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ARCHAEOLOGY LINKS
Description of Site
Continuity
Architecture and Preservation
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Cabins

 

Levi Jordan
Plantation

Architecture and Preservation:

How did the architecture help to preserve the artifacts at this plantation?

by Kenneth L. Brown and Doreen C. Cooper, excerpted from Ken Brown and Doreen Cooper's 1990 article, "Structural Continuity in an African-American Slave and Tenant Community" (4).

Locked padlock found inside one of the cabin areas, in a location suggesting that it was once on a locked door that had rotten and fallen into the cabin.

"…First, the exterior walls of the quarters were made of brick set into a shallow foundation trench. This trench had been excavated about 1 ft. into the subsoil around the entire perimeter of each structure. This construction method had the effect of sealing the archaeological deposits from outside intrusions: for example, the artifacts could not be deposited under the floors from outside the cabins. Second, the ‘crawl space’ between the floor and the soil within the area defined by the wall trench was too narrow to permit the retrieval of a large quantity of materials which might have fallen through the floor boards. Construction evidence supports the idea that the floor was constructed within approximately 4-6 in. of the ground surface inside the structures. Third, archaeological evidence has shown that each of the quarters was padlocked after the inhabitants were removed and not reopened until long after the cabins had begun to deteriorate. Closed padlocks (see image above) and door hinges have been recovered in the same general location within the three individual cabins under study. The closed padlocks suggest that the doors had either fallen or were knocked into the cabins at some point. Fourth, the area of the plantation occupied by the quarters has never been plowed".

Cabin interiors, showing bricks in foundation trenches and items on interior floors of cabins:

These photographs show what is found by excavators now: on the top of the ground, grass; then a layer of dirt; and below it, crushed and broken brick. A few inches into the brick rubble is where the artifacts start to appear, and these increase in density as the brick layer is removed.On the boundaries of the cabin areas, the wall foundations also start to appear, as the grass and soil are removed from the surface of the ground.

"Oral history and archaeological data both suggest that for a time the cabins were allowed to deteriorate naturally. The wooden floors of the cabins decomposed and collapsed onto the ground below, while soil, brick fragments, and organic refuse built up over the deposits dating from their forced abandonment (1890-1891) until 1913. Based upon the family’s oral history, in 1913 the owner of the quarters area contracted with a developer to remove the bricks from the walls of the quarters. Bricks were salvaged to the base of the foundation trench in some areas, but usually the removal process stopped at or just below the original floor level. This action added to the pile of debris that accumulated on the old floor area – as much as a foot of brick rubble was present in some areas tested – and further protected the floor area and the artifacts. In August 1913, and again just over a year later (Creighton 1975), the area of the quarters was flooded, depositing from 3 to 6 in. of silt over the area. This silt effectively sealed the remaining deposit. As a result of these site formation processes, the actual floor areas of individual cabins within the structures could be defined."

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Carol McDavid 1998