Date of Award

Fall 12-2014

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Chair

Amy Young

Committee Chair Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 2

Douglas Chambers

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Edwin Jackson

Committee Member 3 Department

Anthropology and Sociology


Social relationships structure daily life in a startling, and important, variety of ways. However, when considering the social world that existed inside slave quarters across the Virginia Piedmont (and the Antebellum South), archaeologists have not been able to come to a clear consensus on how to approach the study of social networks; with some researchers focusing on social standing, seen most often through the role of material wealth to create connections, and others focusing on how interactions can be meaningfully interpreted from the archaeological record. This thesis represents an attempt to bridge these two theoretical stances, by looking to see if, in fact, wealth mattered in the social relationships within the black community at Virginia’s Montpelier plantation. By comparing the amount of costly consumer goods owned by the residents of three sites to the evidence for their social interaction with their neighbors, including gift giving, participation in intra-plantation economies, and involvement in the local spiritual community, it appears as if the amount of wealth a household displayed did not affect their social relationships within the enslaved community. Rather, a complex, overlapping, web of identity and belonging likely shaped who the women and men at Montpelier formed social connections with, and the degree these various connections mattered in their lives: influenced by, amongst other factors, gender, where these African Americans called home, and who they were “kin” to.