Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara J. Heath

Committee Members

David G. Anderson, Luke Harlow, Nicholas Nagle, Nicholas Honerkamp


Plantation landscapes on the Georgia coast were created and maintained by plantation owners and enslaved peoples with influences from the broader Atlantic World. Slave housing and settlements on Sea Island cotton and rice plantations on Sapelo and St. Simon’s Islands are an especially useful way to examine the combination of African, Caribbean, European, and later American influences and material results of tensions between these influences. However, many previous interpretations of enslaved life on the Georgia coast have been based on standing domestic architecture and enslaved people listed in later census records, creating a bias towards a small subset of the enslaved populations. Here I take a contextual approach to explore the lowcountry in the context of the broader Atlantic World; examine the spatial connection between plantation management styles and plantation settlement landscapes; and critically examine slave housing on the coast; and investigate if there is a connection between type of slave housing and settlement landscape organization. I use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to quantify plantation spaces with Thiessen tessellations at five plantations to conclude that the settlement space of the Sapelo Plantation is significantly different than at nearby plantation settlements. Archaeological and geophysical investigations at Bush Camp Field and Behavior settlements within the Sapelo Plantation show a connection between the geometry of settlement space and evidence of place-making with wattle and tabby daub slave cabins that are similar to those identified in Caribbean plantation contexts. Though plantation owners defined the structure and boundaries of certain plantation spaces, enslaved people could manipulate, maintain, and control certain parts of those landscapes. The degree to which enslaved people could engage in reconfigurations of private places and spatial control of settlement spaces is reflected in the rigidity of the plantation landscape.

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