Apr 10

African American Archaeology

Guest Lecturer: Mieka Brand, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology

Mieka Brand is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. Her research explores the process of history production in Proffit, a place that has recently transformed from being an obscure residential periphery of the small city of Charlottesville in central Virginia, to being highlighted as an Historic District of national significance. She focuses on the diverse narratives, or 'histories,' that have been-and continue to be-created about Proffit's past, and study the ways narrators locate Proffit as a social space within historical time. In conducting her research she combines ethnographic research with a close investigation of the records produced by and about Proffit's residents.

ABSTRACT: Archaeology of the African diaspora is a subfield of archaeology that has become especially prominent in the past 30 years. In my talk I will outline the historical, political, and academic context within which African diasporic archaeology emerged; I will then discuss the goals of this subfield and the methods for attaining these goals; finally, I will briefly discuss some of the pros and cons in the current goals and how I see the field developing.



Archaeology: the study of the human past. Begin by constructing a cultural chronology, then reconstruct past lifeways, finally, discover the processes that underlie and condition human behavior.

Historical Archaeology: the study of human behavior in the past through material remains, but also through written (and other) records. Archaeological Record: the surviving physical remains of past human activities.

Material Culture: The artifacts and ecofacts used by a group to cope with their physical and social environment

Written record: The surviving written documents produced during the time that the site was occupied. Might include census data, diaries, appeals, court records, newspapers, any state or federally-produced documents.

Feature: fire hearths, architectural elements, artifact clusters, garbage pits, soil stains.. and any other evidence of human activity that is not portable.

Artifact: portable / moveable remains. Social attributes vs. functional attributes (did artifacts change because of the physical conditions? Because they figured out a better way to do things, or because some aspect of the society changed?)

Stratigraphy: layers in a site; represent a chronology - generally the highest is the most recent whereas the lowest is the oldest.

Horizon: One level within the stratigraphy; represents one period

In situ: artifacts are left in their context

Homology: similarity in features and artifacts are attributable to a common origin

Analogy: similarity in features and artifacts are attributable to similar conditions-perhaps responding to similar environmental or social conditions.

Multivalency: When an object or a set of objects take on strikingly different meanings for different social groups, with dominating groups often totally ignorant of the meaning system of subordinated groups. African Americans and European Americans used a similar range of objects, but at times in different ways.


Syncretic processes


Day-to-day experiences