Intersections of Place, Landscape, and Spirit at Wye House

This is a shortened version of my paper for the 2014 Society for Historical Archaeology annual conference, delivered at the beginning of January. I contributed to the second part of an exciting session called The Intersecting Plantation Landscape. You will be able to find my full presentation, and those of the other archaeologists in the session at our website, created by Terry Brock.

West side of the Wye House garden (1904).

West side of the Wye House garden (1904).

The sandy loam of the tidal shorelines of Talbot County, Maryland made for rich planting soil. Edward Lloyd I came to Talbot County in the mid seventeenth-century, carrying the name of Wye with him as an immigrant from Wales. His slaves built the Wye House Plantation along the Wye River which gave the Lloyds access to the Chesapeake Bay and all of the international trading routes it offered to a tobacco merchant. Within this perspective of the landscape are his story and the stories of the generations of Edward Lloyds that followed him. There is the way he saw his land, the formal garden paths, the plants, his view of the nature that surrounded him, and the place that he had created for himself. But his story is far from the only story, and he was not the only one creating places or bringing aspects of a homeland to the plantation. There were hundreds of enslaved men, women, and children at Wye House and several other properties owned by the Lloyds throughout the county.

The most famous was Frederick Douglass the abolitionist, who was held in bondage at Wye House as a child in the early nineteenth century. After his escape, he gave voice to his experience of slavery and oppression in his speeches and autobiographies. These are helpful to an extent, but for those who could not escape or write or speak, we have to turn to the records kept by the Lloyds, the archaeology of the plantation, and archaeobotany to illuminate their lives and histories.

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Pardon the Interruption

The AiA Blog is back after a six-month struggle thanks to the work of the University of Maryland IT Department. We’ll be posting a back-log of students’ posts from the summer and working to get the blog up-to-date with everything we are doing now. It will take a little bit longer to get it back to looking like it did. The design changes are temporary until I can restore our custom theme.

All of us at Archaeology in Annapolis will be traveling to Quebec City this week for the 2014 annual Society for Historical Archaeology conference, so you can expect to see the research that we will be presenting there soon. Thank you for reading, and we apologize for our unintended absence!

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The Sun is the Same, in a Relative Way

Personification of Time

Personification of Time by Carstian Luyckx, 1650

How well the skillful gard’ner drew
Of flowers and herbs this dial new;
Where from above the milder sun
Does through a fragrant zodiac run;
And, as it works, th’ industrious bee
Computes its time as well as we.
How could such sweet and wholesome hours
Be reckoned but with herbs and flowers!

- Andrew Marvell, The Garden (1681)

The above poet describes the natural rhythms of a garden landscape—the opening and closing of flowers, the path of the sun across the sky, and the movements of animals—and how one can understand time in this way. This intuitive sense of timekeeping seems to be in contradiction to the strict segmentation of many of our busy days into regular hours and minutes. With the advent of “factory time” and a standardization of hours, the day became regimented by the minutes on the clock rather than the flows of nature—corresponding to the similar increased order and symmetry in landscaping, architecture, and dining brought about in the Georgian era—that is, the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (see Leone and Shackel for more information on this process). The world of economic elite during this time became a very segmented and ordered place, including the way they thought about time. However, I don’t think there is a complete separation between an intuitive, natural timekeeping and an artificial, Georgian one.

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A Blogging Evaluation

Word Cloud of the AiA Blog

A word cloud of the AiA Blog, in which the words are sized according to how often they appear in text. Source: worditout.com.

Almost two years ago, I started this blog for the Archaeology in Annapolis project. A little over a year ago, it occurred to me that we should try to understand who our audience is by collecting site traffic data. Though it began as a means of justifying the blog’s existence by showing that people from around the country—and even the world—are interested in our research, it has since turned into an introspective look at how our blog functions, what topics we are discussing, and who is listening. Last week, I realized that the readers of the blog might be interested to learn who else is in their company and what I’ve learned.

Using a word cloud, which takes all of the words used in an accumulation of text and sizes them according to their frequency, I was able to visually represent the most important topics on the blog so far. The cloud, shown above, demonstrates a focus on individual stories, making sense of the past, landscapes, slavery, and communities. Making this cloud has also shown me how overshadowed our Annapolis research has been by the Wye House, which I will try to remedy in the future.

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Challenging Landscapes

The Archaeology in Annapolis crew is back from another Society for Historical Archaeology (SHA) conference, this year held in Leicester, England. Ben Skolnik and I co-authored a paper, combining our research interests and efforts. You can listen to Ben deliver the paper and see the visual aids from our presentation in the video below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLZEKIX9CGA

If you would prefer, the following is the written version:

Challenging Landscapes: Alternative Perspectives of Chesapeake Plantations

When Edward Lloyd, the first of his name, arrived in Talbot County, Maryland around 1660 as part of the original Virginian colonizers, he built the Wye House Plantation at its geographic center, with immediate access to the Wye River, the Chesapeake Bay, then the larger Atlantic world. He erected his house near the cove that cuts into the property, emphasizing his attention as a tobacco merchant to trade through waterway access. He migrated from Wales and established his family estate on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, complete with formal gardens that displayed his knowledge of plant cultivation and the trends of European-inspired designs. We know this through recorded history, and the plantation today is largely held up as an example of Georgian planning and a nostalgic remnant of Colonial times. Landscapes, however, are experienced in a multiplicity of ways. Until the mid-19th century, there were two main groups of individuals living on the plantation—free whites and enslaved blacks—who viewed and moved through the grounds in distinctly different ways. We’ll use the Wye House Plantation and another Chesapeake landscape, William Paca’s garden in Annapolis, as examples.

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A Hothouse Found

The greenhouse at the Wye House Plantation is known for being the only standing greenhouse from the 18th century in North America. When Archaeology in Annapolis began its excavations at Wye, particular attention was paid to this structure, at the request of the owners. My dissertation research has been focused on the greenhouse and gardens, and the various ways in which they can be interpreted or understood. You can read here about the pollen analysis from this greenhouse and its attached slave quarter.

Landscapes never stand still, and though the Wye Greenhouse appears today on its own in the garden, directly behind the mansion with an unhindered view, the scene in the 18th century would have differed. According to the 1798 federal direct tax record, which contains a description of each building on the Wye Plantation, there were two greenhouses and one hothouse that were used simultaneously. The hothouse is recorded as being “16 x16 feet, 1 Story Brick with 4 wind.” A ledger entry from 1785-1787 additionally notes the employment of the workers to build a hothouse in those years.

Ground penetrating radar of the greenhouse and its surroundings.

Ground penetrating radar of the greenhouse and its surroundings. The square shape in red on the lower right represents the hothouse. Source: Bryan Haley

It wasn’t until the tax records were pointed out to us by historian Amy Speckart that we were able to make sense of the anomalies detected in a ground penetrating radar (GPR) analysis conducted by Bryan Haley in 2009. Haley’s report showed what looked to be the foundations of a 16×16 foot structure to the southeast of the present-day greenhouse, matching the description of the hothouse in the historical records.

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