Table of contents
Table of contents
Unit 6

Black Archaeologies

A tall stone sits in the middle of a public urban park.

In this unit, students will learn about the methodological and theoretical approaches Black archaeologists and archaeologists conducting work in partnership with Black communities are incorporating into their work. They will also learn about the critiques scholars are making about the discipline from the standpoint of Black archaeologies and explore how archaeologists are undertaking projects that ask new questions about history to offer important insights into the past and present.

Professor Talking Points
  • There is no one Black archaeology but rather a plurality of approaches conducted by, for, and with people of the African diaspora.
  • This work includes the archaeological study of people taken from Africa due to the transnational slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries, but it is also much broader and includes the study of African culture, society, and experiences within and beyond the African continent.
  • Explore recent issues of the Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage to share with students the latest research, ideas, and debates.
Academic Articles
  1. Flewellen, Ayana Omilade, Justin P. Dunnavant, Alicia Odewale, Alexandra Jones, Tsione Wolde-Michael, Zoë Crossland, and Maria Franklin. 2021. “‘The Future of Archaeology Is Antiracist’: Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter.” American Antiquity 86 (2): 224–243.

  2. Franklin, Maria. 2001. “A Black Feminist-Inspired Archaeology?” Journal of Social Archaeology 1 (1): 108–125.

  3. Gordon, Edmund T. 2007. “The Austin School Manifesto: An Approach to the Black or African Diaspora.” Cultural Dynamics 19 (1): 93–97.

  4. Leone, Mark, Cheryl LaRoche, and Jennifer Babiarz. “The Archaeology of Black Americans in Recent Times.” Annual Review of Anthropology 34 (1): 575–598.

  5. Weik, Terry. “The Archaeology of Maroon Societies in the Americas: Resistance, Cultural Continuity, and Transformation in the African Diaspora.” Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 81–92.

Student Discussion Questions
  1. How are archaeologists interpreting African diaspora theory to fuel social change?
  2. How can movements for social justice like Black Lives Matter benefit from understanding Black archaeologies?
  3. In archaeological contributions that focus on the experiences of African descendants in the Americas, how has such research contributed to understandings about the autonomy and resistance of enslaved and formerly enslaved people?
  4. What value does Franklin (2001) believe Black feminist archaeology brings to the field? Why does she argue it is necessary?
  5. How do the perspectives of Black archaeologists challenge colonialism and racism in the archaeological record?
  6. What is the difference between Black archaeologies and archaeologies of the African diaspora?
  • Have students select a topic mentioned in the readings and map out the emergence and changes in the way archaeologists are addressing it in a creative way. See the feminist anthropology map below for inspiration. Possible topics include: an introduction to archaeology terms, Black archaeologies’ foundational principles, artifacts versus belongings, and how to do community-led archaeology.
  • Briefly research a Black archaeologist in the U.S. or one in a different country who is featured in the articles you have read or elsewhere. What kind of work do they do? What are their contributions to the field?
  • Listen to an episode of season 4 of the SAPIENS podcast and take note of the general themes. Pick one and write a one-page response about how it relates to the content of the articles in this unit.
Additional Resources
  1. Special Issue: “The Marathon Continues: New Directions in African Diaspora Archaeology,” Guest Editors: Nedra K. Lee and Jannie Nicole Scott

  2. Article: Archaeological Institute of America’s “Archaeologists You Should Know – John Wesley Gilbert

  3. Article: SAPIENS’ “The Untold Stories of Archaeology’s Women

  4. Podcast: SAPIENS Season 4 Black and Indigenous Archaeologies

  5. Webinar: Wenner-Gren Foundation’s “Reclaiming the Ancestors: Indigenous and Black Perspectives on Repatriation, Human Rights, and Justice

  6. Webinar: Wenner-Gren Foundation’s “‘For the Welfare of the Whole People’: Heritage Stewardship in Indigenous and Black Communities

  7. Webinar: Wenner-Gren Foundation’s “Black and Indigenous Futures

  8. Website: Cite Black Women

  9. Website: The Society of Black Archaeologists

Unit By

Eshe Lewis (2021)

Unit 7

Indigenous Archaeologies

More than 100 orange hearts sit on the side of a grassy hill with small lights in front of each one.