Ceramics serve as one of the best-known artifacts excavated by archaeologists. They are carefully described, classified, and dated, but rarely do scholars consider their many and varied uses. Breaking from this convention, Myriam Arcangeli examines potsherds from four colonial sites in the Antillean island of Guadeloupe to discover what these everyday items tell us about the people who used them. In the process, she reveals a wealth of information about the lives of the elite planters, the middle and lower classes, and enslaved Africans.
By analyzing how the people of Guadeloupe used ceramics-whether jugs for transporting and purifying water, pots for cooking, or pearlware for eating-Arcangeli spotlights the larger social history of Creole life. What emerges is a detail rich picture of water consumption habits, changing foodways, and concepts of health. Sherds of History offers a compelling and novel study of the material record and the "ceramic culture" it represents to broaden our understanding of race, class, and gender in French-colonial societies in the Caribbean and the United States.
Arcangeli's innovative interpretation of the material record will challenge the ways archaeologists analyze ceramics.