From Houses to Homes : an Archaeological Case Study of Household Formation at the Utopia Slave Quarter, ca. 1675 to 1775

Fesler, Garrett Randall, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Deetz, James F., Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Laviolette, Adria, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

The Utopia Quarter archaeological site is located on a bluff overlooking the James River a few miles outside the town of Williamsburg, Virginia. Four different groups of enslaved Africans and their descendants lived at the site between ca. 1675 and ca. 1775. Although historical archaeologists have devoted a great deal of effort excavating slave quarter sites over the past few decades, few of these studies have focused on the types of households and families slaves created. The current theory holds that enslaved Africans gradually developed simple and extended families, and this is not in dispute here.

This dissertation focuses on the rate of growth, the condition, and the character of households and families at the Utopia Quarter, and also studies these issues in the wider Chesapeake region. Three types of archaeological data are used to test and explore household and family formation processes at Utopia. First, I expect to find slave housing units decrease in size over time to accommodate increasingly smaller family groups. Furthermore, I propose that the number of sub-floor pits will diminish as well, as family members became more inclined to share storage spaces. Thirdly, I examine selected assemblages of artifacts in an effort to identify consumption patterns that signify families, finding that well organized households were more efficient units of consumption than unorganized coresident groups. In a related matter, I isolate collections of artifacts that I argue are associated with and generated by women or men, to identify those housing units with a balance of both sexes, and those that predominantly consist of one gender.

The pattern I identify is that slave housing units grew smaller, the number of subĀ­ floor pits decreased, and artifact assemblages changed with time both at Utopia and the greater Chesapeake, largely, I argue, in response to the growth of families.

Note: Abstract extracted from PDF file via OCR.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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