The Archaeology of Spatial Patterning: A Test Case from the Magnolia Quarters in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana



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The possibility of a link between the culture of early enslaved Africans and African Americans and their original culture in West Africa has long been debated. The "gang" and "task" system of labor proposed by Philip Morgan suggests that the enslaved on plantations in the southeastern United States created their own culture with heavy African influence because of the absent plantation owners and overseers. In contrast, the enslaved on plantations in the central southern United States were unable to create their own culture and acculturated into European American culture, according to Morgan. Excavations carried out at the Magnolia Plantation quarters in Natchitoches, Louisiana by Dr. Kenneth L. Brown have revealed sub-floor deposits within the quarters that seem to mimic concepts found in the West African BaKongo Cosmogram or Crossroads Symbol. The excavations also seem to indicate that there was a conscious choice by the later tenant farmer population to place the kitchen or "public interaction" space in the northernmost room of two-room cabins and commercial craft activities in the southern room once a single family took over both rooms in the 1900s. This choice by the tenant farmer population at Magnolia is mirrored by the modern Gullah and Geechee cultures of the southeastern United States, descendants of enslaved communities in that area who have many ideological and material ties to West African cultures.