2011 Altshuler Scholars

This year, The Department of Anthropology has awarded summer research funds to two undergraduates.

Alex Brown

Alex BrownThis summer, I will be conducting a materials characterization analysis of ceramic sherds from a Woodland Period (1000 BCE – CE 1600) Algonquian site located on the York River.  X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF), which uses X-ray technology to determine the chemical make-up of a sample, will enable me to compare the elemental composition of ceramics from the Kiskiak site to the composition of clay sources throughout Virginia.  Establishing changes in the proportion of local to non-local ceramics over time will allow me to evaluate which of two competing models best describes exchange patterns in the Chesapeake during the transition to agriculture and sedentism.

            This XRF analysis links methods drawn from physics, chemistry, and geology to questions concerning Native social histories and is an example of archaeometric approaches rarely employed in the Chesapeake.  I am particularly excited about it because I participated in excavating the Kiskiak ceramics last summer, and now I will be able to follow them through the process of analysis.  Hopefully, in some way I will also be able to contribute to a fuller understanding of the Late Woodland Period.

Meg Southern

Meg SouthernMy research critically examines the previously excavated archaeological collection of Stewart Hall, an 18th century urban site in St. George’s, Bermuda. This project attempts to answer questions pertaining to resistance through the adaptive reuse of European ceramics. How did the enslaved peoples of Stewart Hall employ European ceramics to resist the political economy of the island in the 18th century? How does the adaptive reuse of European ceramics speak to the lives of enslaved Bermudians in the 18th century, both at Stewart Hall and at other sites on Bermuda?

            Due to the fact that Bermuda has limited natural clay sources, the production and sale of the low-fired earthenware ceramics typically associated with enslaved populations in the Atlantic world did not develop on the island. Instead, enslaved Bermudians were consuming European wares. In this vein, the use of European vessels and forms by enslaved individuals can be expected to show signs of use differing from European intention, termed adaptive reuse. European ceramics used by enslaved Bermudians are also expected to show signs of non-European symbolism and redesign. One example of this, as seen on archaeological sites of enslaved populations throughout the Atlantic world, is the incision of African religious symbols on the bottom of European ceramic vessels. I assert that enslaved Bermudians were active participants in the political economy of the 18th century rather than passive receptors, and that the adaptive reuse and repurposing of European ceramics is evidence of their resistance to the 18th century European precedent.

     To complete my project, I will spend two months of the summer in the Bermuda National Trust Archaeology Lab in St. George’s, Bermuda identifying and cataloguing artifacts stored there from the 1989–1990 excavation of Stewart Hall.  This research will entail no new excavation, but rather relies solely on the handling and cataloguing of artifacts from the prior excavations at Stewart Hall.  During the week of March 7th, I isolated the 18th century contexts from the existing context register compiled by the excavators in 1990.  Between May 15th and July 6th, I will pull only the artifacts from those 18th century contexts of Stewart Hall from their storage boxes in the archaeology lab in St. George’s, spread them across the lab table one bag at a time, and examine each artifact individually for signs of use wear.  I will catalog artifacts using the St. George’s Archaeological Research Project’s database, which is being developed from the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery and from the Florida Museum of Natural History’s artifact database.  I will also spend time in the Bermuda National Archives researching the written record of Stewart Hall and enslaved peoples on the island.   My research will also draw largely from previous archaeological studies of slave sites in urban areas