Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Kenneth G. Kelly

Second Advisor

Charles R. Cobb


The Carolina Backcountry is a temporally and geographically defined area reaching westward from the Carolina Lowcountry and its center, Charleston. For roughly a one hundred year span between the late seventeenth century and late eighteenth century it was a frontier and contact zone for colonists and indigenous groups. The Backcountry has sometimes been considered culturally and socially retarded, lacking the material refinement found in the colonial center of Lowcountry Charleston, South Carolina. Often landed estates in the eighteenth century Carolina Backcountry have been portrayed as one side of a dichotomy between refinement and local, rural folk craft traditions. I propose that instead, Backcountry inhabitants engaged in local production alongside regional and trans-Atlantic trade and participated in maintaining folk traditions as well as broader social movements through their many social connections.

In my thesis I use archaeological remains from Silver Bluff, a trading post and plantation located along the Savannah River, near present day Aiken, to evidence a consumption pattern of socioeconomic variability in the eighteenth century Carolina Backcountry. To do this, I analyze the archaeological assemblage from the trading post and plantation. I then compare the material assemblage and consumption patterns from Silver Bluff to contemporaneous plantations in the Carolina Lowcountry. The comparison sites include Yaughan, Curriboo, and Middleburg plantations, each of which has been cataloged in to the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) database. Although contrasting elements among these sites exist (as will be explained), these sites have been selected based on general functional and temporal similarity and the idea that artifacts can reveal the social and economic systems in which their possessors engaged. The assemblage from Silver Bluff shows statistically significant ceramic ware type diversity, indicating a richness of material culture not present at the other sites. This finding indicates that the inhabitants of the sites had multiple modes of access and greater opportunity for choice than those of the comparative sites (likely a result of the site's trading post function.) I extrapolate this finding to suggest that the eighteenth century Carolina Backcountry was not socioeconomically "backward," but was socially and economically cosmopolitan.