Last updated: July 21, 2021
Stephen C. Lubkemann, George Washington University
December 13th, 2015
This presentation takes one slaver shipwreck in South Africa as a point of departure for a broader collaborative investigation of the transatlantic slave trade, and possibilities for more meaningful incorporation of maritime archaeology into study of the slave trade. This research incorporates excavation of the wreck with archeological investigation of associated terrestrial sites at points of origin and destination along with archival and ethno-historical research. Lubkemann discusses how a meaningful process for engaging communities who are stakeholders in slave trade sites emerged from collaborative efforts of the researchers and heritage institutions involved.
On January 14th we will hear from Michael Faught, who is the Principal Investigator for SEARCH, Inc. and he'll give a talk entitled “Submerged Prehistoric Sites: Pioneering Into The Deep.” The last marine transgression started about 14,000 years ago at a time when we know that people are in the New World, and given the extent of the continental shelves, there must be many archaeological sites throughout the world that were drowned by sea level rise. Michael's presentation will outline the history of the sea level rise and show the chronology of people that would have been affected by it and some of the sites that are known in North America. The potential for information from submerged archaeological sites to resolve fundamental questions in archaeology has greatly expanded in the last several decades. This is a really exciting time to be involved in maritime archaeology.
I'm looking forward to this talk and I know that you are too. It will be the first webinar in the new year, and after the Society For Historical Archaeology conference that will be held here in Washington DC. Please be safe in all your holiday travels and I hope to see many of you at the conference. As always, please set your phone to mute and don't put us on hold to answer phone calls. Our speaker today, Stephen Lubkemann, of George Washington University, is the founder of the African Slave Wrecks Project, which has been investigating the slave ship Sao Jose. The Sao Jose sank off Cape Town on its way from Mozambique to Brazil in 1794 while carrying more than 500 slaves. Steve's presentation is going to use the investigation of the Sao Jose as a point of departure for a discussion of the potential for broader collaborative investigations of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and possibilities for more meaningful incorporation of maritime archaeology into this research.
Since Steve will be focusing on the global dimensions of investigating the trans-Atlantic slave trade and integration of stakeholders in research and conversations, I urge you all to watch the 60 Minute segment about the Sao Jose. I sent the link to the program out earlier today. Besides the nice interview with Steve there were some very powerful statements by Lonnie Bunch, the Director of the National Museum of the African American History and Culture. The Smithsonian also put together a short video on the Sao Jose. The link will come up if you Google the name of the ship or the Slave Wrecks Project. If you can't find it, shoot me an email and I can send you that link as well. I think that I'll be able to put these links up also up when we post the recording of this webinar, so it'll be accessible to people that way, and hopefully we'll have that up in a week or so. I want to thank everyone who was able to join us today despite sending out the announcement very late, and Steve, thank you for accepting our invitation to speak today.
Stephen: Thank you very much.
Karen: Now you will switch to your presentation.
Stephen: Thank you, okay. Did that come up?
Karen: Yes. Well done, you're on your way.
Stephen: Okay, firstly I just want to say thank you very much for the invitation. It's a real pleasure to be able to present a little bit about this project and talk about this particular shipwreck that has gained some ... Has some sort of profile at the moment I guess, as a result of things like 60 Minutes and the news, and because of the role it played in the museum, the mall, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. It's particularly a pleasure to present here because the project has benefited enormously from contributions made by the National Park Service and, in fact, you'll see here that there a number of co-authors to this presentation and some of them are actually here. If I can't answer questions they probably will be able to answer those on my behalf. I only wish that Jaco Boshoff, who is sort of the point of the spear on the actual Sao Jose portion of this project could join us but the time difference makes that a little bit of a challenge, because he's in South Africa.
I want to talk a little bit about the Slave Wrecks Project in general. The particular story of the Sao Jose Paquete de Africa is part of a much broader effort and the investigation of this particular shipwreck on this particular site has actually played a role in redefining that project. If you will bear with me for a few minutes and let me just give you a little background, and I will be able to talk to you about the project writ large through the lens of this particular effort on this particular site.
First of all, just to talk a little bit about the rationale for the project in the first place. A number of years ago, probably about a decade ago, several of us, including Dave Conlin, from the Submerged Resources Center in the National Park Service, and Jaco Boshoff from IZIKO began to look into this question of what maritime archaeology had actually done in terms of making a contribution to understanding the slave trade, what role you would expect that perhaps there would be a significant body of work that been developed in the field, even though the field, as we all know, is fairly new. When we look at the documentation that exists, for example, if you look at the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database, which has records of over 30,000 different voyages at this point, and actually is fairly north of that at the moment, they already document at least 1,008 vessels that shipwrecked while they were slaving, while they were actually carrying slaves. That actually bears noting that that probably is a fairly dramatic underrepresentation of the total number that are out there, because of course that doesn't account for all the vessels that were en route to slaving that shipwrecked, and by their own estimation, that project has probably covered only half, at best, of the slaving voyages, and is particularly weak when it comes to, for example, the Portuguese archives. The Portuguese are the first and the last involved in slaving.
We should expect, reasonably, that there might be 3 or 4 times as many shipwrecks of slaving vessels out there, yet, as you can see, to date, only a handful of searches or even documentation efforts of slaving vessels have occurred. I list a number of these here. Some of you may be familiar with these, for example the Henrietta Marie, the Fredensborg, the James Matthews. There are some searches that are underway at the moment, the LAMP Organization on the bar of St. Augustine, there is a very interesting effort by the Scheepvart Museum in Leusden doing work in Suriname. It's a very limited list. This is list is actually larger than it was when we started the project, or conceptualized the project in 2008. There's some issues even with these limited efforts. At the moment, all are single event ship investigations and are not necessarily integrated into investigation of broader questions or the broader historiography of the trade. Of the list that I have here, only 2 have really used accepted archaeological practices or standards. A number have, in fact, been extensively salvaged or worked again on them after salvers discovered that they weren't as interested in them. They have done a certain amount of damage. 4 actually of these were former slavers that had been converted to other uses or were on other legs of the trade when they foundered. In fact, the most promising 2 here are the ones that are underway. They haven't yet been located here.
There's a really dramatic difference between the searches that have taken place and the potential that's out there. This, I think, informed our original rationale for developing a long term project that would try to change that. I think there are 2 dimensions to this. One is we're very interested in exploring what maritime archaeology can contribute to the study of the slave trade and its global and local effects. It's one of the processes, really, that constitutes the modern world. I think that it's quite remarkable as much as computers sort of are pervasive and ubiquitous and have a sort of cross-cutting effect, the slave trade in its day, particularly from the late 17th century and through the middle of the 19th century, really played a significant role in so much of what we think of as the constitution of the modern world. The Sao Jose, as I'll be able to talk about in a few minutes, begins to illustrate that in a very concrete and compelling way.
What are some of the potential contributions? I think it's important, as we talk about what maritime archaeology could contribute, to realize that at this moment, we are still talking largely about potential. With that few searches, few searches I talked about, we have to talk more about what could happen than what has happened to date. In fact, as some of you may know, the Sao Jose is arguably the first archaeological study, ship, that actually was carrying slaves when it went down, so we're sort of in the infancy of this line of research. I think that there's an enormous amount of potential. First and foremost we have to think the slaver wrecks are really the most direct material vestige of the middle passage experience. Simply for that reason I think they bear investigation.
We often don't realize the extent to which they are, what I have determined socially eventful, differentiated, and transformative space. I talk about slaver ships as sort of locations in which people cross existential thresholds. Those ships are archaeological traces. What I mean by that, clearly these are places in which people spent actually considerable amounts of time, sometimes more time than we often realize. As we look into the scholarship of the slave trade we find that in certain eras, especially later in the slave trade, ships often would collect slaves for weeks or even months at a time along the west coast of Africa. These places became locations in which people didn't spend just a few days but they spent sometimes months at a time. That invites us to look at archaeological analogies because we don't have many, any investigations of slave wrecks and think about what we might potentially find.
I just give as one example, even though it was not a particularly a sound archaeological study, it was still illustrative of the fascinating potential, the work that was a done a number of years ago, maybe 2 decades ago, in the sites where the convict wrecks in Bermuda were. You'll see a small ... Let’s see if this works ... The bottom photographic you see there were carvings that the convicts made. Some of you may be familiar with the studies of carvings by convicts in the land-based business but this also occurred on the convict wrecks and included quite a few religious icons, things that potentially gives us some purchase, some insight into the experience that people were having in these enormously difficult places. We know from the work of nautical archaeologists who have found markings related to the construction of ships, on ships timbers, that these types of things under the right conditions can be preserved. It's not beyond the realm of possibility that we would find people who are experiencing the kind of experiences that slaves did, in a ship's hold, could have left things that we may discover eventually as graffiti, under the right conditions, or that are analogous to the carvings that people, who are going through these types of experiences -- as we know from other types of archaeological records -- tend to leave a mark of what that experience was. You can use this to, in fact, try to investigate that.
I think that slave ships are enormously important for looking at insights into hidden transcripts and to resistance. Somewhere north of 15% -- ranging at different times in the trade to 20% -- of the ships that were slaving that did shipwreck did so because of slave rebellions. In fact there are 3 vessels that we are actively looking at that are not the Sao Jose -- 2 in Mozambique, 1 in South Africa -- that wrecked precisely for this reason. This offers us another topic to investigate.
Understanding the entanglements between slaving and other trades and activity. I'll talk about this in the context of the Sao Jose in a minute, but realizing how intertwined the slave trade was as an era of globalization was coming into being. I think that's a state that we can investigate archaeologically. There's another aspect here too, which is that, interestingly enough, we've had historians who will come and say, "This is truly one of the most documented trades, that's why there's such a huge historiography on it." It was documented because, for a variety of different reasons and from different perspectives, in particular taxation, other types of regulation, a highly regulated enterprise. We know that, accordingly, these documents reflect considered efforts to truly manage the record. This isn't surprising for those of us who work in archaeology and realize that different perspectives can be brought to bear from an examination of the effects of behavior rather than simply the texts themselves.
Just giving as an example, if you go to the Transatlantic Slave Database there's a record of 71 trips between Benguela and, I believe, it's Rio, Brazil that shows exactly the number of slaves, same slaves getting on and off in every trip. That's statistically improbable if not simply impossible because of the differences in time, and what colony, and so forth. We know that these were managed and there is really a role that maritime archaeology could potentially play. Of course we think that those of you who have worked in maritime archaeology, there are some advantages to submerged sites. In a place that is a shipwreck trap in which shipwrecks are coming and end up on top of each other, you sometimes have locations that haven't been disturbed, they certainly haven't been built upon. Of course the contemporaneity of the artifact assemblage is something that offers all sorts of different possibilities. We're not looking at things that are potentially within a decade of each, but when you're on a shipwreck you're really looking at things that were contemporaneous to the day and the hour in many cases, with some important caveats such as site formation There's an awful lot of potential, we believe, for maritime archaeology to contribute to an understanding of the slave trade and this has yet to be tapped.
I think that there's another side to this. We are very interested in the project, and the originators, in what aspects of maritime archaeology of the slave trade can contribute to maritime archaeology itself. There are a couple of things [inaudible 00:20:01] here. We need maritime archaeology to broader dialogues, and we could say, with reference to some of the books talk about the decolonizing move to become [inaudible 00:20:14]. What do I mean by that? There's a [inaudible 00:20:18] fairly young field, but it's been around for several decades. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies done of all sorts of different types of ships, but some of these hold pride of place, often warships, ships that are part of -- if you want -- grand narratives of history, and yet we have to think very carefully is there ...
It's rather remarkable that perhaps the one process that was mediated by the maritime environment, that was most important in the creation of the modern world, of the slave trade itself, and that was so enormous, not just in impact but in volume, why is it that that has not been the subject of a concerted effort in the field? What does that say about the field itself? I think that there's something the field itself may need that the project hopes to bring, and inform, and critically stimulate others to take up this topic, because of its importance. I think it can, at the same time, pose new questions and it stimulates things within the field. For example, the role of the slave trade in the development and selection and use of medieval technologies. It has not yet been taken up, and yet there are extensive records. We recently, even in the course of our own investigations, come across records in which Portuguese in East Africa in the mid-18th century are recommending buying the ships from the American shipbuilders in Baltimore because they are so much faster and can outrun privateers. Of course this is something that we think is worth investigation and could be a contribution, even within the narrow confines of nautical archaeology.
I'll talk about the last point that I have on this slide about framing research as a social practice. The maritime archaeology of the Slave Wrecks Project was really born, first and foremost, through an engagement in the developing world in Mozambique and South Africa. It refutes our understanding of what maritime archaeology needs to be in order to actually accomplish archaeological objectives, in order to make sense in places that have very different social and economic circumstances than those that might prevail in the United States or in Europe. I think that -- I'll go into this a little later -- our concern has been how is it that we render this practice relevant to people on their own terms as these are and as these prevail in these countries. I think that that's important. It's very easy to insist on a series of standards and practices and not consider the circumstances that need to exist in order to make those viable, and we are concerned with that. We think that maritime archaeology, especially as it moves into places like Africa and the developing world, should consider those.
I'm just going to mention very briefly that we are hoping actually to hold, in 2016, what may eventually become a tri-annual conference on the maritime archaeology of the slave trade in which we have to bring together those people who are engaged in this effort. Having given you this background let me move on now and just talk about the Sao Jose. If you will bear with me just a minute, I'm going to try to show you this very brief video. Moment. Karen, is that showing up?
Karen: It is. It's taking a little bit of time to catch up but yeah, I think we have images.
Stephen: All right, let me play this for you.
Speaker 3: ... company arrived at this remote place, bringing [inaudible 00:24:33] that it was impossible ...
Stephen: I'm sorry, just a moment. A glitch here. One second. I'm getting just the audio but not the picture.
Karen: Yes. That's too bad, it was working earlier.
Stephen: Okay, give me one second, I'm going to try one more thing here. And ...
Steve: At the end, I will try to bring that video up for those of you who are interested in it. Let's just proceed. We talked a little bit about the wreck of the Sao Jose, which some of you may have seen on 60 Minutes or read about in the New York Times. This ship departed in 1794 from Lisbon and went to Mozambique Islands carrying slaves from Mozambique Islands to Maranhao, Brazil when it encountered difficulties and wrecked on December 1794 near Cape Town, struck at 2:00 AM in the morning. It didn't sink, it struck at a particular place - we have a very specific account - in an area that was actually fairly consistently monitored at that time between two reefs under this. You see that promontory there, it's known as the Lion's head in Cape Town.
It lasted until sometime in the mid-morning. They were able to put a line ashore and the people, which refers to the crew and 280 of the enslaved were saved but we have 212 slaves that actually perished in the event itself and 12 more within a week after the wrecking event. This is an aerial view of the site, if I can move the pointer, okay, little technical glitch, but you can see in the very middle of that stream there's a slight crease in between the blue mark, in between the two reefs.
This is where it's located and as you see it looks fairly close to shore. It was very interesting, I was telling Karen about this earlier, when the waves kick up in this area as it did in the ceremony that we held, the memorial ceremony in June, you can see why people would not survive what might be a 400 or 500 feet to shore, especially if they were weakened by the experience of being in a slave hold and often probably would not know how to swim. It's quite remarkable that any of the slaves survived, in fact, probably only because they were able to get that line ashore.
This is some of the work that's been done on the site over the last year and a half, it's an enormously difficult site to work on. Dave Conlin who's here has actually been on the site. We've been focusing in one particular area. Some of the technical challenges - I often describe this - this is one of the best days of visibility that we were able to take pictures on. There's an enormous sand overburden, in fact it varies from year to year and season to season, but sometimes it's as high as 15 feet, I don't think it's ever been lower than 7 or 8 feet. It's the kind of thing that you actually remove sand, you need to document what is there and the sand will cover it up, often before the next dive or a great part of it. It's in fairly shallow water, somewhere in the vicinity of 20 feet, which, given the exposure to the ocean, means that the surge has huge effects.
It's a little bit like diving in a washing machine and a washing machine with really, really cold water to boot. This is South Africa but, of course, it receives currents that come up from the Antarctic. There are other types of things that potentially could be challenging haven't been so far, we haven't had issues even though you can technically see that island where National Geographic likes to show sharks coming out and hitting seals. We have taken measures to protect ourselves from that by encircling the site with graduate students, so far, no problems with them, no problems with us. All joking aside it is in fact a very challenging site to work on and the weather itself offers very limited windows and we've had seasons when we were trying to work on this that we're shut out entirely and nobody dove for weeks at an end.
This is some of the findings. The work is very much in progress, I would say it's in an early stage archaeologically, this is some of the finds, this is the iron ballast that has been referenced. An iron ballast was often carried on slave vessels, in part, as a trade item, in part because human bodies positioned as they were, they weren't necessarily conducive to creating the types of center of gravity needed for safe navigation. You can think a little bit about this, this is somewhat akin to if you're like me and you weigh over 250 pounds and you get on a small airplane with ten people or less, the captain will come back and will ask somebody like me to move here or there in order to balance out the plane. In fact, iron ballast is, in some sense, is enormously symbolic because it is interchangeable, literally, with bodies in these types of calculations that the captains of these vessels would make and, of course, interchangeable with bodies as currency.
These, actually, are some of the iron ballasts - very important - significant, not determinative, in our diagnostics of what the site was, though we can talk about that later for those interested, how do we know that this is the Sao Jose? We did find the original cargo manifest that had 1500 bars listed as it departed from Lisbon. Here are some of the other artifacts from the site and, of course, the range tar, we have copper sheathing fasteners. This is the work that Jaco has been doing over the last year in which he has identified, or started to identify several shackles. This is some of the earlier work that he did. You can see the shackle fragments in some cases and, of course, these are x-rays, the actual shackles are not there anymore. What you have is the image of the cavities that they'd left.
I go back to the original ideas of what does the maritime archaeology of the slave trade contribute to understanding the slave trade. Even though this is fairly early on, the Sao Jose Paquete project starts to offer some possibilities in this respect. Now, let me just give you a few examples based on the limited work done so far. First of all, even rethinking the whole idea of the transatlantic. We already have evidence and I'm going to refer to our archival work and some of the archeology that's been done, for forms of globalization-1794. Deep entanglements between the Atlantic economic systems and the Indian ocean. This particular slaving family had, we have found, over time as we've followed the archival trail, had connections that extended from Goa to Mozambique to Angola, to Cuba, Montevideo, Brazil, and Lisbon, again, this is 1794.
You start to see the impact, after this ship wrecked five years later they were running another ship out of Goa called the Sao Jose Paquete de India. We believe it was probably because the Saint Joseph, Sao Jose was the patron saint of the family, we're looking into this at the moment. What do we start to see archaeologically? We have found a limited amount of timber on the site so far, but in some of the testing that has been done on this, pieces that are clearly not part of the structure that are probably gunnage that have been carried and put above the ballast. We find East African luxury hardwoods that seem to be part of this and we at the moment are hypothesizing that this is probably gunnage.
Some evidence of potential ship repair facilities and capacities in Africa. There are some of the structural elements that we have tested seem to come from Mozambique. This actually led - this archaeological find led us to start looking in the archives and we found evidence of ship repair facilities and ship repairs that were, in fact, taking place in east Africa. I think this opens up some interesting lines of investigation that flow against many of the assumptions about Africa and African involvement in the slave trade. I've had interesting conversations with colleagues working on Musa Island who have found evidence of shipyards that have yet to be investigated but, again, starts to enrich our narrative, our understanding, of what was going on in the slave trade.
We have other questions, why were there Mozambicans in Maranhoa? Why were Mozambicans being taken to Maranhoa, coming from east Africa to this particular point in Brazil when we have quite good documentation that three other ships did make it there? If you look at the total number of slaves that are recorded as coming into Maranhoa, over 99% came from two particular areas in west Africa. Why were Mozambicans coming to Maranhoa? As we followed the archival evidence one of the hypotheses that's starting to emerge is because Mozambicans were well known for certain types of rice cultivation and there was some effort at a particular time to get involved in that. They were selecting slaves from east Africa potentially to do work on this. We will be following that up, as I'll talk about in just a minute, with additional archaeological work in Maranhoa.
There's some North American, East African enmeshment that are quite interesting that the archive begins to, in the process of looking at the context in which the Sao Jose was operating, we found actual slaving vessels that were coming from places like Charleston. We have complaints - this to me was fascinating when we came across this - from the governor in Mozambique, I believe it was ten years after the Sao Jose, talking about those damned American whalers were actually participating in slaving. Again
[There is nearly a minute of silence here due to a power outage at George Washington University] [Can we edit this out?]
We start to see, these are just hints through the story of the Sao Jose of how intertwined for example, the Indian Ocean trade was with the trans-Atlantic trade and how different types of trades were related to each other. Some of this comes from archival work, some of this comes from archaeological work ongoing.
You'll see that on this slide also, this picture of this golden broach and this is one of the recent findings by Jaco on the site. We know that in conjunction with some of the archival work that one of the survivors was the actual owner of the vessel. I think we don't often think about the fact that slave ships actually, that not just the captain but the owner of this entire enterprise was there. What are the complexities of the slave ship as a socially differentiated space that you would have this evidence of luxury where we tend to think of things that are obviously the opposite of that. The entanglements with other trades, as I pointed out, what are luxury hardwoods from east Africa doing enroute to Brazil, potentially, eventually Lisbon?
We also found in the archives evidence of other types of entanglements. Six years later, the archives speak to us of an official patent that was being reissued to commission an officer; the king was recommissioning an officer because that patent, the original patent, had been lost with all of the other official documentation that was being carried in the Sao Jose Paquete de Africa. A slaver that was actually carrying a series of official documents for the Crown, for the government. I think we also start to see, through evidence, of the local, political economies of slaving, enormously complex, in fact, the year after the Sao Jose the actual people who controlled the slave trade at this time in the 1790's in the vicinity of Mozambique Island were local sheiks, Swahili potentates who had an enormous amount of control, in fact, to the point that they forced an apology from the governor in 1795 over a different incident.
As we've expanded the scope of what we are thinking about with respect to the Sao Jose, we start to look into some of these issues, the archives, for example, tell us of a slave who ... A complaint about a slave that one sheik put on the Sao Jose or sold to the captain of the Sao Jose, two days before it took off in 1794 from Mozambique Island. The complaint is that that slave, in fact, had been mortgaged against a different debt and shouldn't have been sold. We start to see again these complexities, you see this lower picture, this is a tunnel that was discovered in the course of some of the work that was being done by some of our researchers there related to, at least, oral history but some of the evidence suggests that it was probably related to smuggling slaves not during a period in which it was illegal but in order to avoid taxes.
Again, this starts to show some of the possibilities of what maritime and historical archeology can contribute. I want to talk a little bit about the broader model of the project and how it is that engaging with questions that have to do with who's heritage is this and who are the stake holders, how do we engage with local communities? How that has evolved in the course for the Slave Wrecks Project as a whole, in the course of the Sao Jose project. That, in turn, has influenced the research paradigm itself. Ship wrecks, as you know, are these in between places, inadvertent, accidental locations.
They represent, by definition, places in which - or forms of heritage - in which multiple people have fairly obvious claims or stakes that they can place. When we start to ask this question of who's heritage is the Sao Jose, to some extent there are a variety of different national claims. This sank, at the time, in a Dutch possession that later became a British possession, and now is South Africa. Some of the survivors were sold locally, there are probably descendant communities in South Africa and, it's legally in South Africa. There's a certain claim here but at the same time, this is something that is also Mozambican heritage, the people who died came from Mozambique and perished here. We could talk about the three vessels that made it to Brazil, people that were probably in very similar circumstances but whose vessels didn't necessarily founder.
We have evidence from the research that I'll talk about in just a second of folks in Brazil and, of course, even Portugal. One of the aspects of the project is we want to engage with all of these different stakeholders, and the ship wreck forces us, in some sense, to think about this in a new way, but there are other types of ways, other divisions if you want, local and national. The folks in Mozambique Island have a particular perspective on this, that is different from that of those in the capitol. Of course, those in the interior, that may be the place in which the slaves were sourced, have a different perspective than those on Mozambique Island, and there are also those who had a global stake.
It was very interesting early on in this project to take over one of our collaborators Dr. Jose Jones from the National Association of Black Scuba Divers whose wife traces her descent from east Africa, working hand in hand with one of our researchers who herself traces her descent on one side to a local African sheik who resisted the Portuguese and, on the other hand, to one of the primary slave traders in Mozambique island. To be working together and seeing the different levels but in some sense equal levels of investment in this particular story.
To talk a little about our stake holder engagement model, there's not a single community here, and the notion of the community itself is problematic because people have different perspectives - they're heterogeneous. What we have developed is a particular type of approach that has characteristics that we're trying to be transparent about. One of our points of entrée: who is it that we engage with? Our first point of entree is really with the national and the local research community. One of the objectives of the Slave Wrecks Project writ large is not to simply parachute down and do research in these places but, in fact, to build the local research community's own capacity to look into their own history or into what we might call our shared heritage.
This has been important in South Africa, in Mozambique and cultivating the capacity of partners like IZIKO Museums in South Africa or Eduardo Mondlane University is our first point of entree and we tend to think of that as our first level of community engagement. Then, local communities that lay a claim to this as part of their story. These are enormously diverse. I made allusions to some of these but this is an important story to people, sometimes a story that has been forgotten and when it's brought to light is very compelling. One of the things that really struck me when we were in Mozambique with the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in late May.
There was a local ceremony in which one of the local headman on the mainland around Mozambique Island entrusted the director with dirt that he asked to be taken to the site of the Sao Jose and left there. What was really interesting was he at one point called the director, he called me over because I was translating and he brought around him a number of other local leaders and he asked the director, he says, "Do you see us?" I thought I wasn't understanding but it turns out he was saying, can you see our faces? Will you remember our faces? He said, "Make sure," This for some reason was important, he says, "When you are in South Africa during this ceremony there were surely other leaders." He went through the different communities and pointed out the local representatives. He says, "There were probably leaders on that ship from these local communities who have been worried about what happened. Tell them that we are here."
Conveying this notion that it was important for them to let the people, those who had passed, know, in fact, that their communities were still alive. They have a very particular way in which they engage with this. I think there are national and international communities, I made allusions to the National Association of Black Scuba Divers who have participated in the work that we've done, but, of course, there are national communities within Mozambique, the Ministry of Culture has an enormous interest not only in this particular shipwreck but in others. Not far from Mozambique Island is the wreck of another ship that we know of, the La Rore that went down because the slaves rose up and refused to allow the ship to sail. 600 of them died and the ship went down in that rebellion, a true symbol in some sense of national resistance.
I think that we are interested in engaging with all of these different members of the community and yet we're very clear that we have a particular politics of engagement. There are Mozambican treasure hunters and we are not on that side, we are on a different side, we're trying to reinforce other types of researchers. Sometimes in places like Portugal, which is a place that has suffered a certain type of social amnesia with respect to its remembering its role in the trade, we pick sides, in some sense, and we try to engage with what I'm calling here principle provocateurs, people who are really trying - scholars and others - who are trying to talk about this and bring this back into discussions about history.
One of the things that is a marker of the project is that engagement, we have discovered, really needs to go beyond just the things that are strictly archaeological, in order to be relevant. In order to protect this heritage, in order to study it, we can be research driven but not research delimited. When I talk about research driven, we're trying to be meaningfully collaborative to build local capacity and promote local lead. The ideas that Mozambique that somebody from Eduardo Mondlane has the license and we're going to work with them to build that capacity and try to work with them to identify what is the capacity that needs to build. Not just individual training but institutional. There are some examples that I provide here on this slide of how we've done that in South Africa, Mozambique, how we intend to do this in Brazil, the other leg, the other side of the Sao Jose story. Each of these places the specific menu is something that tends to be different and it tends to reflect the interests of the researchers and, then, these other communities that have a stake in this.
I think that each place has to look different, this involves a lot of work that goes well beyond what we think of as traditional archeology, but it is part and parcel of how we think of this and the Slave Wrecks Project and the Sao Jose is offering a model for this. How we're engaging Mozambique, how we're engaging in South Africa, how we're beginning to engage in Brazil. I've talked about this as not research delimited and without going - because I've already gone quite long - I just want to say two of the things that have emerged here, that are of interest in Mozambique, one is, how is that archeology can really play a role in the development of Mozambique Island as a heritage tourism destination. We're working closely with the US embassy, with interested foundations, with the Smithsonian, to really talk about how is it that we can bring the right people together to do this.
There's a vested interest that the archaeological community has in this because we have to develop an argument that makes sense in local terms to a local fisherman, to the local community, why they shouldn't take these things out and sell them to tourists or otherwise. If we're able to develop a stake in this heritage through things like the development of heritage tourism, then we've served an archaeological purpose but we've also made this relevant in terms that makes sense to these folks. There are other things too, Mozambique Island, the community museum proposal. They feel that the museum there which is a vestige of the Portuguese colonial era and then later the national perspective is something that they don't feel represents them. Working with them to develop these types of things and trying to find what is it that makes sense to them is important. Mozambique is one example of how we're trying to do this.
Let me just briefly reflect on how does this kind of engagement effect research itself. I think the process in the Sao Jose we started with a site in South Africa and as we learned that the story extended to Mozambique and it extended to Brazil, it actually has forced us to re conceptualize a very fundamental research question which is, where is the site? Unlike some land sites, the immediate point of relevance, of social connection, is not necessarily spatially defined as self-evident, self-evidently related, or approximate to the actual site or the point of origin. We started to think about this in terms of not the shipwreck as the site but the shipwreck as the point of entree to what we think of as a site network. This has led to a model that is under development in which we are in some sense quite literally trying to trace the Black Atlantic.
What does this mean in practice? As the archives have told us that the point of departure was the port of Mozambique Island and, as the archives push us back into areas like Tete as probable sources of origin, working with Mozambican and Brazilian archeologists who will begin to do work, land work, to try to look at some of the sites that were related to the Sao Jose on land and part of the story and, on the other side as we go we have - perhaps, one of the most interesting things that's developed - has been the archival work that has been undertaken by our colleague Ronaldo Baruzo in Brazil. We've mentioned that very few slaves, in fact, of the slave population in Maranhoa came from east Africa, less than 2%.
It's a curious anomaly but the archives are actually quite remarkable. These are three archives this is written in Portuguese but one of the things that the archives in Maranhoa offer is the possibility slaves were listed in the inventories, death inventories and in some of the marriage records of the archdiocese, their origin was actually listed in a fairly specific level. For example, here we have the record of baptisms actually tells us where some of the slaves originated from. These, for example, are specific inventories in which 102 Mozambican slaves are listed by name. These would have come off some of the ships that actually did make it from east Africa to Maranhoa as opposed to the Sao Jose. These inventories begin to offer the possibility of actually identifying land sites, areas in which plantations where people who had come across the Atlantic from Mozambique probably lived out their lives as slaves. We're in the process right now of trying to identify these and working with Mozambican and Brazilian archeologists who will work together not just on the Mozambican side but also on the Brazilian side.
Here are some of the questions we're pushing forward with, in terms of the Sao Jose story, specifically. Can the archives help us identify specific plantations where enslaved Mozambicans lived? In fact, the answer to that is “Yes.” Can we do the archeology on those plantations? We will be working with colleagues and meeting with colleagues in Brazil to talk about this possibility this year. Can we find descendants? Is there any remaining oral history or tradition? There are some really unique possibilities in Maranhao. Maranhao has over 500 quilombolos. This is an artifact of how, in 1888, when slavery ended in Brazil, the elites literally got up and left to the major cities like Rio and Sao Paulo and these communities remained behind. These quilombolos exist to this day.
Is there a possibility of doing some kind of work and what kind of oral history and memory is possible? This, again, is under the auspices of the specific Sao Jose project that begins to offer a paradigm for thinking about how we could use other shipwrecks as a point of entree. This is some of the pictures that have been taken of some of these communities in Brazil, these quilombolo communities. This is still an evolving future of research and engagement agenda, looking at archaeological work in the ports of embarkation and disembarkation, Mozambiquan source areas in which we think there are some possibilities that may be comparable to those of the quilombolos in Brazil. Trying to follow the archival records and find out where the survivors from the Sao Jose were sold in South Africa and are there specific plantations we can look at there?
Again, I refer to some of the work we're trying to do in engaging with scholars in Portugal who are very interested in bringing this history back into current discussions about Portugal's history and the role that it gives to the sea and national memory. Just very briefly and this will be in conclusion, beyond the Sao Jose Pacette d’Africa, this is one particular wreck, this is one point of entree, it is the place in which a model is being developed but the Slave Wrecks Project is globally searching for a variety of specific wrecks or, in other cases, areas that we're calling slaving landscapes. I think we can move in some sense beyond wreck fixation. The slaving landscapes approach is really looking at places in which the intensity of the slave trade and the role that it played was central to all of the economic activity in particular areas.
I'll just offer a couple of examples, for example, in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands, we would think of this as a slave receiving or transshipment landscape. One of the questions that you can ask is what vessel is not implicated in the slave trade in something like that. Even if it wasn't carrying slaves, he slave trade was so central to St Croix's economy for so long that an investigation of this process really requires us to look not just for slaving vessels but also for other types of vessels and the interactions and really to look at some of the land sites. This is a project that is currently under development, really, under the leadership of some of the colleagues that are on the phone right now from the National Park Service.
Similarly in Inhambane or in Mozambique Island we have - these are slaving sending landscapes - and in each of these places I think one of these things again that is a signature of the project is that the community engagement is localized, there's a local focus. In St Croix they're interested in the 2017 celebration and youth training. In Mozambique island we have just emerged from a ten year battle with treasure hunting and they need help identifying and building the capacity to actually monitor the sites that have been identified and that were worked over by some of those folks. Different agendas but they're locally defined and we try to engage with those in each case.
The slave wrecks projects, you'll recognize at least one of these logos but it is a growing global collaboration of these institutions. The Smithsonian - the new museum is a particularly important partner - the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Very briefly to talk a little bit about that, the Slave Wrecks Project has a particularly important partnering role with this new museum because of the slave trade exhibit and the relationship between that exhibit and ongoing work in the project. The Sao Jose, the vision of the director of the museum was to create a very minimalist type of display, not to put an entire ship wreck up but to take a few select items, thing to tell the story. Hello?
Female Speaker: We're still on, Steve.
Steve: Okay, I'm sorry. Things that could be used to tell the story, like the iron ballast. The way that Director Bunch has described this is to think about sort of the Vietnam veterans, the Vietnam memorial, wrapped around a few select elements, a few select artifacts from a particular shipwreck that is used to tell a story that is difficult to grasp just when it's talked about numerically in terms of millions of people. The Sao Jose will feature in the exhibit or some of the few select artifacts. Those artifacts are on loan from South Africa, fromIZIKO, the museums of South Africa, and in ten years they will return.
This is actually seen as an opportunity, an opportunity to justify, in some sense, the continued support of the museum and its efforts to leverage additional funding and resources for what will be an ongoing project that will bring, at some point, a different wreck and a different story into that space to tell the story. Renewing the story over time and this is very positive for the Slave Wrecks Project and it's partnership, it's positive for the museum, too, because it offers a mechanism through which it can reach out and when this display is finished here it will be supported in going back to South Africa as other's may be supported in going back to other places. It's really a new model for collaboration and supporting partner museums nationally and internationally.
I would be neglectful to not mention the central role, from the very outset, that the National Park Service has played in the Slave Wrecks Project, I would come back and say if you were to identify founders of the project Jaco Boshoff, who I already mentioned, and myself, but Dave Conlin from the Submerged Resources Center. This is really a conversation that beginning of the first decade of this millennium and has emerged from that. One of the key roles that the Park Service has played has been in capacity building and has offered an opportunity for people to come, all of the folks who are working on this, including Jaco himself, came and have had opportunities to work extensively with SRC and in some of the parks with SEAC, in parks like Biscayne and Tortugas, more recently work in St Croix, but have gained an enormous amount of experience, and there have been possibilities for internships for people who have come over from places like IZIKO.
We're looking for more opportunities to do that in the future. I'm hoping, I believe I'll let David Morgan or Dave Conlin speak to this if they wish to but at the same time the training that they've received in documenting sites, in non-destructive documentation, has not been simply important for the project in places like South Africa or other places but it's provided an opportunity to do important forms of documentation here in the States as well. What you have here is an example of work that was done in Biscayne in documenting the English China site. This particular base line documentation was important later in a situation in which this site suffered damage by people who came in and were engaged in a manner of different types of destructive activities. The effects of those activities could be documented against this baseline work. It's been win-win certainly for the Slave Wrecks Project and at the same time we think that it's been of use to the parks and the Park Service as well.
As we start to, over the last year and a half, in working with SRC and SEAC and with a park in St Croix, really the National Park Service is the point of the spear in bringing the Slave Wrecks Project back across the Atlantic. As we move forward we've been able to collaborate and know of the historical documents that have told us of at least three wrecks in St Croix related to the slave trade. The entire history of St Croix revolves around its involvement in the slave trade. The National Park Service has recognized the importance of this heritage to the history of St Croix and the uniqueness of this and we're going to be collaborating there as we move forward in the future and, hopefully, continuing some of these capacity building activities.
Activities worldwide: it's not just the Sao Jose, certainly South Africa and Mozambique I've mentioned but also active in Senegal, developing in Cuba, which I have listed somehow twice, Brazil - which is not on this list -these are areas in which we are in some sense faced with a nice problem in that we have more demand for collaboration than we can actually meet at the moment, so what we're trying to do is develop what we call a regional champion strategy. Senegal in west Africa, Mozambique in east Africa, places like Cuba in the Caribbean and Brazil in South America with the idea that we can focus on one set of partners and build their capacity to build capacity regionally.
Future directions for the Slave Wrecks Project discussion that may be of some interest here. I haven't mentioned this but down the road, the internal slave trade which in North America is particularly interesting. Over 500,000 people were brought from Africa to North America as slaves but from 1808 to 1860 at the start of the Civil War more than twice that many were shipped from the states like Virginia and Maryland often to the Deep South and often through ports like Annapolis and Richmond and Baltimore. We think this is an important potential future subject area, the intra American trade, the connections between Cuba and Rhode Island, various forms of transshipment.
Then some cross-cutting activities, working in the development of STEM curriculum how is it that we bring this story to a broader public and also a variety of more intensive modular types of training for heritage and archeologists from the developing world. These are just a few of the ideas. Thank you very much, this is just some information if anyone is interested in contacting me. I do want to just emphasize that there are at least two people on this call, Dave Morgan from - the director of SEAC - and Dave Conlin from the Submerged Resources Center who can speak to this project and have been fully involved and represent the Park Service's important role and the face of the Park Service as a partner in the Slave Wrecks Project. Thank you.
Female Speaker: Wow, Steve, thanks very much, that was an action packed and very interesting talk. Do we have any questions or comments for our speaker today?
Male Speaker: Hi, Steve, this is Stan Bond and I know we talked a little bit at the briefing you did for Stephanie Toothman but it occurred to me while we were looking through your presentation, are you also going to see if there are potential Maroon settlements in Brazil that also have people that have maintained some historical knowledge?
Steve: Yes, to go back on the slides, the quilombolos in Maranhao, that would be one of the references to some of these communities. Those are communities of people that didn't necessarily flee the plantations but were abandoned on the plantations. These folks here and there are somewhere in the vicinity of 500 that have been documented in Maranhao, some which we know are related to some of the plantations we're thinking about. In terms of some of the maroon communities there are also a number of communities and possibilities - I have a slide back here - where, I say, comparable possibilities under discussion with Brazilian colleagues elsewhere at Coliba. This is Gillsan Rendele, who is a Brazilian archeologist with interest in maritime archeology has been working with some colleagues on a Maroon community.
A community that actually, runaway slaves who had created, not unlike the Palmares that some people know. Interestingly enough they have a very specific memory of a very specific shipwreck, this is a coastal community. Gillsan actually believes that they may have identified where that shipwreck might be. In some sense the answer is we're going to be talking about that possibility, how is it that we can support the Brazilian work on that? The answer is yes, there are some communities that actually not only have a memory of the slave trade but have a specific memory of at least some of their members coming off of a slaver shipwreck that they point out to the water and say it was over there.
Female Speaker: Steve, are there specific communities in Brazil that were also points of debarkation for the slave trade or for ships and cargo in the slave trade?
Steve: Sure, the largest point of entry was certainly Rio and there's been some really fascinating work ongoing there in Bolongu, the former slave port, and there's a burial ground that's occurred in the context of some of the gentrification related to the Olympics and, I believe, the World Cup of Soccer and so forth. That's not the only port, Maranhao, for example, is not probably well known to most people but at the time was the fourth largest city in Brazil and in the late 1790's and through the middle of the 19th century quite a significant port of entry for slaves. There are quite a few places in Brazil in addition to those two that were ports of entry. Some of these as in Maranhao, Maranhao I think is unusual in having as much archival documentation as well organized with such specific type of information on points of origin. In conjunction with of course, these communities that some have, quite like the living memories, at least of slavery, we don't know of what else, it's certainly something that bears investigation.
Female Speaker: Thank you.
Male Speaker: Steve, this is Dave Conlin, I just want to chime in here and add a couple of things. First off, thank you very much for being so generous to us here at the National Parks Service, it's a project we've sort of put together with string and duct tape and it's been really exciting to see how fertile the soil has been and how this has grown exponentially to the point where it has tentacles all over the world. We have prospects in Brazil, Columbia, Panama, Cuba, Cape Verde, Senegal, this map and more, it's been phenomenal. The thing that I've been so pleased to be able to contribute is the skill of the equipment and skills that we've developed in the Park Service that apply all over the world.
It's been really neat to see how a noninvasive, nondestructive documentation approach that we practice on a regular basis in the Parks Service is so applicable for communities like Isla de Mozambique where they really don't have the capacity necessary to deal with a large quantity of artifacts that need conservation and curation. The Park Service - we have been involved formally in training our international colleagues in the United States - but we've also been involved informally. People have taken leave from their regular jobs and traveled overseas to work in South Africa, to work in Mozambique and elsewhere. That's some of the things that we've been able to accomplish have not been because of anything that Steve or David Morgan or I did but rather because the people that we work with get so excited about these things, they take time out of their own schedules and travel internationally and do it on their vacation time, which is fantastic.
Finally, I would say that the ability for the National Park Service to contribute to an exploration and documentation of this shameful, shameful history is really, we've yet to really plumb the depths of this but we have hundreds, perhaps thousands of individual locations within the National Park Service that relate to the global slave trade, both in the south east region where David Morgan and his folks are doing wonderful stuff but also up and down the east coast and elsewhere as well. This was, as you said, a hugely consequential chapter in world history and there's a lot of opportunity for the people on the phone, wherever you, are to participate and be involved in this project.
One of the things that's been interesting is we have had very cool conversations with people who come and they're just interested in the project and want to know how they can be involved. For example, the idea of heritage tourism is an economic driver and, hopefully, an economic output for this project. That's something that we in the Parks Service haven't really explored that much and our other partners haven't either but State Department has seen that as potentially of interest to them and our response is, “ By all means, have a seat at the table and join in.” It's been a neat, neat project.
Steve: Just to follow up quickly on that, Dave, as we move forward, I think there is a certain excitement about the project, not least from people who, they're interested in the archeology but they're interested in the approach of the project which is in making it relevant to pay attention to things like economic development. Again, there's an archaeological interest. If you look at the Mozambican coast, which is longer than the coast of California, how are they going to protect this heritage? I've been with the Mozambican Navy, all 16 of them with their AK47's and one 30 foot Boston Whaler. You really have to work with the local communities, you have to give a rationale for the local fisherman or the local sheik to want to protect this heritage and linking it to things like economic development and heritage tourism is one way to do this.
It's also a solution that people like the State Department, or the US Agency for International Development or the Ford Foundation, they see as a particularly promising ways in which to leverage these stories and leverage ... They are stories that naturally link to large constituencies in the US but not only in the US and elsewhere. Not a few years ago the Prime Minister of Tanzania worked with colleagues here in DC at the Africa Diaspora Heritage Trails movement to take over a 400 African American diasporans to Zanzibar and to look at tourism but then all sorts of other types of investments. It was that link, that shared heritage, that was important. We've had some very interesting conversations with the State Department and, in fact, in Mozambique we were fortunate to benefit from a small Ambassadors Grant early on in this project,
but right now have really been talking extensively with the Consulate in Cape Town, which has asked us to apply for a much larger grant and work on this because it's an area that they see potential that goes beyond archeology but at the same time it's heritage that is shared, it is something that may be in Africa, or it may be in the States but it's something that serves well for public diplomacy. To just go back to one of the things that you said, this is an area in which, really, the expertise of the Parks Service, the technical expertise, as we go forward there is an opportunity for the parks service to potentially bring really, it's unique experiences into this arena of ... To offer a tool for public diplomacy to the State Department that I think resonates very much.
When I speak to the ambassador to Mozambique, when I speak to the ambassador in Cape Town. There are many ways in which people can participate in this project. The tunnel that I was showing, even if you're not working on shipwrecks. The Mozambican archeologist who's going to work on that tunnel needs to work with people, needs training. He's trying to figure out an approach to that. I remember Dave Morgan, saying there's somebody in the Parks Service who's worked recently on a Revolutionary War tunnel. Those are the kinds of opportunities that people can bring those types of contributions to the project and we need to look for ways and mechanisms in order to identify those and identify those in the Park Service who are interested in participating in those ways as well.
Female Speaker: Steve, this is Karen, I am so impressed with what a sophisticated and highly nuanced amount of information you're able to organize and also to research, that your research approach is able to elicit this kind of information. I have to say I kind of looked at the slave trade as been pretty limited and very limited in scope and the amount of information that we've been able to get about it. This has really opened my eyes, I really appreciate your talk today.
Steve: Thank you, it's a pleasure.
Female Speaker: Do we have other comments or questions? If not, I will say thank you very much for coming and speaking with us today, we really appreciate all the obstacles that you had to overcome.
Steve: My apologies for the technical difficulties. I should just for good measure, what I'll do is I'll send around the URL for those people who are interested in this video this isn't the 60 Minutes video, this is the video that actually is available also on the Smithsonian website. I think it's enormously moving, this is a story that matters but it's a story that is very compelling. It's a privilege to be able to work on this and it has been a real privilege to be able to count on the Parks Service as a core partner here and we're looking forward to doing more and finding out new ways in which to extend that collaboration further. Thank you very much.
Female Speaker: Thank you, you're giving us a way to talk about these issues in a way that's not shameful so I really appreciate that. Send me the URL and I'll make sure that it gets up with the recording as well.
Steve: I will do that, thank you.
Female Speaker: Everybody travel safely, have a good holiday and we'll see you back here in January. Thank you.
Steve: Take care.
- 1 hour, 15 minutes, 16 seconds
Stephen C. Lubkemann, 12/3/2015, ArcheoThursday