For the past 10 days, archaeologists from the Fairfield Foundation joined representatives from several regional archaeological institutions for a consortium promoting a collaborative project unlike any other. Based on the principals established by the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) which foster comparative archaeological research (spanning sites from Boston to the Caribbean), the DAACS Research Consortium (DRC) was created to bring researchers from these diverse sites together in the DAACS lab at Monticello to learn pioneering, data-sharing methods in historical archaeology. All of this is to say, we as a collective group of archaeological researchers want to share data, enhancing our understanding of the experience of enslaved people in the early-modern Atlantic World. Also, if we’re being honest, we are pretty happy to have the chance to sit in a room full of like-minded scholars and talk about archaeology for hours on end!
Last week, the Fairfield crew at the DRC included Thane, Dave, Colleen, and myself (Anna!), who all spent time (along with our lovely colleagues from Drayton Hall, The College of William and Mary, Syracuse University, Boston University, University of Tennessee, Mount Vernon Archaeology, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, Jamaica National Heritage Trust, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of West Indies, Mona, not to mention our fabulous hosts from Monticello Archaeology and DAACS staff), getting trained in the DRC web-based database application.
The DRC training session not only provided a great opportunity for us all to brush up on our artifact identification, but also allowed us the privilege of ogling the envious artifact collections from some of the aforementioned institutions (and maybe squeeze in some scholarly discussions amidst all the ogling!).
This week, Colleen and I continue to work alongside DAACS staff and other knowledgeable researchers to get in-depth and hands-on with some of the artifact collections from the midden and slave quarter areas at Fairfield Plantation. The opportunity to hear the insight of such experienced archaeological analysts has been incredibly beneficial to us, and has also been fun, to boot! We’ve been able to use the DAACS protocols for cataloging on our wide variety of artifacts, and have discovered just how much there is to know about material culture (even when you think you know a little something already!)
The short term goal of the project is that with the help of DAACS staff, each of the collaborating institutions will be able to analyze the artifacts for a particular case study from their own site, and by March 2015 have all of the data available on the DAACS website. From a broader view, the DRC project aims to provide the technological and analytical training and expertise to allow for large scale collaboration among scholars using archaeological evidence to document and explain the evolution of slave societies. We’re headed back to Gloucester at the end of this week (feels like we’ve been gone for months!), but stay tuned for an update on our work with the DRC and DAACS, as the project progresses!