Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Charles Faulkner

Committee Members

Lydia Pulsipher, Gerald Schroedl, Jan Simek


Archaeological interest in the study of slave lifeways on the plantations of the Southeast has steadily grown over the past ten years. Historians have provided insights into the daily lives of slaves through the use of slave narratives and other documents; but these resources rarely discuss in detail the material culture of the slaves, or the complicated social relations surrounding slaves and their master. Archaeological research provides the means to recover material culture of slaves, and significantly contribute to our understanding of their lifeways. To date, the great majority of archaeological research has been conducted on large plantations of the Lowland South, along the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

The archaeological research presented here is a first step in the documentation and description of slave material culture and lifeways in the East Tennessee region of the Upland South. Archaeological investigations were conducted on the Mabry Plantation, located about ten miles west of Knoxville, in Knox County, Tennessee. These investigations were successful in identifying the remains of two nineteenth century slave cabins and recovering the associated material culture. Archaeological research also identified and documented features associated with outbuilding and fences of the razed Mabry mansion, providing an overview of the plantation design and layout. Investigations near the mansion located and artifact deposit associated with the planter, yielding contemporaneous artifacts for direct comparison to those associated with the slave quarters.

Analysis of the architectural remains of the slave cabins is used to reconstruct the characteristics of the quarters. The material culture of the slaves is presented, and interpretations of slave lifeways in this area of the Upland South is provided. A central theme to the research is the comparison of the ceramics of slave and master to better understand the social relations between the two groups. Ceramic attributes used in research on Lowland South plantations are reviewed and utilized in this study.

The conclusions reached in this study are that the Mabry Plantation slave's housing and material culture are not overtly representative of the oppressive and demeaning conditions of slavery. The Mabry slaves, through their own initiative and determination, are believed to have acquired their own ceramics, maintained social contact with other slaves in the area, and preserved their ethnic identity in spite of the surrounding pervasive and dominant Euro-American society.

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