Sherds of History:
Domestic Life in Colonial Guadeloupe

Myriam Arcangeli

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"A fresh look at the French Caribbean through the many forms of pottery used by colonists, Creoles, and slaves. Offers a trove of original and often surprising insights on foodways, gender, ethnicity, health, and even attitudes about water, cleanliness, and poisoning at this crossroads of the Atlantic world."--Gregory Waselkov, author of A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814

"A unique and focused analysis of the ways in which clay-bodied materials infused everyday colonial life with meaning and distinction."--Mark W. Hauser, author of An Archaeology of Black Markets


Ceramics serve as one of the best-known artifacts excavated by archaeologists. They are carefully described, classified, and dated, but rarely do scholars consider their many and varied uses. Breaking from this convention, Myriam Arcangeli examines potsherds from four colonial sites in the Antillean island of Guadeloupe to discover what these everyday items tell us about the people who used them. In the process, she reveals a wealth of information about the lives of the elite planters, the middle and lower classes, and enslaved Africans.

By analyzing how the people of Guadeloupe used ceramics--whether jugs for transporting and purifying water, pots for cooking, or pearlware for eating--Arcangeli spotlights the larger social history of Creole life. What emerges is a detail rich picture of water consumption habits, changing foodways, and concepts of health. Sherds of History offers a compelling and novel study of the material record and the "ceramic culture" it represents to broaden our understanding of race, class, and gender in French-colonial societies in the Caribbean and the United States.

Arcangeli's innovative interpretation of the material record will challenge the ways archaeologists analyze ceramics.

Myriam Arcangeli is a professional archaeologist.
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Arcangeli uses her analyses to give insight into social and cultural aspects of the society, including the development of a distinctive Creole cuisine, views on cleanliness and health, and the role of women, especially enslaved ones, in the running of daily life. . . .Recommended.
--Choice

Makes a compelling case for the utility of analyzing ceramic cultures. This concise study of colonial Guadeloupe will appeal to an array of scholars.
--Winterthur Portfolio

Fills yet another lacuna....Arcangeli carefully considers the intersections of archaeological remains and probate inventory records to reveal the intricacies of life and labour among colonists, Creoles and captives.
--Antiquity

Provides scholars with a trove of insights into the variety of Guadeloupeā€™s ceramic-related practices from water management to cooking, eating, and grooming and their similarities and differences across class and race divides and between colony and metropole that will resonate for ceramic analyses, future studies of Guadeloupe, and broader comparative analyses of colonial contexts across the globe.
--American Anthropologist

Exploits the concept of "ceramic culture" to assess the relationship between users and ceramic objects.
--New West Indian Guide

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