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Daily Life

Material Culture

ButtonsThe large assemblage of artifacts at Site 44JC969 attests to the diverse activities that took place in this portion of Southall's Quarter. The most telling are the domestic items related to everyday life—pans and bowls for cooking, metal pot fragments, and a trammel hook for cooking over the hearth. Platters, a sauceboat, a pitcher, and a tureen were used for serving; plates, bowls, dishes, cups, mugs, glassware, and utensils for eating and drinking. Corn, wheat, and possibly oats were used to create meals; animal bone from cows, pigs, turtles, and sheep or goat represent the remnants of meals. The ceramic storage bottles were used for seltzer water, ale, and the like. Pipes were smoked. Basins were used for washing; drug jars, pharmaceutical vials, and ointment pots for ailments; and chamberpots for other necessities. Clothes were cared for with scissors, thimbles, and a press iron. The recovery of a punch-like tool suggests that some leatherworking may have occurred here as well.

Personal adornment was important to the slaves at Southall's Quarter as well, and the recovery of an earring, a cufflink, a copper ring, glass beads, and wide variety of button designs suggests that these items played important roles in establishing personal identity. Importantly, a slate pencil was recovered as well, suggesting not only the ability to write but also to teach others to write.

Three quartered silver Spanish reals were recovered, one of which appears to be a Charles III, dating from 1758 to 1788; another is a Phillip V, with a date that appears to read "1725." None of these were pierced, suggesting that they were used for currency rather than personal adornment. This highlights the level of participation the slaves at Southall's Quarter had in the local economy. It appears that slaves at Southall's Quarter were entrusted with guns, since lead shot was recovered from several contexts. The recovery of flint cobbles, gunflints, and gunflint debitage points to the manufacture of gunflints as an activity carried out at the site. A hammer, a draw knife, and several files indicate that a certain amount of carpentry took place on the site, and whetstones indicate careful tool maintenance.

The recovery of a piece of clock or mirror fretwork, a possible clock key, and piece of unidentified mounting-post-like furniture hardware suggests the possibility that a clock was present on the site. Though the evidence is scant at best, a clock would represent a truly unusual luxury item, especially at a slave quarter. Handles indicate the use of storage boxes, and escutcheons may suggest a limited amount of furniture. A door key found in a subfloor pit suggests that a lock was associated with Structure 2, and possibly also the need for security at a quarter located near an important road but away from the main house.

Wine bottles may have been used for their intended purpose—storing and drinking wine—but possibly for storing other liquids. The recovery of artifacts such as intact wine bottles and fragments of what appear to be luxury items raises the issue of whether the content of the material culture assemblage at Southall's Quarter was unusual in comparison to assemblages from other contemporaneous slave quarters. Comparisons of a number of various diagnostic attributes between the assemblage from Southall's Quarter and those recovered from contemporaneous slave quarters at William Randolph's Wilton plantation (on the James River east of Richmond) and Carter's Grove (just east of Williamsburg) among others suggest potential significant differences. In short, the recovered assemblage at Site 44JC969 indicates that Southall's slaves had higher percentages of ceramic food storage vessels, higher quantities of imported ceramic tablewares, higher quantities of specialized ceramic vessel forms, and a higher diversity of decorative attributes represented in their ceramic vessels than their counterparts at other plantations. Another notable characteristic of the Southall's Quarter artifact assemblage is a relatively high ratio of clay tobacco pipe bowl fragments to stem fragments, suggestive of a smoking population situated close to the source of its tobacco pipes. Perhaps also consistent with these general trends is the observation from the recovered faunal assemblage that the slaves at Southall's Quarter appear to have relied more heavily on domesticated, as opposed to wild, animals than slaves in other slave quarters.

Although the lack of documentary records makes it difficult to identify specific reasons for these somewhat unusual trends in the artifact assemblage, they may be related to the geographic location of the site or the occupation of the slaves' owner. Specifically, the proximity of the slave occupation to Quarterpath Road, a main transportation route between Williamsburg and ports to the east on the James River, and its relative isolation from the master's residence in town may have allowed the slaves at Southall's Quarter to participate in the local economy far more than their counterparts on other plantations. Alternatively, the diversity and character of the ceramics assemblage and occurrence of other luxury items at the site may reflect Southall's role as owner of an important and influential tavern in Williamsburg, and his need to stock the tavern with the most current styles of ceramic wares and other decorative items of material culture. Such needs may result in a higher than average turnover of such wares at the tavern (relative to contemporaneous plantation households) thereby providing a greater surplus of hand-me-down items that might find their way to the slave quarter. Likewise, the slaves at Southall's Quarter may have had easier, more reliable access to domesticated animals through James Southall, who would have had to keep his tavern well supplied and who owned a large number of cattle.