Against the Map: Resistance Landscapes in the Great Dismal Swamp
Description Archaeology archaeology, diaspora, Great Dismal Swamp, landscape, marronage, wetlands Anthropology Degree Awarded: Ph.D. Anthropology. American University The Great Dismal Swamp, an expansive morass in Virginia and North Carolina, was home to communities of Native Americans, disenfranchised Europeans, Maroons, and other diasporans circa 1607-1863. This dissertation employs anthropological archaeology to investigate how marronage, one form of African American resistance to the system of slavery, was affected by changes in ownership and use of marginalized lands in the mid-Atlantic. Deep in the Swamp’s interior, Maroons, people of African descent fleeing the oppressive conditions of slavery, sought a measure of freedom. Enslaved laborers built canals and harvested timber for lumber companies beginning late in the eighteenth century. Drawing upon the work of wetlands archaeologists to augment the political-economic framework of previous Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study analyses, I explore the how marronage and other forms of resistance were enacted in the landscape. LiDAR data and archival research guide targeted exploration and archaeological excavation to identify possible Maroon sites on small islands in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. I identify two previously unknown sites with long pre-contact histories which later took their place in the vast Maroon landscape. Artifacts and features at the Virginia sites (44SK0613 and 44SK0614) indicate Maroons created a variety of places depending on local topography and relative proximity to the world beyond the Swamp. These investigations reveal a dynamic social and physical landscape of resistance created by generations of people who actively rejected the exploitation and violence of the European colonial and enslavement projects and contribute to discussions of wetlands, landscape and the global African diaspora.
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