Historical Archaeology at Hope Plantation Has Helped to Reveal the Past
Archaeological research at Hope Plantation has been an integral part of the understanding of this important historic site since 1966. A number of archaeological excavations have been undertaken dating back to the 1966 excavations of George Demmy and Stanley South. Subsequent archaeological investigations were conducted in 1970, 1976, 1997, and 1998.
Archaeological investigations conducted by Coastal Carolina Research and supervised by Andrew Madsen of the Program for Archaeological Research at the University of Kentucky took place in 2001 and 2002. These investigations centered on initial attempts to understand the lifeways of the enslaved African-Americans at Hope Plantation during the colonial and early Federal periods.
Archaeology is of particular importance in the understanding of African-American history because it provides information on people with few written records, and who were marginalized. The artifacts recovered and their spatial contexts speak to the experience, creativity and the resolve of the enslaved community to retain their traditional West African crafts and beliefs while enslaved.
African-Americans at Hope utilized colonoware, a locally manufactured, low-fired, unglazed earthenware, possibly produced at the site. This ceramic embodies cultural attributes of African-American, Euro-American and Native American pottery traditions and has been uncovered primarily in South Carolina where it was used in contexts which reaffirm traditional West African beliefs and cosmology.
Archaeological investigations at Hope Plantation suggest that a Creole culture developed within the plantation system that was unique to northeastern North Carolina. The Hope Plantation culture likely developed through the interaction of Anglo-Americans and enslaved people, possibly originally from Barbados, as well as the resident Native American Tuscarora community. The resulting culture integrated aspects of Virginian, South Carolinian, African, and possibly West Indian and Barbadian traditions along with Native American traditions and practices to form a culture uniquely suited to the region.
The archaeological research conducted at Hope Plantation in 2001 and 2002 has led to an understanding of this culture during the colonial and early federal periods. Significant intact cultural deposits from 1760-1820 associated with the enslaved community were revealed.
The distribution of the historic artifacts recovered during the both the 1999 ECU shovel testing and the 2001-2002 shovel testing revealed a concentration of colonoware dating from 1760 to 1810. The artifacts were located in an area which showed evidence of a mud-walled trench structure typical of lowland South Carolina slave quarters. Interestingly, the high percentage of locally made colonowares recovered in quantity southwest of the Hope Mansion was similar to the percentage of colonoware recovered from some known slave quarter sites in South Carolina.