Yard Areas and Middens: The Creation of Space by the Enslaved at Fairfield Plantation

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Betti, Colleen
Archaeological Anthropology
thesis / dissertation description
Fairfield Plantation in Gloucester County, Virginia, is best known for its 17th century manor house and connections with the elites of colonial Virginia. However, over the course of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries the plantation was home to hundreds of enslaved Africans. Some of the enslaved population at Fairfield lived and worked in the shadow of the manor house where a series of slave quarters, a work yard, and a large trash midden developed over the years. Using a detailed catalog created over the past summer of the artifacts recovered during archaeological investigations of this area, artifact distribution maps are able to reveal how the use of this space changed over the course of the plantation’s occupation. Using the idea that everyday actions can take on the form of resistance in oppressive situations, this thesis aims to address how the enslaved Africans living and working near the manor house at Fairfield Plantation were able to claim spaces as their own within the larger plantation landscape in the form of yard spaces and through their everyday management of refuse disposal.