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



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In the Gullah culture - descendants of slaves living on the Sea Islands and Carolina lowcountry - the presence of a kitchen is what makes a family a family. This links back to essentially unchanged pre-Antebellum ideas in that area that evolved from West African cultures: the kitchen was the center of a family’s interaction with the community, and what made the family a part of that community, also linked to the direction north. Historians and archaeologists argue that enslaved African Americans acculturated into European culture, and this phenomenon of African cultural ideas affecting the daily lives of the enslaved was limited to the Eastern United States, due to the frequent absence of plantation owners and associated cultural freedom.This project aims to look elsewhere in the Southern United States, to see if the same ideas of directionality and kitchens are present on other plantations. Utilizing database analyses of sub-floor artifacts from two-room cabins on the Magnolia plantation - occupied pre-Emancipation by two families, and afterwards by one family per cabin - we will determine if a consistent decision was made post-Emancipation to place the kitchen in the northernmost of the two rooms. A project of this nature has not yet been done with enslaved and tenant farmer populations in the central Southern United States, and, if found to be true, suggests that historians and archaeologists must view the culture of enslaved African Americans as having evolved from African cultural ideas, and not from a forced acculturation into European culture.