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Ken supervising (and sweating!); Ken in front of plantation house with artifacts


Levi Jordan Plantation

Kenneth L. Brown, Ph.D.

by Carol McDavid

Ken Brown


Kenneth L. Brown is the Archaeological Director of the Levi Jordan Plantation and a Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Houston. He also serves as the Treasurer of the Levi Jordan Plantation Historical Society. He has been working with the plantation's archaeology and history since 1986, and has published two major articles (2) (4) about his work there. He has also given countless talks, presentations and site tours about his research to schools, community groups and professional associations, and is extremely active in local and state historic preservation activities. He serves on the Texas Board of Review for National Register sites.

Ken was born in Flint, Michigan, and received his doctorate in anthropology from Pennsylvania State University in 1975. His dissertation was entitled "The Valley of Guatemala: A Highland Port-of-Trade". His fields of specialization and expertise include archaeological method and theory, historical archaeology, Mesoamerican archaeology and ethnology, symmetry analysis of ceramics, and obsidian hydration dating. After a number of years of concentration on the archaeology of Mesoamerica he developed an interest in historical archaeology and, since 1984, has supervised numerous historical archaeological projects in and around the Houston area. He has developed a particular expertise in African-American archaeology, of both the slave and tenant period.

He is currently continuing his work in African-American archaeology by excavating the Frogmore Plantation in South Carolina. In addition to training University of Houston archaeological students at this site, Ken also plans to provide archaeological training and jobs for members of the local descendant community surrounding the site. Over a projected excavation period of two - three years, the site will provide useful comparisons between the archaeology of enslaved people in South Carolina with the archaeologies of the people who lived on the Jordan Plantation.

Ken's aim of developing rigorous methodologies for contextual postprocessual archaeology permeates all of his work, as does his commitment to the public interpretation of archaeology. As Archaeological Director of the Jordan project, Ken is responsible for all of the archaeological and historical data presented here, including work done by his students under his supervision (as they will readily testify!). All of the archaeological and historical information presented on this web site is here because he has generously provided it.

I interviewed Ken to learn more about how he developed the some of the interpretations of the Jordan site, and links to that interview are scattered throughout this web site. Here are a list of topics included from this interview. You can go directly to them if you like.

On Hester Holmes' House

On whether the tenants continued to live on plantation grounds after the "abandonment"

On the original enslaved people who lived on the plantation

On the Curer's Cabin - how the interpretations developed

On the Praise House/Church

On Robert Furniss Martin and his relationship with the Jordan's and McNeill's

On Sallie McNeill's diary [includes ideas about the role that Claiborn Holmes may have had within the plantation community, and on the ways that people within the slave and tenant community may have empowered themselves].

In January 1998, Ken chaired a session about the plantation at the Annual Meetings of the Society for Historical Archaeology; the abstract for that session is below. All of the people who gave papers in this session were either students or ex-students of Ken's at the University of Houston.

The Archaeology of the Levi Jordan Plantation: Abstract for Session

For the past 14 years, archaeological, historical and ethnographic investigations have been underway at the Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazoria, Texas. This session will present examine how a postprocessual contextual approach to archaeological and historical materials, in conjunction with collaborative community engagement and textual analysis of family documents, have revealed a previously misunderstood view of the lives of the people who lived on this nineteenth century sugar plantation. The multidisciplinary contextual approach utilized in this research has not only provided fresh insight into the lives of people who lived in the past, but has also illuminated linkages between those lives and peoples' lives in the present – linkages which continue to develop in ongoing research associated with the site.

Following is a list of papers given at this session.

Links go to abstracts, papers, information about authors, etc. See Maria Franklin's page on this web for her comments on this paper and the others delivered in this session.

Everything they Owned: History and Historical Archaeology of a Tenant Community's Autonomy
Mary K. Barnes

The Jordan Plantation: Black and White Interpretations of the "Backyard"
Rebecca Barrera

Archaeology and Spirituality: The Conjurer/Midwife and the Praise House/Church at the Levi Jordan Plantation
Kristine N. Brown and Kenneth L. Brown

Archaeological Investigation and Interpretation of the Juden Cemetery at the Levi Jordan Plantation
David Bruner

The Interpretation of a Smith's Cabin at the Levi Jordan Plantation
Jorge Garcia-Herreros

Shell Carving and Self-reliance in an African-American Plantation Community
Robert N. Harris

Archaeology and "The Web": Writing Multi-linear texts in a Multi-Centered Community
Carol McDavid

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Carol McDavid 1998