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Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project

Excavations around Yucca House, Melrose Plantation, prior to preservation work on the structure.

Archaeology and Heritage of Colonial Louisiana

Exposure of postholes of earliest dwelling at Coincoin Plantation overlain by a Midden (uneven area, contents removed).

Cane River is a unique region, where several wealthy 18th and 19th century land owners were (at least partially) of African descent. The most prosperous of such families can trace their ancestry to Marie-Thérèse Coincoin, a former slave of first-generation African parentage who ultimately became a plantation and slave-owner herself.

The Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project has consequently been driven by questions about how the plantations owned by Coincoin and her descendents were similar or different from those of European colonisers, and how the family’s properties and material culture changed over time.

Six seasons of well-funded research, partnered with American historical archaeologist David Morgan, have provided fascinating answers to these questions. This research has revealed a strong continuity of African traditions at Coincoin’s property, particularly in terms of earthen architectural forms and locally produced pottery (colonoware). Such African features dissipate rapidly in following generations. Work  has also focused on public aspects of Cane River Heritage and critiqued aspects of its mythos – especially regarding the dating of standing structures at Melrose Plantation.

The George Wright Forum has used the Cane River project as an example of good practice within the Ename charter for interface with local communities.


Related outputs

Publications
  • MacDonald, K.C. and Morgan, D.W. (submitted) African Earthen Structures in Colonial Louisiana: Architecture from the Coincoin Plantation (1788-1816). Antiquity.
  • Morgan, D. W., MacDonald, K. C. (in press - 2011) Colonoware in Western Colonial Louisiana: Makers and Meaning. In Kelly, K., Hardy, M. (Eds.). French Colonial Archaeology in the Americas: A View from the South. Tallahassee: University of Florida Press.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Morgan, D. W., Handley, F. J. L., Lee, A. L., Morley, E. (2006). The Archaeology of Local Myths and Heritage Tourism: The Case of Cane River's Melrose Plantation. In Layton, R., Shennan, S. J., Stone, P. (Eds.). A Future for Archaeology: The Past in the Present ( pp.127-142). London: UCL Press.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Morgan, D., Handley, F. (2006). The Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project: Prospectus and Initial Results. In Haviser, J., MacDonald, K. C. (Eds.). African Re-Genesis: Confronting Social Issues in the Diapora ( pp.123-144). London: UCL Press.
  • Morgan, D. W., MacDonald, K. C., Handley, F. J. L. (2006). Economics and Authenticity: A Collision of Interpretations in Cane River National Heritage Area, Louisiana. The George Wright Forum 23, 44-61.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Morgan, D. W., Handley, F. J. L. (2003). Cane River: the archaeology of 'free people of colour' in colonial Louisiana. Archaeology International 2002/3(6), 52-55.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Handley, F. J. L. (2002). The Cane River African Diaspora Archaeological Project: Introduction and Archival Research. In Morgan, N. I. M., Shatwell, J. (Eds.). Archaeology, Interpretation, and Management in the Cane River National Heritage Area: Symposium Proceedings, 35th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, January 8-12, 2002 ( pp.45-54). Natchitoches: Cane River National Heritage Area Commission.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Morgan, D. W. (2002). The Results of a Geophysical Survey of the Marie-Thérèze Coin-Coin Plantation, Natchitoches Parish. In Morgan, N. I. M., Shatwell, J. (Eds.). Archaeology, Interpretation, and Management in the Cane River National Heritage Area: Symposium Proceedings, 35th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, January 8-12, 2002 ( pp.68-80). Natchitoches: Cane River National Heritage Commission.
  • MacDonald, K. C., Morgan, D. W., Gilmore, R. G., Lott, J., Handley, F. J. L. (2002). Melrose Plantation: the Archaeological Geophysics Survey of 2001. In Morgan, N. I. M., Shatwell, J. (Eds.). Archaeology, Interpretation, and Management in the Cane River National Heritage Area: Symposium Proceedings, 35th Annual Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, January 8-12, 2002 (pp.55-67). Natchitoches: Cane River National Heritage Area Commission.
Public Engagement Activities
  • The project's excavations regularly featured public open days and visits from local summer activity youth groups.
  • Project members (MacDonald, Morgan and Handley) spoke at public Cane River Heritage Area events about their research findings, and attended meetings of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN).
  • Data from the excavations have impacted site interpretation and management both of the APHN and the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area.
  • As noted above, The George Wright Forum has used the project as an example of good practice within the Ename charter for interface with local communities.

Funding

From 2001-2008:

  • AHRC
  • US National Endowment for the Humanities
  • British Academy
  • US National Park Service Delta Initiative
  • UCL (Graduate School and IoA Awards)

Project Leader:


Project Partners:

  • David W. Morgan, RPA Director
    Southeast Archeological Center National Park Service
    Tallahassee, Florida, USA
  • Fiona Handley, Teaching Fellow
    University of Winchester
    Southampton, UK

Keywords:


Further information:


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