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The Materiality of Fishing, Property, and Labor in Western Massachusetts

  • Quentin LewisEmail author
Original Article
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Abstract

This article explores the complexities of property and competing regimes of value in the colonial and Federal periods. The end of the 18th century saw a growing privatization of previously common resources as part of the emergence of a broadly, if unevenly, constituted capitalist mode of production in western Massachusetts. Excavations at the Frary House/Barnard Tavern in rural Deerfield, Massachusetts, provide a seemingly mundane index of this broad social change in the differential presence of fish scales in trash pits at the site. Anadromous fish have been a means of subsistence for indigenous communities who lived along the Connecticut River valley for thousands of years, but following English colonization and conquest, they became caught up in broader anxieties and struggles over the nature of work, property, and social and material value. This article documents some of these struggles in the region, as a reminder that consumption and subsistence are never isolated from broader social and structural processes.

Keywords

fishing consumption class New England Deerfield 

Extracto

Este artículo explora las complejidades de la propiedad y los regímenes de valor en competencia en los períodos coloniales y federales. El final del siglo XVIII fue testigo de una creciente privatización de recursos previamente comunes, como parte del surgimiento de un modo de producción capitalista ampliamente constituido, aunque de manera desigual, en el oeste de Massachusetts. Las excavaciones en Frary House/Barnard Tavern, en la zona rural de Deerfield, Massachusetts, proporcionan un índice aparentemente mundano de este amplio cambio social en la presencia diferencial de escamas de peces en los pozos de basura en el sitio. Los peces anádromos han sido un medio de subsistencia para las comunidades indígenas que vivían a lo largo del valle del río Connecticut durante miles de años, pero, después de la colonización y la conquista inglesas, estas comunidades se vieron atrapadas en ansiedades y luchas más amplias sobre la naturaleza del trabajo, la propiedad, el valor social y material. Este artículo documenta algunas de estas luchas en la región, como un recordatorio de que el consumo y la subsistencia nunca están aislados de procesos sociales y estructurales más amplios.

Résumé

Le présent article explore les complexités du concept de propriété et des régimes de valeurs concurrents des périodes coloniales et fédérales. La fin du 18e siècle a donné naissance à la privatisation croissante de ressources auparavant communes suite à l’émergence d’un mode de production capitaliste largement, même si inégalement constitué dans l’ouest du Massachusetts. Des excavations réalisées à la Frary House/Barnard Tavern de la région rurale de Deerfield au Massachusetts procurent un index d’apparence mondaine de ce vaste changement social sous forme de présence inégale d’écailles de poisson dans les fosses à déchets du site. Les poissons anadromes constituent un moyen de subsistance des communautés autochtones vivant le long de la rivière Connecticut depuis des milliers d’années, mais suite à la colonisation et la conquête anglaises, ces dernières ont hérité de plus grands problèmes quant à la nature du travail, de la propriété et des valeurs sociales et matérielles. Le présent article documente certains de ces défis dans la région afin de rappeler que la consommation et la subsistance ne sont jamais totalement isolées des processus sociaux et structurels plus vastes.

Notes

Acknowledgments:

This article exists thanks to Historic Deerfield, Inc.’s long-term and continued engagement with archaeology as public practice and as a source of teaching and research. I owe them a substantial debt and hope that they continue to utilize archaeology as part of their mission of interpreting and preserving the rural New England past. This article has likewise benefited from conversations with and comments from Jane Anderson, Christopher Douyard, Lyzann Harlow, Christopher Matthews, Matthew Palus, Robert Paynter, Alanna Rudzik, and Linda Ziegenbein.

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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yager Museum of Art and CultureHartwick CollegeOneontaU.S.A.

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