In eighteenth-century Jamaica, an informal, underground economy existed among enslaved laborers. Mark Hauser uses pottery fragments to examine their trade networks and to understand how enslaved and free Jamaicans created communities that transcended plantation boundaries.
An Archaeology of Black Markets utilizes both documentary and archaeological evidence to reveal how slaves practiced their own systematic forms of economic production, exchange, and consumption. Hauser compares the findings from a number of previously excavated sites and presents new analyses that reinterpret these collections in the context of island-wide trading networks.
Trading allowed enslaved laborers to cross boundaries of slave life and enter into a black market of economic practices with pots in hand. By utilizing secret trails that connected plantations, sectarian churches, and these street markets, the enslaved remained in contact, exchanged information, news, and gossip, and ultimately stoked the colony's 1831 rebellion. Hauser considers how uprooted peoples from Africa created new networks in Jamaica, and interjects into archaeological discussions the importance of informal economic practice among non-elite members of society.