Many pasts? The words we use
YOU! (Archaeology and the Internet)
see also:
(Descendants, archaeologists and others)
(names, genealogies, etc.)
The LJP Historical Society
(about community collaboration)
Links to other sites
Search (names, places, etc.)
Table of Contents
(lists all site links)

Description of Site
Architecture and Preservation
African Symbolism


Levi Jordan


For the past 14 years, Ken Brown and his students at the University of Houston have been excavating and studying the Levi Jordan Plantation. For the most part, excavation has focused on the slave and tenant quarters of the plantation ("Description of Site" and "Map of Site"). The quarters were occupied by slaves from 1848 until 1865, and by sharecroppers and tenant farmers (many of whom were the same people and their children) until about 1888-1892 ("Continuity: How do we know this?"). Some excavation has also taken place in the yard area and around the still-standing plantation house. In addition, the cemetery used by the African American residents has also been surveyed (but not disturbed).

For more on the actual people who left these things behind, go to Who Lived There, and that page will direct you to other links.

Excavation in progress. Sweat, mosquitoes, and dirt. Lots of fun...more photos below...keep scrolling...

to go directly to information on cabin areas:
Curer's Cabin
"Political Leader's" Cabin
Munitions Maker's/Blacksmith's Cabin
Shell and Bone Carver's Cabin

For the most recent archaeological interpretations of the "Curer's Cabin" and the "Praise House", see a 1998 paper by Kris and Ken Brown

For some thoughts on the use of the word "Cabin", go to "Words".

For a colleague's comments on this research, go to Maria Franklin's page on this web site.

Questions or Comments?
Please let us know!


For Ken Brown's recollections about working on this site for the past 14 years, go to the interview with Ken that I did in the summer of 1998. In this interview he shares something about how his interpretations developed over a long period of time. For some views from a student who was involved in the excavations at the very beginning, go to Doreen Cooper's page on this site. For a more recent view, see the page (including an interview, with charts and tables) about Robert Harris, a student who is now working with Ken. Other research (archaeological, historical, and ethnographic) done by other students can be seen by going to the pages for David Bruner, Jorge Garcia-Herreros, Mary Barnes, Carol McDavid, Mary Lynne Hill, Cheryl Wright, and Rebecca Barerra.

For more on the archaeology, read on....

This archaeology of the quarters area of this site is unusual in several ways.
  • First, the way that the quarters were constructed, and the things that happened to the area after people moved out, created a situation on-the-ground which allowed for a very high degree of preservation – both of individual artifacts and, more importantly, of context. (See "Architecture and Preservation: How do we know this?"). Without context, artifacts can tell us very little about how people lived in the past. This site is unusual in that both artifacts and artifact contexts were preserved.
  • Second, there were a tremendous number and variety of artifacts present in the slave and tenant quarters area – many more than what one might expect if the area had been used for some other purpose after the people moved out. Many of the items left behind are the sorts of things people would normally take with them when moving, and many appear to have been perfectly useable, and not damaged by anything other than natural decomposition processes. These include beautiful carved bone objects, lots of flatware and ceramics, eyeglasses, jewelry, hundreds of buttons and clothing and shoe hardware (some arranged in the ground as if they were still on clothing, which of course would have rotted away by now), munitions, tools of many sorts, kitchenware, a healer’s curing kit, and even money.
  • Third (and most important) because of the relatively undisturbed context, it is possible to see that the artifacts remaining are "patterned" in ways that suggest where, how and why people may have actually used them. Different cabin areas are quite different from each other in the kinds of artifacts left behind. Even within cabin areas, it is sometimes possible to tell where items of furniture, such as beds, might have been. (Shadows: How do we know this?).

These eyeglasses were found in the Curer's Cabin, near this piece of pencil. Slate pieces were also found.

Hundreds of pieces of flatware were found – tin, pewter, bone and wood- handled, and even some silver.

Quite a few coins were found – the one on the right is a five dollar gold piece.

Buckles, clasps, rivets, and other clothing hardware.

A great deal of jewelry and buttons were found – pendants, findings, decorated buttons of various sorts.

The huge number of artifacts left behind, along with the ways that they were left in the ground, suggests that the people living in these cabins in the late nineteenth century left the site very quickly, and that they took little with them when they left. For this reason, and because the things they left were relatively undisturbed for almost 100 years, the Jordan Plantation offers a very revealing window into the lives – the cultureof the African-American people who lived there.

Finally, because of all of these factors, the site has been excavated in a somewhat unusual way. See "Method" for a detailed description of how the actual digging took place, and why certain methods were used.

One of the first questions that Ken and his students asked was "Why –and when – did the people move away?". Several hypotheses have been and are continuing to be explored. See "Abandonment" to examine these questions.

Regardless of why and when the tenants left, the materials they left behind do reveal a great deal about their lives. We now know more about what jobs they had (both inside and outside their own community), what social and political statuses they had, and how they survived, physically and even perhaps spiritually. From what we have learned so far, it appears that many of these aspects of life were defined not only by the plantation's owners, but also by enslaved people and, later, by tenants and sharecroppers. This is not to say that these people were free of oppression, but rather to say that despite this oppression they found ways to empower themselves. Some of the activities that people were involved in were of African origin, especially shell and bone carving, curing, and metal working were of African origin (see "African Symbolism") and they played a very important role in the survival of this African-American resident community.

On many levels, despite the oppression of the ante and post bellum American south, these individuals found ways to manage their political, social, and supernatural affairs. Their story reveals much about oppression, enslavement, and persecution, but it also reveals much about the lives of people in terms of empowerment, creativity, and self-reliance. To learn about the activities that took place in the various cabin areas, use the main "Cabins" link to the left, and go from there. For a introduction to some of the people who lived in these residences, go to "Who lived there?". From there you will find links to genealogical information, family names, and other things.

We need your help to make this site better! Please tell us what you think by going to:
Questionnaire #1 (Adults) * Questionnaire #2 (Kids)*
Feedback Form*

HOME * Conversations * Words * Archaeology * History * Ethnography * Community * Media * Descendants & others * People in the Past * Kids * Bibliography * Definitions * Links * Maps * Search * Table of Contents
For information about this site or this project, contact or .
Carol McDavid 1998