibly globai nature of world society after 1500. Although this reality has frequently been me— glected or overlooked in many traditional American historical archaeological studies, it is unlikely to be ignored after 1992. Karmam Meagan America is unique in that our cultural roots lie not only in that early world society of the 15005, but also in the earlier and often more insular cultural traditions of both Europe and the Americas. An increased awareness of the multinational diversity of Euro— pean presence in the Americas is another “ieSSOn” being offered through the Quincentenary commemorations, and one brought into focus by the “After Columbus” forum at the National Mu- seum of American History. This has been a particularly impor— tant factor in the formation of Euro-American culture in that part of the Americas now occupied by the United States. As historical archaeologists and borderlands historians are increas~ ingly successful in teaching us, the area comprising the United States was settled and shaped by French, Spanish, Dutch, and German peoples, as well as by the English. And although this fact is obvious to any students of history, we cannot deny that the multinational background of colonial America has not signifi— cantly influenced (or been incorporated into) popular American identity or ideology until quite recently. Several reCent contributions to the Study of early America have emphasized another well—documented, but frequently unacknow— ledged aspect of American colonial history: that some of the earli- est of these events took place on the west coast of North America. We usually think only of the east coast ofvvhat is today the United States when we consider the “first encounters“ in popular for— mats. T his incomplete characteriZation, too, will probably be corrected as a result of scholarship commemorating the voyages of American exploration. Another aspect of the encounter that is rarely addressed in ei«~ ther archaeological or hisrorical research is the role of black Amer~ icans in the earliest contacts, explorations, and colonizations. I would like to address this issue briefly, considering historical archaeology’s role in informing us about these people. Although infrequently acknowledged, Africans and black Amer— icans were members of the very earliest expeditions and colo— nial ventures throughout North and South America. Their omis— sion from the historical record is at least in part a result of the very poor, sparse, and biased documentary resources related di— rectly to colonial black Americans. Black American history is, particrilarly during the earliest periods, essentially ethnohistory in that the events and circumstances of that history are generally gleaned from documents not written by blacks themselves. This is not the only circumstance underlying the invisibility of the black members of colonial society, however. As many con— temporary black historians have shown, there is bias operating in the selection of tOpics for historical research. These topics have not traditionally included black Americans untii recently. One lesson these blaclt historians have taught us is that our concepts of life in early America have been greatly shaped by historians’ perceptions of what is important and interesting, as well as by what is believed to be available to us as inforn'iation. Interestingly, much of the impetus for doing black American documentary history (as with American Endiazi ethuohistory} comes from projects in historical archaeology, whose roots lie in the discipline of anthropology. Archaeologists such as the late Charles Fairbanks (1972., 1984), Theresa Singleton (1985), Leland Ferguson (1978), and Charles Orser (1984) have undertaken }oint archaeological and historical studies of" early black society in the United States, and in doing so have provoked historical research specifically devoted to black Americans. It is also becoming increasingly apparent from such work as that of historianjane ianders (1988, 1990) working with archaeol— ogists excavating at Fort Mose, Florida {the first free black com— munity in the United States), that there may be more documem tary information actually available than is generally assumed to exist. As part of the historical archaeological project, Landers worked in the Spanish archives to try and locate information about Mose and its inhabitants, who were believed to have been virtually undocumented. With a specific concentration on this Kathleen Derian aspect of black American colonial history, however, she found very detailed documentation of these and other black inhabitants of Spanish Florida, at a level of detail sometimes surpassing that available for the white inhabitants. Carmel Schrire also tells us in her essay of a similar bias. She points out that it was generally believed that there were no docuw mentary sources expressing indigenous perspectives on European contact in South Africa; however, historical research was pro« yoked to ask the right questions in order to reveal such native viewpoints buried in the documentary record. There are proba— bly many other examples of historical biases affecting our beliefs about the nature of the documentary record, and archaeological research helping to provide the impetus to correct them. The nature of black Americans’ role in our early history is becoming increasingly understood as a result of these joint historital—archaeological efforts. it is clear that this role was more thanjust an interesting minority presence and that the participa— tion of blacks in the colonies extended far beyond that. Blacks immediately formed alliances with American Indians wherever they went, often resulting in cooperative forms of resistance to the Europeans and Euro—Americans. This shaped not only Indian and slave policies in the European colonies, but also to some ex— tent the course of history in the borderlands of the southeastern United States. Escapes of indians and Africans from the English and the Spanish colonies, for example, created international fricw tion, provoked hostile encounters, and exacerbated the difficult political situations and rivalries in that region of the colonial United States (Landers 1990). According to Spanish historians Consuelo Varela andjuan Gil, the first free black person who came. to the New World was one juan las Canarias, who arrived in 1492 on the Santa Maria as a crew member for Columbus (Vareia 198632). By ijro large numbers of Africans were unwillingly entering the New World and allying themselves with Native Americans. Resistance began nIXLnflLZL/LUUI [Lqu UI‘IULRJIHIVUIL‘H.’ EARLI nivrunrpn almost immediately, and we can see an increasing trend in histori— cal archaeology toward investigating evidence of such resistance (Arron). and Garcia‘Arevalo 1986). The first revolt for freedom took place in Santo Domingo only twelve years after the arrival of the first slave into the New World, and between 1522 and 1553 there were eleven large-scale revolts in the Spanish colonies. In 1533 laws were passed in many Spanish colonies forbidding interaction between Indians and blacks. Blacks were also present on the earliest expeditions in the southeastern United States, with Narvaez in 1526 and with de Soto in I 540. Perhaps the most interesting example in the south» east is the group of blacks with Vésquez de Allyon in South Caro— lina, who in 1526 revolted and contributed to the overthrow of the colony (Wood 1974:4w5). The colony was abandoned and ap— parently many of the black colonists chose to stay behind in South Carolina rather than return to the Caribbean with the Spaniards. it could be claimed that the first Old World settlers in the United States were Africans. These interactions between blacks, Indians, and Europeans were characteristic of the new kinds of encounters and exchanges that occurred as a direct result of European arrival in the Ameri— cas. These new kinds of encounters took place among different European groups, between American Indians and Europeans, and among different American Indian groups. Historical archae- ology is turning increasingly to these issues, because ofits special ability to recover information about the poorly documented and disenfranchised peoples of early America, and its democratic perv spective on the past. I-IESTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY AND EARLY AMERICA A great deal has been written about archaeology’s contribution to understanding ourselves, particularly about how archaeology Kathleen Urngan informs American history, and this does not need to be reviewed here. As james Deetz has remarked, archaeologists should stop spending large sums of money to learn things that historians al— ready know. in order to do that, however, we rnust identify those things that historical archaeology can do that cannot be done by any other discipline. in the many discussions of this issue by historical archaeologists we can see the consistent theme of access to and integration of many independent lines of evidence about the past. in this lies the unique strength and ability of l1is~ torical archaeology. By definition, historical archaeology offers perhaps the only multidisciplinary articulation and integration of evidence from the materialwcultural, natural, intellectual, and social worlds, both in the present and the past. When all these lines ofevidence are integrated in historical archaeology, they should add up to more than the sum of their parts, and they often do. A simple example of this is food and how food was used, conceptualized, and distributed in the past (Reitz and Scurry 198 5}. What we eat is profoundly important in most of our lives, and yet it is not usually documented in a specific way in written records. This is particularly true of everyday food. Historical archaeologists can recover byproducts of food directly from the ground—«bones and seeds mostly—but other kinds of things as well, such as the oyster shells that Paul Huey referred to in his essay. This physical evidence is considered in relation to (10(2le mentary historical sources, which can help researchers learn such things as the sorts of foods known to have been locally available, what goods were imported into a colony, and the prices of food. A comparison of physical documentary evidenCe can help the archaeologist understand what portion of the available food base is represented at her site, or what foods were eaten that did not appear in the records. Archaeologists can then turn to colleagues in the biological sci~ ences to learn how the plants or animals were grown or raised, what was required to harvest or hunt them, in what season they were available, and what their nutritional value was. Archaeolom gists can also turn to chemists and physicists to learn from indi— vidual bone chemistry how much of a person’s diet was plant or animal, or whether an animal came from the New World or the Old World. Once all this information is brought together, archaeologists can refer to the written record to discover if any of the material patterns correlate with perturbations in world economy, in social or racial groups within a community, in trade, or in income. We can learn What role food played in the past—and we all ltnow from our own lives how important it is in the present. The strength of historical archaeology lies in this kind of interw face—to tell us things about America's past that we coold learn in no other way. Many historical archaeologists believe that ar« chaeology can reduce certain kinds ofbiases in our understanding of the past, or in our attempts to understand the past. Most of these biases are rooted in the attitudes held by people in the past who wrote things down. Documents very often reflect what they thought was important or real, their own miSunderstanding of what they saw, or perhaps even intentional distortion of events for political, economical, or personal reasons. There is a certain, unintentional, rewarding quality in things that end up in the ground. This principle might be dubbed “the National Enquirer Principle,” since enterprising journalists have long understood that peoples’ trash can tell things about them that they would not reveal voluntarily. (E refer to the publicized theft of the gar~ hage of such notables as Elvis Presley and Henry Kissinger some years ago.) Post mold patterns, for example, are direct reflections of a house; they tell us unequivocally where the posts were and how big the structure was, among other details. if we had only a verbal description of that house, there would be a good chance it was intentionally embellished or altered for a variety of mo— ‘ Kathleen Deagan tives: to lure a mail—order bride, or perhaps to attract a buyer. Another example: Would you prefer to tell somebody how many beers you drank last week or have them search your garbage every day? Even if you did not mind telling the truth, you proba— bly would not remember it anyway. In this way, archaeology can often learn things about people in the past that they did not even know about themselves. We cannot claim, however, that archaeoiogy itself is compietely unbiased. There are enormous biases created in what is left in the ground simply through processes of postdepositional decay and alteration. We create more biases when we decide what we are going to sample and how we are going to sample it, and still more in how we identify and classify things. Most seriously, we create yet another layer of bias when we interpret or decide what things mean in terms of life in the past. This is because we generally, and usually quite innocently, impose our own ideas about reality and meaning on the remains of other cultures. So we cannot claim that archaeological evidence is truly un— equivocal. However, I do think that if we choose appropriate questions, and borh fortify and balance our insights with the evidence of many parallel fields in the study of the past, we can inform our understanding of early America in ways that we could not otherwise. UNIQUE CONTREBUTIONS OF HISTORlCAL ARCHAEOLOGY We can identify at least five specific areas that have been or can be informed in a unique way by historical archaeology and, in some cases, only by historical archaeology. These include our understanding of the colonization process, impacts, and results: our understanding of the physical world in the past; our undev- ” standing of health and nutrition in the past; the documentation nnpnnnuisuu : IliVlJ ULVUM&\u1A|L‘A/na u. “Hausa .-.V.._.-___... of disenfranchised groups without written “history”; and the documentation of illicit or illegal behaviors in the past. Culture Contact and Colonization l-listorical archaeology has been essential and instrurnentai in un— derstanding the cuitural impacts, the processes, and results of col— onization. Some of the most striking, recent resuits of archaeologw ical investigations into American colonial society concern the overwhelming dominancr: of European material culture in Euro— American sites occupied by northern European groups, and the contrasts between Euro—American sites of different origins. One of the only ways in which the French, Dutch, and English colo— nial sites were similar was in the complete absence, it would seem, of Native American influence in the material world. This is in striking contrast to the Spanish colonies, where Native American items comprise an overwhelming majority of the mate- rial assemblages in households where only Spaniards were known to be living. This is not surprising. The early works of jaines Deere (1977) and Robert Schuyler (1976, 1980) suggeSted that in the past there was a systematic exclusion in Anglo households of any non— Anglo, nonrnainstream elements. This is in direct contradiction to America’s cherished notion of itself as a melting pot. The ar— chaeological record suggests that early America does not seem to have been a melting pot in the Anglo colonies any more than it does today. This is not true of Spanish colonial sites in America, however, where I have already noted that American Indian wares are abun— dantly incorporated into the material life of the Spanish colonists. There. seems to have been a true mixture of Spanish, Native American, and African elements in the daily lives of the people who lived there. This admixture oftraits apparently existed along sex—role lines, in that indian elements entered through women’s l. :3 Kathleen Dengue ARCHAEOLOGY AND UNDERSTANDING EARLY AMERICA activities; Spanish elements, through male activities. Documents show that nearly all of the Spaniards in the earliest colonies were men. They married Indian women and developed a mestize popu— lation and culture that flourishes today in Latin America. The Physical World ofthe Past Another area in which historical archaeology can make a unique contribution is in our understanding of the physical world. With the exception of those rare accounts by trained naturalists who made detailed accounts of plants, animals, and landscapes in the past, we generally do not have any direct record of what either the natural world or the human-«created landscape looked like. A great deal ofthe American landscape of i492 is gone, ultimately as a result of forces set in motion by the encounter. Historical archaeology offers one of the few ways to trace the extinction of the natural world and to reconstruct what might have been. This was once the domain of geographers, but archaeologists are becoming increasingly more involved, owing to our ability to recover and date aetual remains of the past world, particularly greatly accelerated from American Indian resource use levels. l This was not always the case however. One example in which historical archaeology has contributed to our understanding of environmental change in precontact times concerns deforestation in the Caribbean. it has long been part of popular lore that the initial deforestation of much of the Caribbean was due primarily to Eoropean tim— bering pracrices. The University of Florida’s excavations at the En Bas Saline site in Haiti, which is dated from A.D. 12oo to about AA). 1500, have shown that well before the arrival of Euro~ pearls to this part of northern Hispaniola, primarily secondary growth species of wood were used by the Indians (Lee Ann Newsorn, personal corum., 1989). Large areas had apparently al— ready been deforested for farming by the densely settled native inhabitants well before 14.92. In much of the region, in fact, refor— estation took. place after the astonishingly rapid and massive de- mise of the Endians through introduced European diseases. When historical archaeology can add its precise dating to the remains of the plants and animals occurring in sites, we can achieve a “l 1 those segments affix;le by humans. much clearer idea of. what happened to the land. l We all. like to see how America looked in the past; there are innumerable examples: the gardens of Monticello, the streets of Health and Nutrition Williamsburg, Fort Necessity, the Alamo, camps of railroad and ( migrant workers, Slave cabins, and {he d3 Soto trail, The recon, Through our simultaneous access to the social, physical, and net“ ‘5 struction of all of these landmarks has relied on historical archae— Uffll SCiCIlCCS, WC C311 learn things that WOUld DtllerWiSC be lOSt ology. Recently, archaeological work has become more important in helping to reconstruct the natural world. Books such as Ecological Imperialism by Alfred Crosby (i986) and Changes in the Land by William Cronon (1983) are dealing with environmental impact and change related to the arrival of Europeans. The general con- sensus of what happened to the landscape after European arrival is not positive. An increase after contact in the depletion and exploitation of natural resources generally occurred at a rate aborlt human health in the past as well as about the natural world. One example ol'tliis can be seen in the analysis of human skeletal material from Georgia coast missions. Physical anthropologist Clark Larson and historical archaeologist David ".1”hotnas are learning that not only did the American Indians suffer terribly after contact. as a result of disease and population depletion, but that changes imposed by the Europeans caused certain nutritiOnal stresses as well (Larsen 1987). These occurred as a result of the switch from a seminoinadic way of life to a fully horticultural o Kathleen Deagan one, which involved new and unfamiliar food ways, leading to severe nutritional stress and poorer health. Spanish missionaries tried to organize the semisedentary Guale lndians of the Georgia coast into missions where they could live yearwround and farm corn. One of the more interesting insights into past health pro— vided by historical archaeology is seen in the work of archaeol- ogist Steve Mrozowski and biologists K. Rhinehard and K. Orloslci in Newport, Rhode Island (Rhinehard, MEOZOWSkl, and Orloski {986). They have been able to identify the parasites that people there were suffering from in the eighteenth century, ana— lyzing the contents of privies in Newport households. They found that the inhabitants of various households had different levels of roundworm, tapeworm, and hookworm—and the team was able to correlate this information with specific sanitation practices at those sites. The inhabitants of the households, of course, did not know what they had because the parasites had not been discov— ered or named at that time. This is the kind of fascinating and bizarre insight into early America that depends on archaeological recovery and analysis of the material world. T he Disenfl'anchz‘sed The documentation. of un—self—documentcd people, or of poorly documented people, is a major obligation and opportunity for historical archaeology. A true American stereotype is the imporu tant role that the nonelites had in building the country. Pioneers, railroad workers, miners, subsistence farmers, and minority groups were all central, not only to the development of America as a nation, but also to our national mythology and history. Very little detailed historical research exists for these groups; however. they are increasingly being studied by archaeologists, who EX‘JIH“ ine their life conditions, housing, food, and group inflil‘QCElOlh One of the best examples of such a group, American blacks was already discussed. ARCl--1AEOLOGY AND UNDERSTANDING EARLY AMERICA Archaeology is correcting some of the inaccurate stereotypes of blacks in early America as simply a passive, slave population without a culture of its own. An alternative image for black Americans is increasingly evident in the archaeological record, which reveals that consistent material elements, such as ceramics and architecture, which were previously attributed to whites or American indians, were in fact a manifestation of African- American traditions. Resistance to the dominant group by nonelitc or disenfram chised people is an increasingly important theme in historical ar— chaeology. This issue has been studied among historic—period American Indians, as well as among African Americans and other immigrant groups. An interesting study of Chinese—American immigrants, by Roberta Greenwood (1980), has shown that in California there was greater resistance on the part of the Chinese to assimilate American elements than vice versa. This is another correction to the popular American image ofirrirriigrants striving for incorporation into the mainstream, Anglo—based, dominant American culture. Illicit Activities A somewhat more ephemeral but interesting application of our efforts in historical archaeology is the study of illicit and illegal activities in the past. Many such activities were, of course, never usefully recorded in the written record. Archaeological studies are beginning to help illuminate some of these activities, how— ever, such as nineteenth—century opium culture in Tucson, Ari— zona, through the excavation of opium dens; prostitution in New Orleans; smuggling in Spanish ships; and illegal escapcdwslave communities. Archaeological surveys are also beginning to re— cord another poorly documented part of our national mythology, American hobo sites—one of the only ways through which we can learn the details of hobo life in America’s past. ‘th Kathleen Deagan In conclusion, I want to emphasize that the most important facts historical archaeology can reveal to us about America’s past are those that cannot be discovered or replicated in any other way. These discoveries result from the articulation of history, archaeology, biology, and the physical sciences. For the most part, these studies have dealt with the ways in which all classes and all races of people in early America shaped their daily lives and " the social and natural conditions of the world in which they lived. These studies often deal with the underside of American history: exclusion as well as incorporation, dominance and resistance in & addition to the American dream. We think of historical archaeol— ogy as one of the most democratic of the social sciences, and ,- it is highly appropriate, therefore, that it should he an important tool in learning about the origins and history of one of the world’s first modern democracies. REFERENCES CITED Arront, juan J., and Manuel Garcia-Arevalo 1986 Cirnarron. Santo Domingo: Ediciones Fundacion Garcia—Arevalo. Cronon, William 1983 Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. New Yorlt: Hill and Wang. Crosby, Alfred W., jr. 1986 Ecological imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, gooerooo. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Deere, lames [977 In Small Things Forgotten. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchorl’ Doubleday. Fairbanks, Charles H. 1972 The Kingsley Slave Cabins in Duval County, Florida, 1968. Conference on Historic Sites Archaeology Papers 7:62m93. IiO ARCHAEOLOGY AND UNDERSTANDING EARLY AMERICA 1984 The Plantation Archaeology of the Southeastern Coast. Historical Archaeology 18:144. Ferguson, Leland 1978 Looking for the “Afro” in Colono—lndian Pottery. Conference on Historic Sites Archaeology Papers 122684316 Greenwood, Roberta 1980 The Chinese on Main Street. In Archaeological Perspectives on Ethnicity in America. Robert Schyuylcr, ed. Farmingdale, N.Y: Haywood Press. Landers, jane i988 Historical Report on Gracia Real de Santa Teresa dc Mose. (2 pts.). Gainesville: Florida Museum of Natural History. 1990 African Presence in Early Spanish Colonization of the Caribbean and the Southeastern .lzlorderlands. 1n Columbian Consequences, Vol. 2: Archaeological and Historical Perspectives on the Spanish Borderlands East. David Hurst Thomas, ed. Pp. 315—27. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian institution Press. Larsen, Clark S. 1987 Stress and Adaptation at Santa Catalina dc Gualc: Analysis of Human Remains. Paper presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology Annual Meeting, Savannah, Georgia. Orser, Charles 1984 The Past Ten Years of Plantation Archaeology in the Southeastern United States. Southeastern Archaeology 3(t):1—-12. Reitz, Elizabeth, and Margaret Starry 1985 The Reconstruction of Historic Foodways. Special publication of the Society for Historical Archaeology, no. 3. Rhinehard, K. S. Mrozowski and K. Orloski 1986 Privies, Pollen, Parasites and Seeds: A Biological Nexus in Historical Archaeology. MASCA journal 4(1):31—3(). Schuyler, Robert, ed. 1980 Archeological Perspectives on Ethnicity in America. Farmingdale, N.Y.: Baywood Press. [IE ‘l.5ll Kathleer: Deagan Schuyler, Robert L. 1976 Images of America: The Contribution of Historical Archaeology to the National Identity. Southwestern Lore 42(4}:27—39. Singleton, Theresa, ed. {985 The Archaeology of Slavery and Plantation Life. New York: Academic Press. Vareia, Consuelo 1986 Los cuatro viajes. Testamento. Madrid: Alianza Editorial. Wood, Peter 1974 Black Majority. New York: W. W. Norton. Selected Bibliography The following selected bibliography will aid the reader in further pursuit of the subjects presented in this volume. it is not a com- prehensive listing, but may serve as a starting point. To further help the researcher, some of the entries include annotations. ARCHAEOLOGICAL METHODS, THEORY, AND SELECTED SITE STUDEES Deetz, james 1967 invitation to Archaeology. Garden City, N.Y.: Natural History Press. Although written two decades ago, this book is still one of the best basic reference books for both the student and the practitioner of historical archaeology regarding the principles, methods, and emblems of the fie-id. ...
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