Cat Island, The Bahamas
Since 2013, Eckerd anthropology majors have participated in an annual archaeological field project on Cat Island under the direction of Prof. Allan Meyers. Cat Island was once the home to cotton plantations established after the American Revolution by colonists who were loyal to the British Crown. The student research teams have undertaken mapping surveys at five historic sites associated with old plantations at the southern end of the island. The surveys generated comprehensive site plans of the landscape features, including estate houses, work buildings, stone boundary fencing, and slave quarters. The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Antiquities Corporation, the principal heritage management agency of the Bahamian government. An article on the project, coauthored by anthropology major Anna Shaw ’16, appeared in the spring 2015 issue of the Society for Historical Archaeology Newsletter.
Investigations at the Golden Grove plantation, site of an 1831 slave uprising, have revealed a remarkable archive of sailing vessel images that were engraved into the stucco exteriors of estate buildings. Generally associated with people of African heritage, such ship drawings are unique to the Caribbean region. Their exact meaning is still unknown. Students documented over 170 ship images at Golden Grove. In the video below, Rebecca Perez ’15 creates a wax rubbing of sailing ship depicted on a column.
Mary Pellegrino ’09 and Kyle Peters ’09 participated in a mapping survey of Hacienda Dolores Ake, a 19th-century plantation in central Yucatan. The survey focused on a small ruined village where hacienda laborers once lived. The project explored village layout and design elements, as well as the characteristics of more than 80 elliptical Maya dwellings within it. The research undertaken by the anthropology majors has improved our understanding of the material conditions that shaped the experiences of rural hacienda laborers in Yucatan before the Mexican Revolution.
Sarah Levithol ’08, now a doctoral student at Vanderbilt University, conducted a mapping survey of Hacienda Xucú (pronounced Shoo-KOO). The 19th-century plantation site is southeast of Merida, Yucatan’s state capital. Her survey focused on the village quarters where plantation workers had lived before its abandonment. Sarah’s senior thesis at Eckerd explored plantation social organization as reflected in the frequency, size, and placement of dwellings. Drawing on her fieldwork experience in Yucatan, Sarah co-authored an article that was published in the Winter 2008 issue of the Journal of Field Archaeology.
Ethnoarchaeology & Geochemistry
Whitney Neugebauer ’09, an anthropology and geology double major who is now in graduate school at the University of Washington, conducted a study of soil chemistry patterns around a recently abandoned house site near the Hacienda Tabi Reserve. With the assistance of local translators, Whitney collected ethnographic information from the Maya-speaking former inhabitants of the site. She then mapped the site and collected soil samples across the floors of what were once a thatched roof Maya house and kitchen. She analyzed the soil samples in a field lab for key chemical signatures. Her senior thesis compared the ethnographic information with the resulting chemical concentrations in and around the house and kitchen. In doing so, the thesis tested a model of soil chemistry that is used by scientists studying more ancient Maya archaeological sites.