Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Kenneth G. Kelly


The nineteenth century transatlantic slave trade had significant social, political, and economic ramifications for the coastal West African environments. As Britain pressured European and American imperial powers to join in anti-slave trading endeavors in the early portion of the nineteenth century, the slave trade was directed to areas such as the Rio Pongo in coastal Guinea, where imperial and national powers were scarce, and both legal and contraband trade could continue to succeed. In these situations, foreign traders were able to integrate themselves into local networks, gaining access to social and material capital, and creating a new class of transnational trading families that would direct the evolution of local social and political landscapes. This dissertation employs an interdisciplinary framework to investigate the variation among slave trading villages of the nineteenth century Rio Pongo. Archaeological excavations, documentary records, and oral traditions are examined to determine how historical factors affect daily life and political organization at these slave trading sites. Specifically, results from excavations conducted from 2016-2017 at the village of Gambia and oral traditions collected there are compared to archaeological information gathered in 2013 at the villages of Bangalan, Farenya, and Sanya Paulia in a consideration of wider-scale intercultural interactions. Looking at the ways in which material and architectural remains, contextualized through a historical lens, can indicate the intentional signaling of cultural and ethnic identities, I argue that transnational trading elites (and their families) manipulated their perceived identities towards a polarized “native” or “other” as a defensive mechanism and adaptive means to experience continued success in transatlantic slaving endeavors under the gaze of antislavery patrols. I explore how such manipulations contribute to variation in intra- and inter-site dynamics during the period of occupation, and consequently the variation in these dynamics affects the development and transmission of an institutionalized memory of the slave trade among local residents, contributing to an increasing discourse of the African Diaspora.

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