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Canadian Review of American Studies Volume 23, Number 4, 1993, pp. 139-149 Reassessing the Slave Legacy on the North American South Atlantic Coast H. W.Konrad 139 Lelund Ferguson. Uncommon Ground: Archaeology and Early African America, 1650-1800. Washington and London. Smithsonian Institution Press. 1992. Pp. 186. The timely appearance of Uncommon Ground in 1992, the quincentennial year of European impact in the Americans, places it squarely into a context of heightened historical assessment of trans-Atlantic processes and impact. Ferguson's contribution adds an important archaeological perspective to the historical debate, in this case about underrepresented African peoples whose slave status denied them a voice to express their views. This ground-level view, based on surviving material artifacts, has an important story to tell. Keeping in mind that between 1500 and 1800, six of every seven transAtlantic arrivals in the Americas were Africans (Nash 1984, 141),our knowledge of their experience in no way matches their role. The 1650 to 1800 period covered by this book encompasses the time during which most of the slaves entered the thirteen English mainland colonies. Compared to the Caribbean and Latin America areas, this labour component, or, as put by a contemporary, "the strength and the sinews of this western world,' (Williams 1966,30), arrived late. As late as 1680,there were barely 7,000 slaves in the English colonies, while one hundred years later their numbers had swelled to 350,000 (Nash 1984, 152). These numbers pale when contrasted with the estimated ten million Africans brought to the New World. Within the Vir- 140 Canadian Review of American Studies ginia, Florida, and Carolina plantation colonies focused upon in Ferguson's study, they came to be the oveiwhelming majority of the population. His intentions are twofold, to demonstrate how archaeological research "helps us see the contrast between the world the slaves built and the ones they rejected" (120), and to reinterpret evidence showing African rather than native America origins of plantation pottery. The book has a tripartite structure, with the first section (xv-xiv) reviewing the advances of post-1960s archaeological research, followed by three chapters (1-107) in which the archaeological evidence is examined, and a final chapter and epilogue (109-123) given to explaining the legacy and implications of a more comprehensive and sensitive understanding of the African-American pioneer historical role. Unlike many archaeological publications, this book goes beyond the sometimes tedious and narrowly focused description and visual presentation of endless artifacts. This is not to say that the book is not richly illustrated, it has the obligatory list of figures (seventy-eightin total) and three appendices with seven tables identifyingand tabulating the characteristics of the artifacts (125--45).With over ten years of research dedicated to this topic, Ferguson is in a position to discusspoints of view,or the significanceof his evidence. The "uncommon ground" identified in the title thus suggests a series of themes and issues; about the nature of evidence, about the trans-Atlantic passage of ideas and lifestyles,about the hidden-from the plantation masters and later scholarship -survivals of cultural configurations, and about the historical role of the African slaves. And, it will be such issues that will be the focus of this review. Before addressing these issues, it is worth noting Ferguson's research strategy and focus. He began searching for the "folk pottery of plantations, towns, and Indian villages," known as Colona Ware, in 1979, in order to reveal "strategies for individual, family, and community sutvival" after the minglingof African, European, and indigenous America traditions (22). The concept of Colona Ware is used to account for the complex process of colonial creolization, or the synthesis of the African and indigenous--with or without European influences-traditions. Two years were spent going through a dozen institutional repositories and visitingarchaeological projects in order to analyze the artifacts from "slave quarters, plantation houses, 140 Canadian Review of American Studies ginia, Florida, and Carolina plantation colonies focused upon in Ferguson's study, they came to be the oveiwhelming majority of the population. His intentions are twofold, to demonstrate how archaeological research "helps us see the contrast between the world the slaves built and the ones they...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 139-149
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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