Brown Bag Series: The Archaeology of Religion, Identity, and Slavery: Quakerism From the Urban North to the British Virgin Islands
Religion is a major force in social life but is often seen as being ephemeral and removed from the tangible things of archaeology. This talk will consider how archaeologists can study religion and the ways in which material culture is part of how religious groups are formed, change, and interact with local contexts. Two archaeological projects focusing on the Religious Society of Friends--better known as "Quakers"--will be outlined: one in Revolutionary War era Philadelphia and one in the 1740s British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Historical archaeologists have access to documents and books which explain and describe religion. While these are a vital resource, I also suggest that our understanding can be extended by a focus on how the context in which people lived their daily lives (the site where they interpreted these written works) matters for the shape of the religion that they practice. Not only is religion visible in archaeologically-accessible daily life, but the consideration of religion is vitally important for the archaeological understanding of past lives.