Title

Change and the Era of the Atlantic Trade: Commerce and Interaction in the Niumi Commercial Center (The Gambia)

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Anthropology

Advisor(s)

Christopher R. DeCorse

Keywords

Gambia, West Africa, Atlantic world, Historical archaeology, Archaeology, Interaction theory

Subject Categories

Anthropology

Abstract

This dissertation addresses the impact of the Atlantic trade on the Gambia River through a multi-disciplinary study of the former Niumi commercial center from the 17 th through the early 19 th century utilizing archaeological and historical data gathered between 2004 and 2008. By focusing this study on the central village of Juffure with comparative data from the nearby settlements of San Domingo and Lamin Conco, I examine the daily lives and practices enacted by the villages' residents tied to expressions of wealth through local notions of taste and value. My analysis is situated within the longer history of commerce on the river and the closing of the Atlantic trade in the 19 th century marked by the advent of the colonial period on the Gambia River in 1816. Thus, I employ a multiscalar, diachronic perspective of interaction, viewing local small scale traditions and practices in tandem with broader regional and global shifts in commerce within the purview of practice and action theories. Increased population and greater access to wealth brought about change in local production, the development of new industries, and access to imports all of which contributed the residents of Juffure's interpretation and creation of their socio-economic standing through material means. Despite direct access to trade materials, this community was comprised of discriminate consumers whose choice of specific commodities was done in a way that fit within preexisting forms of display. Therefore, material categories highlighted in this analysis represent both the use of European imported goods into everyday expressions of wealth as well as the translation of this into previously established practices--specifically practices associated with public display such as personal adornment and foodways.

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