Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Heather B. Trigg

Second Advisor

Nedra K. Lee

Third Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski


This research investigates enslaved peoples’ economic engagement in the Shenandoah Valley during the first half of the 19th century. In 2017, archaeologists excavated two features at the Belle Grove enslaved quarters in Middletown, Virginia— a root cellar and subfloor pit that were filled in when a log cabin burned down. The preservation of the macrobotanicals has allowed for an in-depth analysis of the plants with which enslaved individuals engaged and the relationship between plant acquisition and enslaved people’s regional formal economic involvement at a 19th-century plantation in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. These data sets have also allowed for an analysis of the impact that enslaved individuals had on formal economies as consumers and producers through the various ways that they utilized and obtained plant goods. This thesis pushes back against previous scholarship that perpetuates the concept that enslaved economic engagement occurred only in internal economies, a term that implies that their actions as consumers and producers did not affect the larger formal economy. This engages questions of agency and economic engagement by enslaved individuals and demonstrates how they navigated the power structures of the plantation system in the American South.