Contemporary Landscape Archaeology in the Bahamas
Lecture | February 5 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)
Elena Sesma, President's Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, UC Berkeley
This talk addresses a community-based archaeology project focused on the history of a 19th century Bahamian cotton plantation and the present-day communities who live on and around the former plantation acreage. The Millars Plantation on Eleuthera, Bahamas was established in 1803 as a cotton plantation and remained in operation through the 1830s. The last plantation owner left the 2000-acre property to the descendants of her former slaves and servants at the time of her death in 1871. Many local residents today trace their lineage to the families named in the Millar will, and continue to uphold their rights to the land in the face of a series of legal challenges by Bahamian and foreign investors who would seek to develop new tourism-based economies in the area. In the process of documenting the historical landscape of the Millars plantation estate through oral histories and landscape survey, the research revealed ways that residents today have materialized memory piecing together object, story, and space on a living landscape that has more often been framed as empty or relegated to the past. In this talk, I discuss the ethnographic archaeological framework for studying community memory, historical materiality, and present-day landscapes of southern Eleuthera, illustrating how contemporary archaeology can be reoriented to traditionally historic spaces and landscapes.