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Eliciting Contraband through Archaeology: Illicit Trade in Eighteenth-Century St. Augustine

Kathleen Deagan
Historical Archaeology
Vol. 41, No. 4 (2007), pp. 98-116
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25617469
Page Count: 19
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Eliciting Contraband through Archaeology: Illicit Trade in Eighteenth-Century St. Augustine
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Abstract

The study of contraband (illicit trade) should offer a uniquely appropriate focus for the multi-evidentiary strengths of historical archaeology, in that it demands the articulation of largely undocumented economic activity (reflected materially in archaeological remains) with legal mandates and formal regulations about commerce. Problematic issues in realizing this are presented by the recognition of contraband goods and activities in the archaeological record and by the difficulties in articulating archaeologically derived periodicity with text-based periodicity of contraband in a given community. With those concerns in mind, the analysis of excavated data from six 18th-century households of St. Augustine is described here with extensive historical documentation of contraband activity in Spanish Florida and the Spanish Americas in general to explore the notion that historical archaeological integration of data about contraband can reveal useful information not knowable from either source alone. Results suggest that at a community-wide scale of analysis, the archaeological data essentially reify and add detail to the already existing documentary accounts of contraband trade. A household scale of analysis and comparison reveals how people with specific economic, occupational, religious, ethnic, and social identities engaged in contraband as a strategy in ways that were not previously known. This helps define the contours of economic possibility and creates a more nuanced understanding of the structure, opportunity, and dynamics of economic choice and agency within a community.

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