|Location:||Stagville, Durham, North Carolina|
|Occupation Dates:||Early 19th through early 20th century. Phasing and mean ceramic dates can be found on the Chronology page.|
|Excavator(s):||Jennifer Garlid and Tom Funk|
Stagville was part of an extensive plantation complex owned by the Bennehan and Cameron families from the end of the eighteenth through the middle of the twentieth century. Straddling three counties, the estate attributed to scion Paul Carrington Cameron in 1890, not long before his death, was one of the largest in North Carolina (McDuffie 1890).
The Slave Cabin at Stagville stood approximately 180 feet from the back door of Richard Bennehan’s dwelling house, which was built around 1787 and still stands today. One of a line of outbuildings, including other dwellings, the small (19-x-23 foot) cabin structure was near the end of a short path downslope from the main house.
When excavators encountered it, the drylaid stone foundation was still topped by boards and beams from the demolition that took place only a few decades before.
A brief undated memorandum describes the structures to be built along with Richard Bennehan’s dwelling house (Cameron Family Papers 1757-1978:Folder 3552). It included a pair of buildings described only as “2 Cabins Log Bodys with Cabins Ruffs.” One of the research questions guiding the excavation of the cabin was whether it could be one of those two log structures with “cabin” roofs, thus dating back to the earliest period of Stagville’s history. Evidence from under the foundation suggests that it dates to the nineteenth century instead.
Although it is possible to identify which enslaved members of the Bennehan and Cameron households lived at Stagville, they numbered in the hundreds. For example, Thomas Bennehan owned and lived on the plantation from 1825 to 1847. When he died, he owned 358 men, women, and children. Thus, no particular person or family can be said definitively to have lived in the cabin.
During Paul Cameron’s ownership, he lived elsewhere, either at Fairntosh (a newer home farm), or in town in either Hillsborough or Raleigh. Stagville may therefore be thought of as an outlying plantation in the years leading up to the Civil War. No known archival source indicates the location of dwellings for specific individuals or families any time prior to Emancipation.
Mandy and Fletcher Satterfield, Doc Dosier (a former slave), and “Uncle” Willie Veasey were among the people who lived in the structure in the first half of the twentieth century, according to research conducted in the 1970s (McLearen 1977:44). No other names are associated with the site at this time.
Excavation History, Procedure, and Methods
Excavation of the Stagville Slave Cabin site took place in the summer of 1979. This was very early in the development of what is now called “African diaspora archaeology.” All of the intensive archaeological study at Stagville during that brief period (1977-1980) was geared towards understanding the lived experiences of enslaved people. The report of the project emphasizes explicitly the need to study “the complex network of human interactions that took place” using sources besides texts created by slave-owning elites and institutions (Garlid 1979:iii).
Thomas C. Funk directed the project as a field school sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources—Historic Sites Section, Durham Technical Institute, the Institute for Applied History, Duke University, and Stagville Preservation Center. Jennifer Garlid was a field supervisor and wrote the final report.
Soil probes at 2.5 foot intervals allowed archaeologists to identify a possible rock-bordered path on the west site of the house.
After probing to locate buried stonework, excavators divided the site into 10 foot squares. The next phase of the investigation consisted of surface collection. In total 24 10-x-10 foot units were surface collected. Subsurface excavation was only conducted on five units: 101G, 101H, 101L, 101Q, 102R. These units focused on areas immediately surrounding the interior and exterior of the cabin that was identified by the extant structure foundation. The exception is Unit 102R2, a test trench located approximately 25 feet from the cabin foundation. Units included interior and exterior areas but were divided based on their location inside or outside the cabin. For example, 101GINT and 101GEXT refer to contexts in 101G that were inside and outside of the foundation respectively. All units were excavated according to natural stratigraphic layers. Excavators screened the fill through ¼-inch mesh and maintained coordinate and level information for all excavated contexts.
Subsurface testing identified six possible features that were sampled by hand troweling. Feature fill was dry screened through ¼-inch mesh. In most cases when a feature was identified the feature number was added to the context (e.g. 101L-F02). Although Features 1 and 3 could not be interpreted, excavators were able to assign feature types to Features 2, 4, 5, and 6. Feature 2 was filled with a brown-red clay that contained a mix of brick and rock cobbles. The excavators interpreted the feature as the remains of a rock alignment. The presence of brick and its immediate vicinity to the house led excavators to suggest it might be a possible path leading to and from the house. Feature 4 was a lens of white sand and plaster believed to have been from the cabin. Feature 5 was a circular stain in plan view that the excavators identified as a posthole. Feature 6 was filled with mottled sand and clay with chunks of coal and charcoal. Excavators interpreted it as a possible pile where coal was stored.
Summary of Research and Analysis
The footprint of the house consisted of four to six courses of stone in a contiguous foundation, except for on the east site, where excavators found stone footings, interpreted as a porch.
The chimney base of stone and brick is built into the north wall of the foundation. With the exception of a few repairs, the stone is all dry laid. It is set on a layer of hard red clay containing whiteware and cut nails, leading the archaeologists to conclude that the structure must post-date 1820 (Garlid 1979:12-13).
Window glass was found to concentrate along the west and south walls. The majority of the ceramic fragments were whiteware, but a significant number of eighteenth-century wares also appeared. Other redeposited artifacts include several middle Archaic projectile points. Notable artifacts include a number of personal items: pipes; buttons and buckles; and a cowrie shell. Overall, based on the stratigraphy and mixture of artifacts researchers determined that the interior and exterior areas of the cabin were mostly mixed and redeposited fill.
While the DAACS Phase 1 MCD of 1799 reflects a late eighteenth-century occupation in the area, that occupation cannot be directly linked to the cabin. Based on architectural evidence that suggests the cabin post-dated the 1820s, this early phase may reflect refuse from earlier surrounding buildings or yard activity related to the Bennehan occupation. The additional two phases (with MCDs of 1821 and 1892) indicate that the cabin was either repeatedly or continuously occupied throughout the nineteenth century.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Things you need to know about the site before you use the data:
- Measurements are in feet and tenths of feet.
- All sediment excavated from the site was screened through ¼-inch mesh.
- The excavation utilized a local grid and datum point.
- Each unit was surface collected, but subsurface excavation was only conducted on five units: 101G, 101H, 101L, 101Q, 102R.
- Excavated 10-x-10 foot units were subdivided by the extant structure foundation. Contexts were identified as “interior” within the structure, and “exterior” outside of the structure.
- Context numbers were recorded as created by original excavators.
- In the DAACS database, the Stagville site is designated as Project “1028”. Artifact ID numbers for artifacts associated with the village therefore begin with the 1028 prefix.
- Several artifacts, initially removed for display or conservation, were not available for cataloging. Basic details about those artifacts, based on field and laboratory notes, are included in the artifact catalog.
- No stratigraphic groups have been assigned for this site.
- Dr. Anna Agbe-Davies is a partner in the DAACS Research Consortium (DRC), an Andrew W. Mellon-funded initiative that facilitates collaborative scholarship in the humanities and social sciences, especially in archaeology, across institutional and spatial boundaries.
- Lindsay Bloch, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was Dr. Agbe-Davies’ research assistant during the two-year DRC project. She has cataloged all of the artifacts and context records excavated from the Stagville Slave Cabin.
DAACS catalogers assigned feature numbers using the original excavation records, where possible. Feature numbers assigned by DAACS have an F-prefix, which precedes the number (i.e. F01 equals Feature 1). Many of the cataloger-assigned feature numbers are the same context numbers assigned by the original excavators.
In addition, single contexts have been given feature numbers when the original field records indicate that the excavators recognized a context’s spatial distinctiveness from surrounding contexts. In most cases when a feature was identified the feature number was added to the context (e.g. 101L-F02).
Subsurface testing identified six possible features that were sampled by hand troweling. Feature fill was dry screened through ¼-inch mesh. Although Features 1 and 3 could not be interpreted, excavators were able to assign feature types to Features 2, 4, 5, and 6. Feature 2 was filled with a brown-red clay that contained a mix of brick and rock cobbles. The excavators interpreted the feature as the remains of a rock alignment. The presence of brick and its immediate vicinity to the house led excavators to suggest it might be a possible path leading to and from the house. Feature 4 was a lens of white sand and plaster believed to have been from the cabin. Feature 5 was a circular stain in plan view that the excavators identified as a posthole. Feature 6 was filled with mottled sand and clay with chunks of coal and charcoal. Excavators interpreted it as a possible pile where coal was stored.
There are no feature groups assigned at this time.
DAACS staff performs a standard set of analyses to produce a seriation-based intra-site chronology for each site included in the Archive. We aspire to use the same analytical methods for each site, specifically correspondence analysis and ware-type manufacturing dates, to develop and assign ceramic assemblages from excavated contexts to site-specific occupation phases (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). We provide a mean ceramic date (MCD). The phases are recorded in the DAACS Phase field of the database.
The use of common analytical methods is designed to increase comparability among phases at different sites. The methods, any changes we made to those methods that are specific to the site and the phase assignments our methods produce are summarized below. DAACS encourages users of Archive data to help explore improvements to our methods.
For some sites, the original excavators developed intra-site chronologies and, where these exist, they are described on the Background page for the site. In the case of Stagville, the principal investigators did not develop a chronology for the site. The DAACS chronology presented here is the only current chronology for the site.
DAACS Seriation Method
As with other sites in the Archive, the seriation chronology for Stagville was derived from ceramic assemblages aggregated at the level of individual contexts not assigned to stratigraphic groups.
No stratigraphic groups were assigned for this site at the time of writing. Ceramic data come from five excavated 10-x-10 foot quadrats. To reduce the noise introduced by sampling error, only ceramic assemblages with more than five sherds were included. We excluded assemblages from unit clean-up and surface collections. The seriation chronology presented here is the result of a correspondence analysis (CA) of ware-type frequencies from contexts that meet these requirements (Figures 1 and 2).
The CA results produced a strong correlation between Dimension 1 scores and MCDs (Figure 1), suggesting that Dimension 1 represents time from right (early) to left (late). Based on the dips in ceramic counts observed in a histogram of Dimension 1 scores, where the vertical axis measures ceramic assemblage size, we divided the Stagville site into three occupational phases (Figure 3).
Stagville Site Phases
DAACS Phases are groups of assemblages that have similar correspondence-analysis scores, similar MCDs, or both, and are therefore inferred to be broadly contemporary. Phases have a P-prefix that precedes the phase number (e.g. P01 equals Phase 1). Based on the correspondence analysis DAACS divided the Stagville Slave Cabin occupation into three phases (Figures 4 and 5). Mean ceramic dates for the site-specific phases are given in the table below.
Phase 1 at Stagville is comprised of five contexts from two Quadrats: 101H1EXT, 101H2EXT, 101L2INT, 101L3INT, and 101L3EXT. Phase 1’s mean ceramic date of 1799 is due to the relatively higher frequency of Creamware and White Salt Glaze in these contexts.
Phase 2 has a mean ceramic date of 1821 and consists of seven contexts from five quadrats: 101H1INT, 101H2INT, 101G2EXT, 101G3EXT, 101L1EXT, 101L2EXT and 102R2. A number of these contexts include a mixture of Creamware, Pearlware, and Whiteware but have higher frequencies of Whiteware than contexts from the previous phase.
Phase 3’s Mean Ceramic Date of 1892 is substantially later than the other two phases. It is notable that the contexts comprising it are feature contexts (101G-F06 and 101L-F04), which suggests the deposits may be more intact that those from higher stratigraphic layers. It appears that these features date to a later occupation of the cabin.
Many of the contexts in and around the cabin are thought to be redeposited sediment and it is not known exactly how they related to the construction of the cabin. So while Phase 1 MCD of 1799 reflects a late eighteenth-century occupation in the area, that occupation cannot be directly linked to the cabin. Based on architectural evidence that suggests the cabin post-dated the 1820s, this early phase may reflect refuse from earlier surrounding cabins or yard activity related to the Bennehan occupation. The additional two phases indicate that the cabin was either repeatedly or continuously occupied throughout the nineteenth century. Phase 2 may reflect the construction and antebellum occupation of the Stagville Slave Cabin, while Phase 3 points to post-bellum occupation and activity in the area.
The table below includes the site-wide Mean Ceramic Date and the BLUE MCD, which gives less influence to ceramic types with long manufacturing spans. The MCD and BLUEMCD indicate that the occupation’s temporal placement spans the nineteenth century. The table also provides three TPQ estimates. The first TPQ estimate is the usual one – the maximum beginning manufacturing date among all the ware-types in the assemblage. The second estimate — TPQp90 — is the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates among all the sherds in the assemblage, based on their ware-types. The TPQp95 provides a robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 95th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising it. These last two TPQ estimates are more robust against excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might have introduced a few anomalously late sherds into an assemblage.
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff has identified as part of the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups and contexts are represented as boxes, while lines connecting them represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
Stratigraphic groups, which represent multiple contexts, are identified on the diagram by their numeric designations (e.g. SG01). No stratigraphic groups have been assigned for this site so all contexts are identified by their individual context numbers (e.g. 101H1EXT).
Boxes with color fill represent contexts and stratigraphic groups with ceramic assemblages large enough to be included in the DAACS seriation of the site (see Chronology). Their seriation-based phase assignments are denoted by different colors to facilitate evaluation of the agreement between the stratigraphic and seriation chronologies. Grey boxes represent contexts that were not included in the seriation because of small ceramic samples.
See the Stagville Slave Cabin Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information. Please note that some of the contexts present in the chronology analysis are not visualized on the Harris Matrix. The contexts that are not included do not have any stratigraphic relationships with other contexts. The lack of relationships can occur for a few reasons but two common examples are 1) the artifacts are from a surface collection, which is entered into DAACS as a context but does not have recorded relationships to other contexts that are below it; 2) in cases where topsoil and plowzone are stripped and discarded, there may be features below the plowzone that are comprised of a single context. Since the plowzone does not exist as a documented context with artifacts, it cannot seal the single-context feature. DAACS also does not record subsoil as a context, so there is nothing for that single context feature to intrude or seal.
This Harris Matrix is based on data on stratigraphic relationships recorded among contexts in the DAACS database. It was drawn with the ArchEd application. See http://www.ads.tuwien.ac.at/arched/index.html.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [103 KB PDF].
CAD site plan in .dgn format.
Anderson, Jean Bradley
1977 A Preliminary Report on Stagville Plantation: The Land and the People, Manuscript report on file at Stagville State Historic Site, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Anderson, Jean Bradley
1985 Piedmont Plantation: the Bennehan-Cameron Family and Lands in North Carolina., Historic Preservation Society of Durham, Durham, North Carolina.
Clauser, John , and Catherine Bollinger
n.d. The 1977 Stagville Field School: A Botanical, Geological, and Archaeological Study of Horton Grove., Durham: Unpublished report in the archives of the Office of State Archaeology, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Erlandson, Terry H.
1978 Draft Report: Archaeological Reconnaissance at the Hart House, Horton Grove, Stagville Center, Durham, County., Durham: unpublished report in the archives of the Office of State Archaeology, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Hughes, Christopher T.
1991 The Stagville Plantation Store and Its Implications Regarding Plantation Archaeology, Society for Historical Archaeology Richmond
Lounsbury, Carl , and George W. McDaniel
1980 Recording Plantation Communities, Stagville State Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina.
1890 Map of Honorable Paul C. Cameron’s Land on Flat, Eno, and Neuse Rivers in Durham, Wake, and Granville Counties, March 1890., http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/00133/id/12258: Manuscript map in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
McLearen, Douglas C.
1977 Archaeological Reconnaissance and Intensive Training of Endangered Areas of the Stagville Center, Durham County, North Carolina, Historic Sites Section, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Neiman, Fraser D., Jillian E. Galle , and Derek Wheeler
2003 Chronological Inference and DAACS. Unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Providence, Rhode Island. On file at the Department of Archaeology, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Charlottesville, Virginia.
Papers, Cameron Family
1757-1978 Cameron Family Papers, 1757-1978 (bulk 1770-1894)., Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Ramenofsky, Ann , Fraser D. Neiman , and Christopher Pierce
2009 Measuring Time, Population, And Residential Mobility From The Surface at San Marcos Pueblo, North Central New Mexico. American Antiquity, 74(3): 505-530.