I have a viable research question. I have some primary sources. I’ve conducted interviews, formulated hypotheses and toyed with theory. Aside from extensive archaeological training, access to excavation tools and knowledge of how to maneuver the beaurocratic process in order to get approval for digging at a historical site I can’t think of too much I don’t have. Oh yeah — lots and lots of funding.
You may recall from my previous two entries that I have identified multiple parallels between the experiences of Isaac Royall and John Brown. You may also recall that significant points of departure exist in tandem with these parallels. I am extremely happy to have access to the requisite theoretical background in order to draw some of the conclusions I have been drawing. I look forward to continuing to do so as more tools are added to my academic toolbox.
As I reread the entries I composed on the Royall House I think of how grateful I also am to have come across the work of Alexandra Chan. Her excavation at “Royallville” enriched my understanding, as I imagine it did so for countless other history buffs and tour groups. Thanks to her we know about the slaves who lived there, where they likely slepped and what they likely did. Most of all, we know they were there, and have an idea of the tension-laden lives they lived both as part of the Royall household and as Africans newly living in America. My own mental narrative of the Royall household depends in large part on the work of Chan.
Unfortunately, no such excavation has been done at the Brown Mansion. Granted I have had access to invaluable primary sources penned by the Brown family and their associates: among other things ship logs, correspondence, and invoices. No materials owned or handled by slaves in the Brown household have crossed my path. I don’t even have any hard and fast evidence that slaves were even in the house.
No comparable dig has been done at the Brown Mansion? one might ask. Well, dig! Dig, Anthropology boy, dig! Dig for your life! Dig, baby, dig!
Trust me. I would if I could.
I have never, more than now, wished I had training in Archaeology. When working with dead informants one really only has access to their materials. Would that I had a proper grasp of how to track, identify and handle artifacts. Granted, my lack thereof isn’t an insurmountable hurdle. I can still speculate and bolster the hell out of it with theory, expert testimony, and the artifacts (texts) I do have.
But an archaeological dig? Would’ve been kickass.
Oh yeah, and the ability to fund it all.