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CROPPING IN AN AGE OF CAPTIVE TAKING: EXPLORING EVIDENCE FOR UNCERTAINTY AND FOOD INSECURITY IN THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY NORTH CAROLINA PIEDMONT

  • Mallory A. Melton (a1)
Abstract

Engagement in sustained encounters with colonial actors had long-lasting demographic, social, and political consequences for Native American inhabitants of Southeastern North America during the colonial period (AD 1670–1783). Less clear is whether Native peoples who did not regularly trade with colonists also felt the destabilization experienced by more closely affiliated groups. This article explores Native lifeways in the seventeenth-century Eno River valley of the North Carolina Piedmont, a context for which archaeological and ethnohistoric evidence have produced divergent narratives. While extant archaeological findings suggest that daily life from 1650 to 1680 continued virtually unchanged from the preceding Late Woodland period, ethnohistoric accounts indicate that this area was victimized by Native slavers who abducted countless women and children. Seeking to reconcile these narratives, I conducted a diachronic analysis of botanical remains and architecture. Archaeobotanical data reveal that Jenrette site (AD 1650–1680) occupants adopted foodways that differed significantly from those of their Late Woodland predecessors, while architectural evidence indicates a brief village occupation. I argue that Eno River valley inhabitants introduced risk-averse subsistence practices that would have aided in coping with the threat and consequences of slave raiding and that these practices occurred within a social climate of fear and uncertainty that is documented ethnohistorically.

Encuentros sostenidos con actores coloniales tuvieron consecuencias demográficas, sociales y políticas de larga duración para los grupos indígenas del sureste de Norteamérica durante el periodo colonial (1670–1783 dC). Resulta menos claro si los nativos que no comerciaban de manera regular con los colonos también percibieron la misma desestabilización experimentada por grupos con asociaciones más cercanas. Este artículo explora los modos de vida de los nativos durante el siglo XVII en el valle del Río Eno, en el piedemonte de Carolina del Norte, región para la cual la evidencia arqueológica y etnohistórica han producido narrativas divergentes. Mientras que hallazgos arqueológicos previos sugieren que la vida cotidiana en 1650–1680 continuó virtualmente inalterada desde el anterior periodo Silvícola tardío, algunos relatos etnohistóricos indican que esta área fue sometida por mercaderes de esclavos nativos quienes abdujeron un sinnúmero de mujeres y niños. Buscando reconciliar estas narrativas, se llevó a cabo un análisis diacrónico de restos botánicos y arquitectura. Los datos arqueobotánicos revelan que los habitantes del sitio de Jenrette (1650–1680 dC) adoptaron una alimentación significativamente distinta a la de sus predecesores del Silvícola tardío, mientras que la evidencia arquitectónica indica que la ocupación de la aldea fue breve. Se argumenta que los habitantes del valle del Río Eno introdujeron prácticas de subsistencia aversas al riesgo que los habrían ayudado a enfrentarse a la amenaza y las consecuencias de las incursiones esclavistas, y que estas prácticas se presentarían dentro del clima social de temor e incertidumbre que fue documentado etnohistóricamente.

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