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Levi Jordan
Plantation

The "Bone and Shell Carver's Cabin"

See also pages on Robert Harris' work on this part of the site.

This carved shell "cameo" was found in the slave quarters of this plantation, and was made by one of the people who lived there. This person lived and worked in what we now call the "Shell Carver's Cabin".

The items found in this cabin constitute a large percentage of all of the carved bone found on African-American sites across the entire south. They are remarkable not only because, simply, they exist, but also because some of them are beautiful and, even more importantly, they illustrate the ways that Africans, later African Americans, found to "connect" to the homes they were forced to leave. According to census records, several people living on the plantation came directly from Africa – these objects were expressions of the power of the African religions they and their ancestors practiced.

Taken in context with each other, the artifacts in this cabin show that someone was working with shell and bone to create a variety of objects. Included are tools that could have been used to manufacture carved shell and bone items (several knives, files, a metal punch, two small drills, a small saw blade, and grinding and shaping tools made of bone), as well as a sandstone cobble and shell "blanks" for carving. . Also included was an unfinished shell "cameo", including a metal base which may have been planned for use as a "finding" for hanging as a pendant.

You can learn more about this cabin area with some additional links. One goes to a page with excerpts from some of Ken Brown's published work. Another goes to an interview with Robert Harris, a student who is doing detailed analysis of this cabin area. Robert's interview includes lots of the data he is working with: drawings, sketches, photographs and so forth.

Picture of floor of shell carver's cabin, during excavation. Oval shape in the middle is the carved "cameo", at top of page. The "cameo" was surrounded by carving and shaping tools.

Sandstone cobble and shell "blanks" for carving. Note the scratch marks on the cobble. The holes on the shells could have been made by rubbing them against this stone; "natural" holes on such shells are more regular and smooth than these, which appear to have been sanded or punched out.


ARCHAEOLOGY LINKS
Interview with Ken Brown on the archaeology and history of this site
Description of Site
Continuity
Architecture and Preservation
Definitions
Shadows
Method
Abandonment
African Retentions and Symbolism
Cabins

CABIN LINKS:
Internal and External Economies
Summation of Cabin Data
Shell and Bone Carver's Cabin
Magician/Curer's Cabin
Political Leaders Cabin
Munitions Maker/Blacksmith

Mother-of-pearl pocket knife; others were also found in this cabin

Here is a carved bone object found elsewhere in the deposit, but it is believed that it was carved by the person who carved other shell and bone objects. For more discussion of this object, go to the page on the "Political Leader's Cabin".

   
   

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Carol McDavid 1998