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Archaeologists uncover the material culture of slavery on São Tomé island

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Archaeologists conducting excavations at a 16th century sugar plantation estate on São Tomé island have uncovered the material culture of slavery.

São Tomé is an island located in the Central African country of  São Tomé and Príncipe. Its name is Portuguese for “Saint Thomas and Prince”, having first been settled by the Portuguese following the island’s discovery in 1470.

By the 1530’s, the colony of São Tomé emerged as the largest producer of sugar globally, and relied on a labour force of enslaved Africans from the Slave Coast of West Africa, the Niger Delta, the island of Fernando Po, and later from the Kongo and Angola.

São Tomé was the first tropical plantation economy based on sugar and slave labour, acting as a blueprint for the plantations and plantation economies across the Americas. However, the economic success of São Tomé was short lived, as competition with Brazil in combination with frequent insurrections by enslaved people, meant that the plantation’s profits had suffered major losses by the early 17th century.

Archaeologists from the University of Cologne, and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Porto (CEAUP), have been conduction a study of the Praia Melão, São Tomé’s largest sugar mill and estate from the 16th century

The sugar mill and estate house (a single building) is located near the Ribeiro Manuel Jorge, which flows easterly to the Gulf of Guinea, south of the village of Praia Melão.

The magnitude of the structure mirrors the substantial enslaved workforce that laboured within the primary workspace. Particularly significant are the windows of the building, strategically crafted to offer an unobstructed view of the working zones, facilitating surveillance to enforce productivity, prevent escape, and uprising.

The surviving building is two storey high with a rectangular plan, divided into three rooms. Ceramics, particularly sugar moulds, are found in large quantities across the site, in both the ground and embedded into walls.

X-ray fluorescence—a technique used to determine elemental composition of materials—allowed their origins to be determined. In this case, three sherds of moulds were analyzed and it was discovered that they were made in the Aveiro-Ovar region, Portugal, a major centre for ceramic production at the time.

According to the researchers: “Importantly, these findings display how the plantation economic model later applied in the Americas originated, and the long-distance connections required to facilitate its success. As such, this study could have dramatic implications for our understanding of colonial history.”

Antiquity 

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2023.113

Header Image Credit : Antiquity

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Archaeology

Archaeologists discover traces of Roman circus at Iruña-Veleia

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Archaeologists from ARKIKUS have announced the discovery of a Roman circus at Iruña-Veleia, a former Roman town in Hispania, now located in the province of Álava, Basque Autonomous Community, Spain.

The town was an important transit centre on the Ab Asturica Burdigalam (Roman road), with a peak population of around 10,000 inhabitants.

In a recent study using aerial photography and light detection and ranging (LiDAR), archaeologists have found a Roman circus and previously unknown urban areas of Iruña-Veleia.

A Roman circus was a large open-air venue used mainly for chariot races, although sometimes serving other purposes. Chariot racing was the most popular of many subsidised public entertainments, and was an essential component in several religious festivals.

Image Credit : Shutterstock

Chariot racing declined in significance in the Western Roman Empire following the fall of Rome, with the last known race held at the Circus Maximus in AD 549, organised by the Ostrogothic king, Totila.

According to a press statement by ARKIKUS, the circus is an elongated enclosure that accommodated up to 5,000 spectators, and measures 280 metres long by 72 metres wide.

Until now, only a handful of Roman circus’s are known in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula, emphasising the importance of Iruña-Veleia during the Roman period.

The study also revealed a Roman street system, evidence of buildings with porticoed areas, and a linear feature indicating the route of the Ab Asturica Burdigalam.

Header Image Credit : ARKIKUS

Sources : ARKIKUS

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Archaeology

Archaeologists make new discoveries at Bodbury Ring hillfort

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Bodbury Ring is a univallate hillfort, strategically located at the southern tip of Bodbury Hill in Shropshire, England.

Hillforts in Britain are known from the Bronze Age, but the main period of hillfort construction occurred during the Celtic Iron Age.

Hillfort fortifications follow the contours of a hill and consist of one or more lines of earthworks or stone ramparts, with stockades or defensive walls, and external ditches.

Archaeologists from Time Team and the Universities of Chester and York, recently conducted a study of Bodbury Ring using light detection and ranging (LiDAR).

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is a remote sensing technique that employs pulsed laser light to measure distances to the Earth. By analysing variations in the return times and wavelengths of the laser pulses, this method can generate a detailed 3-D digital map of the landscape.

The study has revealed that Bodbury Ring is six times larger than previously thought and is part of a much larger hillfort which enclosed the entirety of the ridgetop on Bodbury Hill. This larger hillfort shares some characteristics with examples known to have originated in the Late Bronze Age.

Professor Ainsworth from Time Team said: “The earthworks of Bodbury Ring, it seems, were constructed to form a small, more easily defended fort at the southern tip of the original hillfort, possibly in the Middle Iron Age.”

“This prehistoric ‘downsizing’ may have resulted from increased tension in the region, reflecting possible changes in the geopolitical landscape of the times. Close by, on the northern side of Bodbury Hill, the remains of a probable Roman Iron Age enclosed settlement have also been identified for the first time,” added Professor Ainsworth.

Header Image Credit : University of Chester

Sources : University of Chester

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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