Chapter 16 Historical Archaeology: Insights on American History Outline • Historical Archaeology: Just a “Handmaiden to History”? • Hidden History: The Archaeology of African-Americans • Correcting Inaccuracies • Re-Examining America’s History • Conclusion: Historical Archaeology’s Future Historical Archaeology • Looks at material remains from past societies that also left behind written documentation about themselves. • The first historical archaeology in America took place about 150 years ago. • James Hall, a civil engineer, and direct descendant of Miles Standish, located the foundations of the Standish homestead in Duxbury, Massachusetts and, in 1853, he conducted detailed excavations there. Historical Archaeology • During the first half of the 20th century, historical archaeologists labored mostly to supplement historical records. • This perspective is evident in public interpretive projects, such as Plymouth Plantation, Colonial Williamsburg, and the Little Bighorn battlefield. • Such projects concentrated on a very few selected sites, particularly houses of the rich and famous, forts, and military sites. Historical Archaeology Comes of Age • Mainstream historical archaeology began to look at the larger social context, rather than at historical significance. • In the 1960s, historical archaeology began to focus on historically disenfranchised groups, seeking to uncover the history of African- Americans, Asian-Americans, Native Americans during the historic period, and Hispanic-Americans. Characteristics of Historical Archaeology • Modern historical archaeology often has a strongly postprocessual flavor. • Deal with time periods that are considerably shorter than those of prehistoric archaeology. • Historical archaeology is often very close to us—temporally and emotionally. Themes in Historical Archaeology • The study of historically disenfranchised groups. • Questions about the recent past that history books answer unsatisfactorily. • The nature of European colonialism (the developing capitalism of that time) and its effects on indigenous peoples. Map of Monticello New York City’s African Burial Ground • In 1991, the bones of 427 enslaved Africans, interred by their community and forgotten for centuries, were discovered beneath a parking lot in downtown New York City. • In 1626, the Dutch West India Company unloaded its first shipment of enslaved Africans in New Amsterdam (today’s New York City): 11 young men. New York City’s African Burial Ground • The Dutch were experiencing a labor shortage in their colonies, and found slave labor to be the answer to building and maintaining the colony. • 18th century New York law prohibited the burial of Africans in Manhattan’s churchyards. • New York’s African population established a cemetery outside of the city and from 1712 to 1790, the community buried between 10,000 and 20,000 people. New York City’s African Burial Ground • Dr. Michael L. Blakey’s analysis of some 400 individuals from the burial ground found that half the population died before age 12. • Some were clearly worked to death: – Enlarged muscle attachments demonstrated continual demands on their physical labor. – Bones showed cranial and spinal fractures from excessive loads on the head and shoulders. Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom • Fort Mose, 50 miles south of the Georgia-Florida border was the first legally sanctioned, free African-American community in the country. • Beginning with the founding of Charles Towne by the British in 1670, Spain employed free Africans to further its colonial objectives by having them populate and hold territories vulnerable to foreign encroachment. Fort Mose: Colonial America’s Black Fortress of Freedom • Both free and slave Africans were used in military operations, a black militia having been established in St. Augustine. • By 1673, the Spanish crown declared that all escaped fugitives from British plantations were to be granted sanctuary and, eventually, freedom in Spanish Florida “so that by their example and by my liberality, others will do the same.” Medieval Mind-set • The culture of the early (pre-AD 1660) British colonies that emphasized the group rather than the individual and in which the line between culture and nature was blurred; people were seen as conforming to nature. Georgian Order • A worldview (ca. 1660/1680–1820) arising in the European Age of Reason and implying that the world has a single, basic immutable order. • Using the powers of reason, people can discover what that order is and control the environment as they wish. • The Georgian order is informed by the rise of scientific thought and by the order in Renaissance architecture and art. Future of Historical Archaeology • Historical archaeology is today one of the most rapidly expanding and exciting directions in Americanist archaeology. • Challenges to existing histories and the recovery of the history of disenfranchised groups—will generate debates and dialog for years. Quick Quiz 1. _____ _____ looks at material remains from past societies that also left behind written documentation about themselves. Answer: historical archaeology • Historical archaeology looks at material remains from past societies that also left behind written documentation about themselves. 2. In the 1960s, historical archaeology began to focus on: A. Elite colonial settlements. B. Diary entries of colonial women. C. Historically disenfranchised groups. D. All of the above. Answer: C • In the 1960s, historical archaeology began to focus on historically disenfranchised groups. 3. Fort Mose is important because it is considered: A. The first legally sanctioned, free African-American community in the country. B. The burial site of hundreds of former slaves. C. The only former fort that preserved historic documents such as diaries and civil records. D. All of the above. Answer: A • Fort Mose is important because it is considered the first legally sanctioned, free African-American community in the country.
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