Accepted Papers:

Creolised seascapes: Afro-Caribbean maritime culture  


Patrick Dresch

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper looks at the development of Afro-Caribbean maritime traditions during the 18th and 19th centuries. This includes looking the activities which form mariculture in the region as well as considering their origins. Developing maricultures are considered as a process of creolisation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the archaeological potential of the African-Diaspora Caribbean in a maritime context. The region includes over 7,000 islands and maritime culture has been essential in its development both economically and with the creation of a pan-Caribbean African identity.

Much of the archaeological work done in the Caribbean has focused on the extremes of society, from colonial urban settlements such as Port Royal in Jamaica (Zahedieh, 1986; Thornton, 1992; Johnson, 2000), to plantation sites (Orser, 1988; Singleton, 2001; Hicks, 2007). These studies have largely focused on understanding the region in terms of its economic development from either a mercantile or slave labour perspective.

Seascapes involve more than simply looking at trans-Atlantic shipping in the 18th and 19th centuries. Perceptions of the sea and the maintenance of African traditions and beliefs should also be considered. We must also considered how this is reflected in the ways in which island communities made use of maritime resources, including activities taking place at a local level and the material culture they produced. Maritime culture is then looked at on the larger scale of inter-island trading and its influence on both black seamen and the development of the Caribbean as a whole.

Maritime traditions in the Caribbean have not simply been transposed from either Africa or Europe. Instead we are forced to try to disentangle a number of influences that have come together in a process of creolisation. As such, this subject can be used to examine the broader question of culture genesis.

panel P27
Seascape: anthropological and archaeological approaches to the human habitation of the sea