Slavery in the Roman Empire vs. North American Colonies

In this research, I wanted to look at two different forms of slavery, one rooted in ‘ancient’ history and one which falls within the “early modern’ period, but with lasting effects which are still seen in today’s society. One of my other goals for this research was to compare the structural aspects of slavery and the ‘echoes’ from slavery in the Roman Empire to slavery in North American British Colonies. Some of the problems I faced was the not only the vast time period differences between the two, but also that other forms of slavery had also greatly impacted slavery in the North American British Colonies.

In the Roman Empire, slaves could obtain freedom much more quickly than slaves during 1600s-1800s in North America. Also, in the Roman Empire, slaves were at times educated, held status within their households and were valued by their owners. That is not to say that all slaves within the Roman Empire had access to these aspects, but they were present and common practice within Roman society. In comparison, slaves in North America were not afforded these features, they were a source of labor and, eventually in the Southern Colonies, they became essential for the economy. Furthermore, slaves during the Roman Empire were typically ‘white’ and viewed as a person/human being. While in the North American Colonies, slaves were typically black or Indian, no white person was enslaved, and slaves were typically not viewed as having the same rights as free individuals, nor were they believed to be fully human.

The slave trade which existed in the Roman Empire greatly differed from the form of slavery which the British were introduced to when obtaining slaves from Africa. What I found was that while originally having some similar structural components to slavery, like a free labor source and creating a social hierarchy, these two forms of slavery had different cultural, social and political aspects and values. In today’s society individuals like Whitney Battle-Baptiste examine not only the slave narratives, but also how archaeology can be used to reform ideas about slavery and how it impacts current communities today.

Meet the TA: Jake Deppen

Profile picture of Jake in a Spanish cafe

Enjoying a traditional Mallorcan breakfast of ensaïmada and café con leche.

Originally posted April, 2015; Updated January, 2017

I am a PhD student in the UW Archaeology program and the Teaching Assistant for this year’s Historical Archaeology class. I was previously the TA for this course during Spring 2015 and am looking forward to doing it again.

I received my BA in Anthropology from The Ohio State University and an MA in Anthropology from UW. My PhD research is a study of ceramics from the Late Iron Age in Mallorca, Spain, a time when indigenous Mallorcans were increasingly connected with outsiders like Phoenicians and Romans. I am particularly interested in the dynamics of these cultural interactions. My research is a small part of a larger collaboration between UW archaeologists and archaeologists in Spain which we have dubbed the Landscape, Encounters, and Identity Archaeology (LEIA) Project.

Before beginning my work in Spain, I worked on a number of projects and sites in southwest and central Ohio, mostly focused on what archaeologists call the Fort Ancient culture. If you ever find yourself in southwest Ohio, the museum and reconstructed village at SunWatch Indian Village and Archaeological Park make it worth a stop.

Outside of Denny Hall, I am the proud dad to Nikhil. Objectively speaking, he is the best baby in the world.

Jake and his son Nikhil

Life in the Little Things

When selecting the classes I would take for Spring Quarter, I never anticipated just how well all three would align in terms of content and issues being discussed. In retrospect, it seems all too predictable that I would have gravitated to a study of labor, given how the working world and its many complexities and complications became a recurring theme. But while my courses in geography and urbanization offered a look at contemporary issues, our work in historical archaeology has allowed me an opportunity to look at some of the underlying causes and earlier-emerging instances of labor injustice, as well as both the everyday and extraordinary responses to these conditions.

My initial investigation into the historical and material records left by the industrialization of the U.S. led me to a series of interesting finds, the first being The Bread and Roses Riot of 1912. Significant for its impacts on working conditions, including an increase in wages, the riot stood out to me for the fact that it was begun by women. In January of 1912, female immigrant workers from the Everett Mill responded to recent cuts to their hours and pay with an uproar. They eventually roused tens of thousands of workers, from several locations, all calling for “bread, and roses, too!” (for a more detailed recount, see Klein 2012). The knowledge of this event in turn led me to wonder about the circumstances leading up to the riot. What did the day-to-day lives of these women look like? How did they maneuver the changing urban landscape and increasing demands of the workforce?

At this point, it seems no surprise that women and other laborers, including children, developed a number of strategies for themselves and their families that hinged on social, economic, cultural, and spatial factors. This is something we’ve seen before in historical archaeology. Indeed, to uncover and make known such strategies is tied to one of the main goals of historical archaeology: to recover the excluded past. My attempt to do just that takes the form of a short story, and can be found here if you fancy a look at one of the many ways in which such topics can be explored.


Klein, Christopher
2012 The Strike That Shook American 100 Years Ago.
strike-that-shook-america-100-years-ago, accessed May 28, 2015.

The Transcontinental Railroad and Racism

The results obtained through the research of people affected by the transcontinental railroad was pretty mind boggling. Although it was not really that surprising to find out that so many people were affected in a negative way, it is very mind opening to know exactly how particular people were treated just for the sake of the railroad, the ideals of white society, and the exploitation of capitalism.

The results of this research were also very sad. It makes one appreciate just how simple life is in modern times. Chinese and Irish immigrants during the construction of the railroad in the 19th century were subjected to some of the most dangerous and grueling labor practices that would (hopefully) never be allowed now. From harsh weather and little pay, to 12 hour days six days a week, this makes even the most intense labor dispute now seem petty. However, it is easy to see how these same types of practices that took place during the 19th century sort of mutate and become what labor is made of today.

Admittedly, it is pretty shameful to see how Native Americans and African Americans were treated too. From railroads being rerouted around towns to relocation of indigenous people and massacres of innocent men, women, and children, the results of this research are somewhat scary. However, it does no  good to look back and think about what could have been. Instead it is beneficial to look back and learn from our wrong doings so we can move forward for the betterment of all people regardless of racial background. This is why research such as this is beneficial to the field of historical archaeology as well to the general public. Many different people are often misrepresented throughout history and this kind of research can help open other people’s eyes to reality. 

Five Points Brothels

I started my research project on New York brothels not because I had a particular affinity with them, but because we had been reading articles on the subject in class and I found it interesting.  In the course of my research I found myself becoming even more interested in these women who had chosen to live a life that we now imagine as being the last resort for the desperate.  I felt that it was really important to give these women some agency, to imbue some humanity into them.  I wanted to let these women be human, not just a female urinal or fancy china in a poorer district.

The best thing I came across while looking for sources was, unfortunately, something that turned out not to be useful for the final paper:  The Gentlemen’s Directory.  Following the link will lead you to the original article I read as well as access to a pdf of the book itself.  The sorts of houses described in The Gentlemen’s Directory are unlikely to include the sort of brothel that was described in the Five Points District.  The Directory is both advertising and an early form of Yelp, giving recommendations for where the gentleman from out of town might find some welcome entertainment.

Similar to the Five Points brothel is one found in Boston; also a sealed privy that had been found due to construction.  Following the link leads to a video in which Mary Beaudry discusses some of the finds she and her students came across starting on 2008.

In trying to make these women more human, I found myself terrified to incorrectly present stories about their past.  As the one presenting the life of another person, someone whom I have never known, I eventually was quite happy to help them be human rather than simply artifacts in a record.

Wyoming History WWCC

This specific online exhibit is an actual course taught at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, WY.The exhibit is very specific and talks about different parts of Wyoming History including Chinese immigrants, Japanese immigrants, Native Americans, the Oregon Trail, Fort Bridger, and the Great Depression.  The author of the exhibit is an instructor at WWCC named Dudley Gardner.

The exhibit definitely contains examples of archaeological materials from the Chinatown in Evanston, various petroglyphs, parts of the Oregon Trail, and numerous graphs and maps to help visualize data recorded. The various parts of Wyoming’s history are thoroughly explained and the author is holds a Phd in history and has numerous years of archaeological experience.  So the exhibit is easy to interpret as factual and represented with accuracy.

Each example from the various people who have inhabited Wyoming in the past contains various points of view and the effects of colonialism on the area. Different personal stories from the Japanese,Chinese, and Native Americans were discussed throughout the exhibit as well. The exhibit seems very truthful as well as engaging regarding the events that helped shape Wyoming.

Multiple audiences can be reached in this exhibit as well. Although this is for a specific class taught at WWCC other audiences can definitely be engaged with these examples given throughout the site. Audiences include students, professionals within the field, descendant communities, and anyone interested in Wyoming history. The pictures utilized throughout the exhibit also indicate that the communities where archaeological research took place were involved on the dig sites as the pictures included students, instructors, kids, and various other community members. Overall, this exhibit is engaging, factual, and very in depth. It is definitely worth a read! Visit for more information!????????????????????

CRM in SFBay

Although the majority of archaeology conducted in the States is Cultural Resource Management, it’s not the largest topic within the academic sector. As such, I was interested by the “Archaeology of a San Francisco Neighborhood” website, run by Sonoma State University. The site describes the methods and results of CRM work done in the Bay Area during construction and remodel of the SF-80 highway and the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge. Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation, funded the development of the website to share information about and results of the excavations.

Although at first glance the website seems a bit underwhelming and slightly outdated (the use of comic sans as the heading font does not help), I found it overall to be very informative and easy to navigate. Whether you’re interested in artefacts, the site map, or methods of excavation, the site is well laid out to help you figure it out. They have a cute page about artifacts with pictures of different objects found in historic archaeological sites with hyperlinks to more information. Although I was expecting to see examples of artefacts found in the SF-80 or Bay Bridge sites, the general info of “these are the lighting fixtures we often find!” was still educational.

Overall, the focus of the website seems less on the specific excavations and more on methods and general information about archaeology. Even so, I’m not sure if I think that’s a large detracting feature of the website. The positionality of Caltrans is not to get people siked on the people of the past, it’s to educate the public about how aware they are of potential history destruction and give them the resources they need to understand the mechanics of how archaeology is applied to these large projects.

Queen Anne’s Revenge!



In 1996, the underwater shipwreck of the infamous pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was found off the coast of North Carolina.  The site is being operated as both an archaeological one as well as a tourist attraction in a part of the country that already has a thriving marine tourist activity.

The website for this project is associated with the North Carolina Department of Cultural resources and, by all appearances, is a pretty legit archaeological dig.  Their site emphasizes the things that can be learned from the Queen Anne’s Revenge that will “shed light on the wider political, economic and social systems of the colonial period in North Carolina and beyond.”  They can’t quite shake the commercialized and tourist feeling of the whole venture, however.  Clearly advertised on the main page of the website are two of their primary donors, Grady-White (a boat-building company) and the Boat House at Front Street Village (boat storage and community area with gift shop), as well as a handy link to donate toward the cause.  On the other hand, the site is also quite transparent about these elements, they are quite clear these are sponsors and that a part of their mission is to have a positive economic impact on the immediate region.

The website for the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck is well-organized and smooth running, but it feels more like an advertisement to visit North Carolina than it is an educational site about archaeology.

Another Look at Laborers in Five Points, NY

To revisit our discussion on labor and identity in archaeology, and in light of my choice of the industrial era as the setting for my final project, I decided to take a look at The Five Points Site. Maintained by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), this exhibit was originally a collaboration between several individuals and organizations. Dr. Rebecca Yamin is given credit for the exhibit’s text. The exhibit itself is comprised of text and images tied together with hyperlinks. A typical entry, if you will, features items such as maps and photographs of cataloged artifacts accompanied by descriptions of the activities that took place at Five Points. Interestingly, the site provides a significant amount of detail about the excavation process; it also features a section dedicated to some of the ways that archaeology may be used to challenge existing narratives.

The style of this exhibit is much more closely aligned with McManamon’s (1994) ideas of how public archaeology should be presented. That is, the exhibit is intended to convey specific information, as well as a particular narrative, to an audience. However, this interaction does not constitute a dialogue. Largely absent from the exhibit are outside interpretations; for example, views of contemporary New York residents, or even descendants of the Five Points community are not included in the information presented by the exhibit. This may be, in part, attributed to the nature of the project itself. In a statement attached to a page featuring their contact information, the GSA acknowledges that the virtual exhibit is an extension of a physical exhibit in New York City, presumably intended to interest locals and tourists alike in the area’s history. Additionally, several organizations are credited for their support of the exhibit; whether or not these organizations have interest in engaging the public in a more open conversation as per Little’s (2007) suggestions may also play a role in the exhibit’s capacity to do so.


Little, Barbara J.
2007 Archaeology and Civic Engagement. In Archaeology as a Tool of Civic Engagement, edited by B. J. Little and P.A. Shackel, pp. 1-22. AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.

McManamon, Francis P.
1994 Presenting Archaeology to the Public. In The Presented Past: Heritage, Museums, and Education, edited by P.G Stone and B.L Molyneaux, pp. 61-81, Routledge, London.

If you’d like to take a look at The Five Points Site yourself, follow this link!