Tag Archive for archaeology

5 Questions With . . . Sarah Croucher on Middletown’s Beman Triangle

Assistant professor Sarah Croucher is leading an archeological dig in the Beman Triangle, located between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave. Local resident Leverett Beman divided the land in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Croucher will lead an archaeological dig on the site of the Beman Triangle in Middletown on April 28-29. The public is welcome to attend. To view photos of the dig on April 14-15 click here

Q: Professor Croucher, what exactly is the Beman Triangle and what is its significance to the history of Middletown?

A: The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Local historian Liz Warner has shown that something very important happened here in the mid- to late-19th century. Leverett Beman, son of the first Pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Middletown, had the land divided into plots by a surveyor in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. This seems to be a deliberately planned community; a way that members of the AME Zion Church could become property owners (something that remains hard for many people today), and live as neighbors in a relatively prosperous community. The Beman Triangle is of national importance as very few African-Americans were able to go through a similar community-building process in the mid-nineteenth century, when they still lacked U.S. citizenship and slavery was still legal in many states. Although the houses might not look like much today, the site is an important testament to the lives of the nineteenth century Beman Triangle community.

Q:  What do we know already about the AME Zion Church community?

A: There has been some wonderful historical research done on the Beman Triangle community by local historians Liz Warner and Janice Cunningham, as well as Wesleyan alumnus Jesse Nasta as part of his thesis. This work has shown us how active the residents were politically, in ways that are traceable through historical documents.

Wagoner Speaks on Indian Plateau at Penn State Conference

Phillip Wagoner, professor of art history and chair of the archaeology program, spoke on “Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600,” at Penn State University Park campus April 5.

Wagoner discussed his upcoming book of the same title, which focuses on the cultural history of the Deccan region of South India (1200-1600), primarily in the historical interactions between the region’s established Indic culture and the Persianate culture that arrived in the early 14th century.

Since 1987, Wagoner has been associated with the Vijayanagara Research Project, an international team of scholars in different disciplines dedicated to documentation and interpretation of the site of Vijayanagara, capital of the state that dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula between the 1340s and 1565. This work has led to the publication of two books: Tidings of the King: A Translation and Ethnohistorical Analysis of the Rayavacakamu (University of Hawai’i Press,1993); and Vijayanagara: Architectural Inventory of the Sacred Centre, New Delhi (American Institute of Indian Studies and Manohar, 2001). Since 2000, his work has increasingly focused on Persianate Islamic architecture in the Deccan, ranging from the first appearance of Sultanate-style architecture in the region in the early 14th century, to the founding and design of Hyderabad, laid out as a new capital by the Qutb Shahi sultans in the late 16th century.

Students, Local Community Participate in Archaeology Dig

Students enrolled in Wesleyan's "Middletown Materials" class let an archeological excavation April 14-15 at the Beman Triangle on campus. The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Pictured, teaching assistant Miriam Manda '12 helps local resident Mark with setting up a site.

Middletown Materials Class Posts Final Projects Online

The Middletown Materials: Archaeological Analysis class (ANTH 227) presented their final projects May 5-7 in the new Cross Street Archaeology Lab. The class was taught by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

“The class has been doing fantastic work on beginning to reexamine archaeological contexts explored in the late 1970s by Professor Stephen Dyson and students,” she says. “They’ve had a tough job as the first class to begin working with this material, but have been making great progress with the artifacts and with working on associated archival information.”

Presentations were held across two class sessions, and included work on advertising in late 18th and early 19th century Middletown, the relationship of Middletown newspapers to the Magill site inhabitants, queer Marxist investigations of historical archaeology in Middletown, interpretations of bottles found in the rebuilding of the Wesleyan boathouse, and a tour of the remaining historical buildings on Wesleyan’s campus and their relationship to the changing history of Middletown.

Their work is published online at http://middletownmaterials.research.wesleyan.edu/student-posts/.

Fellowship has Croucher Focused on 19th Century East Africa

Second from left, Sara Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, received a SAR Weatherhead Fellowship to Study Archaeology in 19th Century East Africa. She's pictured here with Rachel Miller-Howard '10, third from left.

Second from left, Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, received a Weatherhead Fellowship to study the archaeology of 19th Century East Africa. She's pictured at the Ujiji excavation site in Western Tanzania during 2008 with, from left, Hajj M. Hajj, Tanzanian research associate; Rachel Miller-Howard ’10; and Florah Kessy, an M.A. student, from the University of Dar es Salaam.

As an archaeologist investigating 19th century sites in Zanzibar and Tanzania, it was impossible for Sarah Croucher to ignore the thousands of shreds of locally-produced and imported ceramics unearthed every day of excavations.

For archaeologists, these materials are vital to interpreting the social history of 19th century Islamic colonialism in East Africa.

“Many key questions remain uninvestigated, particularly in regard to how newly shared Zanzibar identities emerged during the 19th Century, which intersected with gender, religion, class and sexuality,” Croucher explains.

Sarah Croucher working in a trench

Sarah Croucher and research associate Hajj M. Hajj excavate at the site of Ujiji.

Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, has been awarded a nine-month Weatherhead Fellowship by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) in Santa Fe, N.M. Resident scholars approach their research from anthropology or from related fields such as history, sociology, art and philosophy, with fellowships providing scholars with “time to think and write about topics important to the understanding of humankind.” Scholars are provided with housing and office space on the SAR campus in Santa Fe.

Croucher was awarded the fellowship to complete writing up the findings of her research, tied together into a project titled “Consuming Colonialism: Archaeological Investigations of Ceramics and Identities in 19th Century East Africa.”

The core of this study results from survey and excavation work Croucher directed in 2003 and 2005 to investigate clove plantation sites on Zanzibar. Further material is drawn from a 2006 survey project along the central caravan route taken by traders during the 19th Century and excavations in 2008 at the site of Ujiji in Western Tanzania, made famous by the expeditions of Stanley and

Speakers Raise Awareness of Native American Repatriation Challenges

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the Center for American Studies sponsored an event titled "Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments," held March 26 in Russell House. The event was held to raise awareness of critical issues regarding NAGPRA compliance in the context of both Wesleyan as an institution of higher learning that is subject to the federal law, and the particular challenges of repatriation in the southern New England region.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the American Studies Program sponsored an event titled "Reconsidering Repatriation: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Politics and Institutional Developments," held March 26 in Russell House. The event was held to raise awareness of critical issues regarding NAGPRA compliance in the context of both Wesleyan as an institution of higher learning that is subject to the federal law, and the particular challenges of repatriation in the southern New England region.