Analysis of Faunal Remains Recovered From the Wye House Located in Talbot County, Maryland (18TA314)

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Bowen, Joanne
Andrews, Susan Trevarthen
Identifying the ethnicity of an historic site can often be a challenging puzzle with many interlocking pieces of information. Looking just at the presence and absence of certain artifacts is not always reliable since the archaeological record has demonstrated that African Americans and whites of varying economic backgrounds often owned or had access to the same possessions. To determine the presence of slaves on historic sites, historical archaeologists have looked not only to the documentary evidence and architectural remains but also to distinguishing patterns in the archaeological record that help to define the ethnicity of a site. Specifically, faunal remains from known and probable slave sites have been closely examined in order to identify possible consumption patterns in the slave diet. One example of how faunal remains can provide information on slave diet is John Otto's classic study of faunal remains from Cannon's Point Plantation in Georgia. Otto analyzed and compared three assemblages (one belonging to a white overseer, one to slaves, and one to the white plantation owner) in order to define patterns of material culture specific to certain groups of people. He not only looked at the presence of species but also butchery marks, cuts of meat, and the differences in white and African cuisine. From his research, he defined slave assemblages has having a large percentage of chopped bone, the presence of mainly head and foot elements belonging to cattle and pigs, and a great diversity in the wild remains. Assemblages associated with whites included sawn bone, higher quality cuts of meat and smaller amounts of wild animals (Otto 1984). Since Otto's analysis, archaeologists have taken a closer look at his findings and have continued to redefine the patterns in species distribution, elements distributions, and butchery techniques found on slave-related sites (Fashing 2005; Bowen 2008). From their analysis some broad patterns have begun to emerge in the faunal assemblages of slave sites, including the relative importance of beef and pork in the diet, and a higher degree of bone fragmentation than in the white-related assemblages. Although broad patterns in slave faunal assemblages have emerged, it must also be recognized that slaves established their subsistence strategies based on the unique context of their circumstances and the physical surroundings in which they lived. For example, a slave working in the field might have access to a different foodway system than slaves working in the house. Furthermore, their relationship to the white owner, their availability to procure their own food, and their association with a local market system are all variables influencing the faunal remains left in the archaeological record. As more slave-related faunal assemblages are analyzed the variability between sites will be better understood and interpreted. For this reason, the faunal analysis of known slave assemblages is crucial to the growing database of slave related studies. In order to test some of the slave-related patterns found in faunal assemblages and to understand how subsistence patterns are formed, this report will examine faunal remains excavated from probable slave quarters and their surrounding yard. In the spring of 2009, Lisa Kraus and Dr. Mark Leone from the University of Maryland submitted for analysis faunal remains excavated from site 18TA314, historically known as the Wye House. Located along the Wye River in Maryland's Eastern shore, the site was originally settled in the 1650's by Edward Lloyd, a Welsh Puritan. In 1790 his great grandson built a plantation home which he owned until his death in 1796, when the estate was left to his son Edward V (Weeks 1984; Ydstie 2007).