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Events and Happenings: Uncommon Meals and the Atlantic Trade at 18th century Juffure (The Gambia)

Faits et fêtes : Repas extraordinaires et commerce atlantique au XVIIIe siècle à Juffure (Gambie)
Liza Gijanto

Résumés

L’arrivée des Portugais sur la côte ouest de l’Afrique au milieu du xve siècle a déplacé, en Afrique de l’Ouest, le centre du commerce à destination du marché européen. En Sénégambie, cela s’est manifesté par le déplacement de la concentration de la richesse depuis les entités politiques liées aux marchés sahariens de l’intérieur vers les centres commerciaux émergents de la côte atlantique. L’introduction du fleuve Gambie dans le Monde atlantique a entraîné des changements importants dans la sphère commerciale locale quant à la disponibilité des matières premières et l’accès à la richesse, entraînant des manifestations matérielles spécifiques témoignant de l’émergence des relations socio-économiques dans le pôle commercial nouvellement institué du district de Niumi. Juffureh est devenue la principale ville commerçante de Niumi, possédant une usine de commerce britannique et servant de poste de ravitaillement pour leur base d’opérations de l’île James. L’intérêt ici est de savoir comment l’amélioration de l’accès à la richesse et l’interaction avec les commerçants européens ont affecté les relations socio-économiques entre habitants de Juffureh, notamment l’affirmation du statut socio-économique au travers de l’alimentation. C’est à partir de sources archéologiques et archivistiques que les changements dans l’expression de la richesse et du statut, au xviiie siècle, à Juffureh, sont explorés.

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Gambie
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Introduction

  • 1  P. Curtin, 1975, p. 4.
  • 2  L. Gijanto, 2011a.

1The arrival of the Portuguese on the West African coast in the mid-15th century had a significant impact on existing trade routes and commerce. In the Senegambia, this manifested in the shift in the concentration of wealth from polities connected to Saharan markets to the newly established commercial centre on the coast oriented towards the Atlantic.1 The Gambia River’s position in the Atlantic world included greater access to wealth and foreign commodities. This resulted in specific material manifestations indicative of emerging socio-economic relations in the newly settled Niumi commercial centre. From the mid-17th century into the first decades of the 19th century, the emergent coastal polity of Niumi possessed the river’s local commercial centre, which included the village of Juffure at the heart of commerce (Figure 1). These new connections with the Atlantic trade brought unprecedented access to wealth to the local residents and likely affected the determination of who were the ‘elite’ within the local communities. Achieving or retaining elite status in this setting required the acknowledgement of this status by others. This necessitated a process of continual affirmation, including meeting communally expected social obligations. At Juffure, this was represented by a manipulation of the existing social structure through the enactment of previously accepted meal-related practices or traditions which in turn maintained the overarching structure or social order.2 This structure was the culmination of multiple levels and types of interactions that were negotiated through material means. Social displays related to status within this community involved a large investment of food resources in the form of extensive small-scale events or happenings marking important community-wide events such as circumcision, marriages, and Ramadan. Of interest here is how the increased access to wealth created by Atlantic commerce affected social interactions at Juffure, including assertions of socio-economic status through food.

Figure 1: The 18th century Niumi commercial centre

Figure 1: The 18th century Niumi commercial centre

Liza Gijanto

  • 3  Cf. D. Haggis, 2007; I. Hodder, 2005; H. Jackson, S. SCott, 2003; J. Blitz, 1993.
  • 4  Cf. A. Giddens, 1979; P. Bourdieu, 1977; W. Sewell, 2005.

2Archaeological excavations at the former Juffure Village site uncovered several deposits containing evidence of communal displays of status through diet. These deposits are analogous to feasting assemblages identified by archaeologists in a myriad locales and time periods.3 The deposits identified as such at Juffure are distinguished from everyday assemblages based up their discrete nature (i.e. presence in pits rather than forming sheet middens), high frequencies of locally produced ceramics, and increased amounts and identifiable faunal and botanical remains. Acts of feasting varied in their temporal range, possibly lasting hours or days and depending on the frequency with which these events were held. Multiple small-scale feasts may be represented in a single archaeological deposit, as is likely the case at Juffure. Therefore, the meals and small-scale events, or happenings, described under the guise of ‘feasting’ in this study refer to occasional and in all likelihood communal meals that differ from those occurring every day. As distinct moments, however, they are part of the ebb and flow of social life and represent acts that are part of the accepted communal habitus that guide daily practice culminating in the overarching social structure.4 The extended periods of feasting are situated within regional and global events, including the opening and closing of Atlantic markets on the Gambia River. This paper focuses on 18th century deposits at Juffure Village with supplementary data from the former British trading house affiliated with the town.

  • 5  P. Bourdieu, 1990; A. Giddens, 1979, 1984.
  • 6  C. Cobb, 1991; M. Dietler, I. Herbich, 1993; D. Agrawal et al., 1999; T. Murray, 1999; G. Lucas, 2 (...)

3The identification of change viewed primarily as a characteristic of long-term historical trajectories is central to archaeological investigations of socio-economic relations between various groups throughout human history. In these investigations, it is important that the nature of the impact of socio-economic interactions on local populations in both time and space is examined through a multi-scalar, diachronic perspective, viewing local small-scale events and practices in tandem with broader regional and global shifts in commerce. After all, the archaeological record is created through a series of practices enacted by individual agents and group cooperative, and should be investigated as such.5 These practices occur within the frame of time, itself malleable and multi-dimensional, while also linear; this then makes it apparent that changes to the social habitus necessarily take place in multiple layers.6 Within this perspective the ‘social habitus’ is defined as the various practices used by members of a community in order to assert their position within it respective to one another. The principal actions used to accomplish this in the Gambian context were forms of social display through feasting, which are visible in the archaeological record at Juffure.

  • 7  T. Pauketat, 2001, p. 10.
  • 8  M. Varien, J. Potter, 2008, p. 9.
  • 9  W. Sewell, 1992; W. Sewell, 2005, p. 140-141; M. De Certeau, 1984.
  • 10  A. Giddens, 1979; W. Sewell, 2005, p. 131.

4Acts of social display represent a purposeful manipulation of the existing social structure through previously accepted practices or traditions. These traditions are defined by the ways they are enacted, including the way individuals articulate their positions in the community vis-à-vis others through social display.7 At the same time, they are constrained by the historical and spatial contexts in which they exist, highlighting the fact that the individual’s “relationship to the social community is a give-and-take relationship between members (agents) and the structure”.8 The structure of everyday life is a shared entity in which all members of a society interact. Within this overarching structure, individuals have access to a number of practices that can be utilised in various contexts. This idea has been alternatively identified by different social theorists as “transposable schema” or “tactics”.9 Under whatever name, they are the generalized procedures implemented by agents that serve to reproduce and enable social life, procedures that can be described as the ‘social habitus.’10 These are the underlying practices that serve to maintain the overarching structure or social order that is the culmination of multiple levels and types of interactions negotiated through material means in a relational perspective, including practices of social display.

Juffure at the Center of Trade

  • 11  C. Crone, 1937.
  • 12  R. Jobson, 1968; F. Moore, 1738; C. Crone, 1937; F. Coelho, 1989.
  • 13  D.R. Wright, 1977, p. 13.
  • 14  F. Paris, 2001, p. 31, 33; F. Coelho, 1989, ch. 2, p. 2-3.
  • 15  F. Moore, 1738, p. 67; F. Paris, 2001, p. 31; D.R. Wright, 2004, p. 82-87.

5The Gambia River was not dominated by any single political entity when Portuguese traders first arrived in the mid-15th century.11 Rather, a number of small polities, possessing different degrees of autonomy and allegiance to various states in West Africa, existed independently of one another throughout the period of the Atlantic trade on the river.12 This created a complex economic environment in which European traders had to contend with numerous local kings and village chiefs to facilitate commerce. These leaders demanded tolls and gifts in exchange for passage through their territory and the settlement of trading factories. Niumi’s entanglement in Atlantic commerce signalled a transition from a backwater for interior networks to the north, east, and south supplying salt and dried fish into the interior to a point of settlement and commercial enterprise.13 Niumi’s coastal position was its key asset. The Niumimansa (king) controlled the entrance to the river and thus held the upper hand in relations with European merchants. By the late 17th century, the British had established their base of operations (James Fort) on a strategic island within Niumi’s border. The French settled directly opposite the island in Niumi at Albreda.14 These settlements, in addition to Juffure, transformed Niumi from a secondary to a primary market. The villages of Juffure, San Domingo, and Albreda became important points of Atlantic commerce by the early 18th century.15 To varying degrees, all were connected to the Atlantic world through some form of production, consumption, or exchange.

  • 16  D.R. Wright, 2004, p. 81-82, 87.
  • 17 Ibid. p. 81-82.
  • 18  British National Archives, CO 1/16, p. 492, J.M. Gray 1966, p. 56.

6Juffure was the youngest of the villages directly involved in Atlantic commerce. It was founded between 1495 and 1520, according to oral sources.16 The Niumimansa gave the Tall family—his maternal nephews—permission to settle Juffure with assistance from Luso-Africans at nearby San Domingo.17 The mansa intended Juffure to be a trading village, and the Talls were responsible for collecting tarrifs. The Juffure alkalho also profited from renting land to the British at James Fort, who needed a fresh water source and space to grow garden stuffs to support their people on an island that lacked these features.18

  • 19  British National Archives, T70/56.
  • 20  P. Cultru, 1913, p. 198-199.
  • 21  British National Archives, T70/55.
  • 22 Ibid.
  • 23  British National Archives, T70/19.
  • 24  British National Archives, T70/4.
  • 25  British National Archives T70/55.

7Juffure’s proximity to both James Fort and French Albreda enhanced its importance to the British, who sought to establish a permanent trading house there.19 By 1685, the Royal African Company (RAC) had positioned an agent at the village to maintain the garden and well supplying James Island.20 Less than a decade later, the RAC sent two further requests to their chief factors to establish a more substantial presence at Juffure, but to no avail.21 Their frustration was clearly evident in a 1721 letter addressed to the chief factor at James Island wanting to know why he had yet to fulfil this request and stating that there was still no factory on the ‘main.’22 The only attempt made was naming a local resident—Mr. Boufang—as the official company agent at Juffure in 1717.23 The RAC shareholders in London were not appeased by this and named Mr. Ofeur, who was already in their service on James Island, as the first factor of Juffure in 1723. He was ordered to move to the shore and immediately construct the settlement. However, it does not appear as though he had fulfilled this obligation by the time he was discharged from the company’s service in 1728.24 Despite this failure, on 27 December 1727 an official factory had been opened in Juffure and was supplied with all the necessaries for trade under the direction of Mr. Francis Griffith.25 The relentless drive of the RAC to have a factory here attests to the village’s prominence in local commerce.

  • 26  F. Moore, 1738, p. 56.
  • 27  C. DeCorse et al., 2010.
  • 28  British National Archives, T70/56.
  • 29  British National Archives, T70/29; British National Archives, T70/30.
  • 30  British National Archives, T70/30.
  • 31  Curtin, 1975, p. 104, 108.
  • 32  M. Park, 1807, p. 5.
  • 33  K. Lupton, 1979, p. 46.
  • 34  G. Ingram, 1847, p. 150.

8There are few documentary references to Juffure Factory other than inventory lists. In 1732, the RAC employee Francis Moore described the factory as “pleasantly situated, facing the fort.”26 Standing ruins and oral accounts of former structures indicate that a substantial factory complex once existed. Ruins of two structures—one laterite and one brick—indicate a desire for longevity. This is in contrast to the factory house constructed at Yamyamacunda of mud, wooden posts, and reeds under Moor’s direction.27 Juffure Factory was abandoned in 1741 and the RAC was subsequently dissolved by Parliament in the 1750s.28 The succeeding Committee of Merchants Trading in Africa sought to resettle the post at Juffure in 1761.29 One year later, Governor Debat wrote to the Committee, announcing that “our house at Gillifree [Juffure] is finished.”30 The date of abandonment for the resettled factory is uncertain. The Committee of Merchants ceased their operations on the river in 1769, leaving the trade to privateers until 1783.31 This greatly affected commerce in Niumi, and in turn Juffure, which no longer held prominence in the region by the close of the 1700s.32 The 1816 transfer of British political and commercial control of the river from James Island to Bathurst at the river’s entrance on the south bank, as part of Britain’s new stance against the slave trade, transformed Juffure from a wealthy commercial centre into a colonial backwater (Figure 2). This was clear in 1795 when, while passing through the area en route to the source of the Niger River, a travelling companion of the Scottish explorer Mungo Park described Juffure as totally vanished “but for some ruined stone walls lost among shrubs and grass.”33 A final description from a colonial agent in 1847 describes Juffure as a good, but small village with no hint of commercial activities there.34 Its decline is demonstrative of the larger decline of the Niumi commercial centre and the Atlantic trade on the river.

Figure 2: The early 19th century Gambia commercial and political centre

Figure 2: The early 19th century Gambia commercial and political centre

Liza Gijanto

Large- and Small-scale Meals

  • 35  M. Douglas, 1984, p. 11.
  • 36  D. Kirkby, T. Luckins, 2007; F. Braudel 1961.
  • 37  F. Braudel, 1961, p. 545-9; D. Kirkby et al., 2007, p. 4.
  • 38  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 70.
  • 39  A. Appadurai, 1986, p. 3.
  • 40  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 70; A. Appaduri, 1981, p. 494.

9When describing the relationship between food and culture, Douglas notes that in order to truly understand this connection, researchers must “rectify [their] thinking about food ... to recognize how food enters the moral and social intentions of individuals”.35 In examining the sociality of food, theorists within history and anthropology have highlighted the role of the exotic, or luxury forms.36 While these approaches address the ‘social intentions’ of the elite, the everyday lives of the broader society are often overlooked. Taking a multi-disciplinary perspective, Braudel called on food historians to instead examine the masses.37 An examination of non-elite consumption not only illuminated the everyday life of the commoners, but also provided a forum to define what elite meals and food were in opposition to those that were not. Similarly, many definitions of feasts are determined by what they are, just as much as by what they are not. Feasts cannot be defined as unique without being placed in opposition to the everyday, quotidian experience, particularly when trying to interpret their meaning in the socio-economic sphere.38 It has been asserted that “economic exchange creates value” and that “value is embodied in commodities that are exchanged”.39 Food is thus seen as the ultimate form of “embodied material culture” because it is literally produced to become a part of people through bodily consumption; access to different foodstuffs, and the identity of the producer as well as the consumer—all these determine the symbolic nature of the meal.40

  • 41  S. Alpern, 1992.
  • 42  C. Crone, 1937, p. 26.
  • 43  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 275.
  • 44 Ibid., p. 163.

10What is considered traditional cuisine today along the Gambia River is heavily influenced by foodstuffs from throughout the Atlantic world, including tomato, peanuts, potato, and corn (zea mays).41 These are mixed in stews with domestic meats (primarily goat, chicken, or cow), aquatic fish, or more rarely shellfish; the stew is served over rice or pearl millet. The introduction of these foreign foods into the region roughly corresponds with the settlement and early growth of Juffure. The Portuguese merchant Cadamosto, the first European to extensively travel on the Gambia River in the mid-15th century, noted that a greater variety of rice grew along the Gambia than in the northern Senegal region.42 In 1594 the Luso-African merchant Almada described the Gambia River, stating that “the whole land flourishes, foodstuffs in abundance, rice, milho called maçaroca; and other ground crops.”43 In 1620, the British merchant Richard Jobson stated that six types of grains were cultivated on the Gambia. Again, like Cadamosto, he does not list the names of these grains except for rice.44 Even less information is provided regarding the animals bred.

11Accounts of daily meals in the 17th century suggest these were sparse and lacked variety. Jobson described the general daily fare as one main meal,

  • 45 Ibid., p. 104-105.

which for the most part, is either Rice, or some other graine, boyled, which being brought unto them by the women in goardes, hot, putting in their hands, they rowle up into balles, and cast into their mouthes, and this is their manner of feeding…45

12This same practice and preparation of grain, which he refers to as couscous, is described by Moore. The grain would be pounded and sifted in a fine basket, creating a coarse flour that

  • 46  F. Moore, 1738, p. 108-109.

... they put it into an earthen Pot full of Hole like a Cullinder, which is luted to the top of an earthen pot, in which boiling Water, and sometimes broth in it, the Steam of which cures and hardens the Flower, and when it is done; they mix them together, and eat it with their hands.46

13In both accounts, the grain eaten is not specified and references to ‘corn’ or ‘guinea corn’ cannot be directly correlated with known species cultivated along the river. There was also differential access to grains and other ‘ground crops’, as observed by the Portuguese trader Valentem Fernandes in 1508:

  • 47  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 269.

They feed on rice, millet, milho zaberro and yams—boiled and roasted—the coco plant, and beans. The poor people who lack yams or rice feed on wild norcas, boiled and seasoned ...47

  • 48 Ibid., p. 104-105.
  • 49 Ibid., p. 93.

14This suggests that there was a range of starches and base grains that would be consumed by the local population. What was eaten with the variety of grains and tubers was meagre according to Jobson, who observed that “they doe seldom eate either flesh or fish” despite having plenty of livestock. Instead, these foodstuffs are reserved for sale and exchange with European merchants.48 Jobson does not discuss wild game when describing meals other than fish, implying that hunting did not contribute significantly to the local diet, though he does state that sea horses (hippopotamus) were esteemed as good meat.49

15Within the roughly one-hundred-year period between Jobson’s discussion of the limited local diet and the RAC employee Francis Moore’s time on the river in the 1730s, the local fare seems to have expanded. Writing in 1732 he described local consumption thus:

  • 50  F. Moore, 1738, p. 109.

Fish dried in the sun, or smoked, is a great favorite of theirs; but the more it stinks, the more they like it. There is scarce anything which they do not eat; large snakes, Guanas [lizard], Monkeys, Pelicans, Bald-eagles, Allegators, and Sea-Horses are excellent food.50

  • 51 Ibid., p. 132.
  • 52 Ibid., p. 144.

16Whereas Jobson specifically discusses food in the context of daily meals, Moore does not provide the specific contexts in which these animals would have been eaten. He discusses the obligation of a man to hold a three- to four-day feast upon marrying, though he does not describe the foods that would be present.51 When at the RAC’s Yamyamacunda factory upriver, he commented that each evening during Ramadan feasts were held that included slaughtering “an abundance of cows”.52 Based on the descriptions of these occurrences, it can be surmised that members of a community were expected to provide food for shared consumption on a regular basis, thus necessitating the continuous reification of their status in the local hierarchy dependent upon their contribution.

  • 53  F. Paris 2001, p. 29.
  • 54  British National Archives, T70 Series.
  • 55 Ibid.

17Instead of consuming large amounts of the domestic meats and grains they produced, these foods were reserved for sale and profit, thereby providing the initial access to the Atlantic market through provisioning European traders. The investment of wealth and labour resources in raising domesticates of any kind was substantial, and all of these were viable goods in local markets and needed by foreign traders and companies to support their personnel on the river. The ability to turn these gains into prized commodities through exchange would have restricted the producers’ own diet, as seen in Jobson’s account. At the end of the 17th century, the French trader Paris, sent by the Governor of the Senegal Company to procure supplies for the fort at Goree, noted that the Gambia River was the best source for provisions in the region. He described the river as passing for “one of the rich countries of Africa. You can see fields of millet, as well cultivated and as productive as wheat fields in Europe.”53 The French reliance on villages in Niumi’s commercial centre for provisioning was not an isolated occurrence. The different trading companies supported by the British Parliament and Crown also took advantage of this market well into the 18th century, and even more so in the 19th century as all other trade declined in Niumi; this is evident in numerous payments to locals at Juffure for rice, corn, cows, and goats.54 The RAC also established specific factories on the north and south banks of the Gambia River in order to secure adequate provisions for their employees at James Fort.55

  • 56  M. Dietler, 2001.
  • 57  B. Hayden, 2001, p. 28; M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001a, p. 3.
  • 58  M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001b.
  • 59  J. Potter, 2000, p. 472.
  • 60  M. Dietler, 1996, p. 117; M. Dietler, 1999; L. Junker, 2001; L. Kelly, 2001; T. Bray, 2003; M. Sto (...)
  • 61  A. Almada, 1984, p. 22.
  • 62  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 88.
  • 63  M. Hegman, 2008, p. 222-223.
  • 64  K. Grammer, 1996; P. Wiessner, W. Schiefenhövel, 1996; M. Dietler, 2001; B. Mills, 2004; R. Rosens (...)

18Deposits analogous to feasting as characterised by archaeologists have been identified at Juffure dating to the 18th century.56 As meals that are rare, these are small-scale episodes or occurrences that took place within the regular rhythm of everyday life. This practice can be correlated with access to Atlantic wealth and levels of interaction in the former commercial centre. The simplest definition of a feast is any meal that departs from everyday practice in its scale and composition. The term feast in this study refers to a small-scale event, or happening, that included food and drink of some form, presented to members outside the compound for a specific purpose or occasion.57 Admittedly, ‘feast’ is a problematic designation. Researchers have developed elaborate typologies for the various forms of feasts that are distinguished by size, by the guests, and by the host; while these can be defined ethnographically or through the documentary sources, many are elusive in the archaeological record.58 All, however, are seen as lying within the socio-political sphere. The success of any feast at the intercommunity level is determined by the host’s ability to gain and maintain allegiances within the community to support his/her own interests.59 Several archaeologists maintain that all feasts are ritual in nature, specifically as a political rather than religious tool.60 Regardless of the presence or absence of specific ritual aspects, all feasts at Juffure were more than likely the material enactment of an accepted practice associated with the assertion of status tied to local power relations. As discerned from documentary accounts, with the exception of weddings, these were village or neighbourhood-wide events with multiple families contributing food and drink. Even the initial British traders on the river used this practice to gain access to commerce. When describing why the trade on the Gambia River was lost to the Portuguese in the late 16th century, Almada explained that the British “hold banquets for them [local traders] on land, to the sound of music from violins and other instruments” to encourage fellowship.61 As Dietler argues, “nearly all feasts serve to mark, reify, and inculcate diacritical distinctions between social groups, categories, and statuses while at the same time establishing relationships across boundaries that they define”.62 Along these lines, feasts are equated with social action whereby individuals manœuvre within an accepted framework to bring about change to the existing social order.63 In the most basic sense, a feast is meant to be a display of wealth to assert or affirm status within a community.64 It can also serve to solidify communal relations, as was the case for many held on the Gambia related to coming-of-age events. At Juffure the act of participating in these feasts likely tied with societal expectations to reaffirm or assert status. This reaffirmation or assertion is seen today at Juffure through naming ceremonies, Ramadan events, and feasts for a family member’s return from Mecca.

19Two descriptions of feasts on the Gambia River during the Atlantic era are related to male circumcision ceremonies and imply that these occurrences were more reminiscent of large- rather than small-scale happenings, similar to Moore’s mention of cows being slaughtered throughout Yamyamacunda each night of Ramadan. The first is described by the Portuguese merchant Fernandes in 1508:

  • 65  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 269.

When the new moon arrives, and the youths have to return to the village, their fathers kill cows and goats and make a great feast for them with dancing and singing.65

20Based on this discussion, domesticates (i.e. the cows and goats) similar to those of the Ramadan feasts formed the centrepiece of the feast and were the expected contribution of the boys’ fathers. This was a clear social obligation that had to be met. The second occurrence took place over a century later, just as the British were beginning to assert their commercial claims along the river. In 1620, Richard Jobson and his crew were trading at Cassan (in the Niani polity) upriver and observed the annual male circumcision ritual. He described the first evening as a community-wide affair:

  • 66 Ibid. p. 152.

There was no housing, nor dwellings, but was full of people; nay, likewise, under every shady and convenient tree, there was great fyres, where at there was people, their pots a seething, and their victuals addressing...66

  • 67 Ibid. p. 152.
  • 68  F. Moore, 1738, p. 132.

21The music, dancing, and singing was also accompanied by trade leading Jobson to comment that “it had a right resemblance to our country markets”.67 Above all, this was an extremely visible happening. All participants were afforded the opportunity to display wealth through the quantity or quality of food they provided and the vessels it was served in, which could then be used to gain or impart social status, a trait that is still evident in many parts of West Africa today. Moore simply mentions that three-to-four-day-long feasts are held when a man marries, without describing the affair in detail.68

  • 69  J. Goody, 1982; I. De Garine, 1996; M. Dietler, I. Herbich, 2001.

22Here, as in other West African societies, status was exhibited through diet.69 By employing feasting as a practice, this was the culmination of an individual’s access to resources and ability to manipulate the accepted social framework for personal gain. Participating in a communal feast—and even more so, hosting one—necessitated a compound to procure large quantities of meat, staple grains (pearl millet or rice), and, if possible, novelty foods (i.e. special fruits or vegetables). Depending on the scale of the event, the hosts might be required to feed large numbers of people any time from one evening to several days.

23Using the nomenclature ‘feast’ found in the historical accounts discussed above, this analysis refers to meals discerned in the archaeological record at Juffure that differ from the everyday as feasts. Available archaeological data from Juffure suggests that village feasts were small-scale happenings, distinguishable from the everyday by being larger and more sumptuous than common meals, but most likely part of the expected rhythm of community life. As such, these were not likely to be rare events of grandeur confined to the elite’s social experience. By examining feasts in opposition to everyday life, it is clear that these were used as markers of status in the community. It was an accepted practice that could be used to either maintain or to transform the local social order and one’s place in it. Feasting events identified in the archaeological record provide a lens through which to interpret the experience of the Atlantic trade by this community.

The Archaeological Record at Juffure

24Archaeological investigations at Juffure consisted of a combination of shovel test pits and excavation units. The latter targeted areas of high artefact concentrations identified during the shovel test survey. In total, five loci were tested using excavation units, including the former British Factory area. All units were 1x1 metre and were dug to sterile soil, and 100% sampling was employed. Of the deposits tested in all loci, three will be addressed in detail here.

  • 70  R. Rosenswig, 2007, p. 2.
  • 71  I. De Garine, 1984, p. 160-161.

25Three distinct feasting deposits were recorded at the Juffure Village site (Figure 3). One was encountered in the south-western area of the site (Deposit 1a, Stratum 4-15) (Figure 4); the other two were encountered in the same trash pit (Deposit 2a; Stratum 6-10 and Stratum 12-21) and are separated by a roughly fifty-year period based on datable European trade materials (Figure 5). Two of these deposits date to the early to mid-18th century, while one dates to the late 18th century. The key components of these feasts found at Juffure are faunal, botanical, and ceramic materials.70 There are problems in designating whether a particular deposit is or is not a feast. For example, trait lists should not be the sole identifiers of a feast. Recognizing these limitations, we determined the presence of feasting deposits at Juffure in relation to more numerous sheet midden deposits lacking the high amounts of fauna, botanicals, and ceramics, while also containing a greater proportion of non-food related materials. Sheet middens were relatively thin, and contained highly fragmented materials. In contrast, these feasting deposits contain discrete strata comprised solely of ceramics, fauna, and botanical remains mixed with ash and interspersed by layers of oyster shell. Non-food related items are largely restricted to beads and tobacco pipes. Moreover, the fact that feasting deposits are restricted to the 18th century and height of the Atlantic trade on the river is characteristic of both Herskovits and De Garine’s assertion that food will become a representation of prestige in settings where surpluses abound.71

Figure 3: Juffure Site Map with key deposits labeled

Figure 3: Juffure Site Map with key deposits labeled

Liza Gijanto

Figure 4: Profile Deposit 1a

Figure 4: Profile Deposit 1a

Liza Gijanto

Figure 5: Profile Deposit 2a

Figure 5: Profile Deposit 2a

Liza Gijanto

26These contexts are distinguished from everyday trash disposal by extremely high densities of ceramics, fauna, oyster shell, and botanical remains, as well as intermixed ash lenses and burnt soil in pits cut into the former ground surface. These intrusive deposits made them further discernible from everyday trash deposits that took the form of sheet middens in the village and at the factory site and which formed comparatively shallow deposits. The feasting contexts were located in between relatively sparse matrices representing natural soil column formation in the uppermost levels. The often thin and intermittent contexts bracketing the feasting deposits suggest that these were fairly regular events in the 18th century.

27Deposit 1a contained a post-feasting period represented by the uppermost strata. The three strata within a deposit manifested in non-feasting levels and are indicative of a sheet midden that gradually accumulated. Within the feasting period strata, a range of locally produced ceramics and pipes, beads, and some bottle glass in addition to fauna, botanicals, and shell were recovered. Overall, artefacts not typically associated with foodways are few and interspersed in the feasting stratum as opposed to the intermittent and post-feasting levels. The two material classes that occur most frequently in the feasting strata in this deposit are bottle glass and tobacco pipes of both European and local origin.

28Deposit 2a is the densest trash deposit in Juffure Village. The deposit contains two discrete periods of feasting from the 18th century. The high concentration of artefacts in the strata associated with these events indicates that this area was continuously used as a dumping site. The difference in dates garnered from European imported materials in the uppermost and lower feasting contexts comprise at least 50 to 75 years of deposition. Period 2 (stratum 6-8) occurred following either the construction or rebuilding of a structure in the neighbourhood area (strata 9 and 10), as was determined based on the high concentration of mortar, building stone, plaster, and slag in the lowermost stratum, with interspersed pockets of ash mixed with shell, faunal remains, and botanicals. Period 1 (stratum 12-21) took place before the building/destruction episode and was further separated from the above stratum by a thick, compact level containing a relatively lower frequency of artefacts (stratum 11). Stratum 11 contained imported materials from the early to mid-18th century and an extremely low amount of faunal remains. Based on dates ascertained from imported ceramics and beads, this deposition took place in the mid-18th century. The debris from the first feasting period was discarded in a rounded pit most likely used to prepare food or as a receptacle for the refuse, though some other unknown function prior to the feasting event is possible. The lowermost contexts (strata 19-21) are dominated by oyster shell.

Ceramics and Presenting the Meal

  • 72  F. Moore, 1728, p. 229.
  • 73  B. Hayden, 2001, p. 48; L. Junker, 2001, p. 284.
  • 74  S. Van Keuren, 2004, p. 195.

29Francis Moore provided numerous details about the general state of the British company agents’ everyday lives on river. The men were reliant on local women for many tasks, particularly those who lived at factories other than James Island. The tasks these women would be hired to perform included laundry and cooking. He commented that “the negro women dress’d my Victuals in earthen wares, sweet and clean, and made by Natives”.72 This suggests that the style of the meal and vessels used to serve it were determined by the local women. Ceramics and other vessels used for food preparation and consumption are key indicators of how food was prepared and served. Many researchers argue that ceramics used during feasts will differ from everyday wares in their size and form.73 In addition to these attributes, manufacturing techniques, decoration, and overall aesthetic should be considered as well as the skill level of the producer, which will impact the quality of the wares.74 At Juffure, locally produced ceramics overwhelmingly dominate most contexts and form a significant portion of all assemblages. Not surprisingly, ceramics appear in greater numbers in 18th century contexts than the 17th or later 19th century deposits. The 18th century ceramics also differ from those produced before or after in terms of technical and stylistic variation.

  • 75  L. Gijanto, 2011b.
  • 76  P. Hammond, 1966; N. David, H. Hennig, 1972, p. 25; D. Papousek, 1974, p. 1010-1011; B. Chatterjee(...)

30In specific contexts, transformations in pottery production are indicative of social change. These differences are more pronounced between those found in feasting and everyday deposits. The three attributes that have demonstrated the most variation across temporal and social contexts are temper, paste colour, and firing patterns, with decoration primarily varying temporally.75 Of these attributes, the tempering agents used are the most closely related to the type of meal (i.e. feast versus everyday) identified. Pottery production and diversity often increases during periods of population growth.76 Both the early years of the Atlantic trade and the period following its decline are represented by a fairly limited number of ware types, with little internal variation. As the population of Juffure became more involved in commerce, presumably gaining wealth, the ability to display this wealth also increased. While other methods of display were enacted, such as forms of personal adornment, archaeological investigations demonstrate that wealth was most actively expressed through food and feasting at Juffure in the 18th century. The increase in occurrence of these non-everyday events, and the associated rise in demand for ceramics, led to a decline in overall standardization of production.

31The ceramics produced during the early years of the Atlantic trade (pre-18th century) are sand- and organic-tempered (with limited oyster shell inclusions) wares. A total of 28 ware groups comprised of 187 types were present at Juffure. One hundred and fifty-four of these were primarily produced in the 18th century. Ware groups were designated primarily based on aesthetic appearance, and ware types within these groups based upon technical variation (temper, firing, and finishing techniques). The temper used in the majority of ceramics produced prior to the mid-18th century was sand, or some combination of sand with grog and organic material. These were brown to pink in colour with fairly regular firing patterns observed, representing both reduced and oxidized environments. During the 19th century, or post-Atlantic trade period, at Juffure, buff-bodied grog-tempered ware are the most numerous. Those produced during the height of the trade in the 18th century are characterized by a dominance of oyster shell temper, often in combination with sand and organic material.

32Three ware types dominate feasting assemblages at Juffure but were rarely present in everyday contexts (Figure 6). These are more refined versions of other wares in these broader groups (8, 12, and 17). All three wares have a combination of oyster shell and sand temper with varying amounts of organics. These range in colour from brown to light orange/red and pink. The three wares stand in contrast to those present in everyday contexts. Those ceramics are dominated by sand- and sand/grog-tempered wares (Figure 7). The variation in temper and ware types present in everyday contexts compared with less frequent occurrences here analogous to feasting suggests that the vessels used to serve the meal were as important as the food being served.

Figure 6: Feasting ceramics

Figure 6: Feasting ceramics

Liza Gijanto

Figure 7: Relative percentages of temper types at Juffure

Figure 7: Relative percentages of temper types at Juffure

Liza Gijanto

Fauna and Botanicals

33Fauna, shell, and botanical remains were present to varying degrees at Juffure. One hundred per cent sampling of fauna and shell was conducted. Botanical remains were collected through soil flotation. Between 2 and 10 kg of soil were collected from each excavated level. The botanicals were sent to Simon Frasier University for analysis under the supervision of Dr. Sarah Walshaw. Analysis of the fauna and shell is complete, while that of the botanicals is ongoing.

  • 77  A. Heinrich, 2014, p. 2.
  • 78  A. Heinrich, 2012.
  • 79  J. Fisher, 1995, p. 5; R. Bauer, 2008, p. 1.

34A comparison of archaeological contexts indicative of everyday consumption in contrast to feasts reveals differences in the amounts and preparation of meat. In deposits not associated with feasting, the faunal assemblage at the village and factory is comprised of highly processed—typically only identifiable to the family level—remains from stews or other forms of West African cooking practices. On average, 55 per cent of all fauna recovered from everyday contexts at Juffure Village were 1 cm or less in size, with an additional 34 per cent ranging in size from 1.01 to 2 cm. The extremely small size of the majority of the assemblage rendered identification difficult for most specimens, beyond broad classes such as mammal, bird, reptile, etc. This has also affected the ability to positively identify elements. These smaller fragments paired with higher incidences of cutmarks, slicing, and breakage culminating in small, unidentifiable fragments is in direct contrast to feasting in cases which particular cuts of meat and species can often be identified. The small fragments less than 2 cm are consistent with bone flakes created by chopping.77 In feasting contexts the fragment size increases slightly, with the smallest fragments making up 36 per cent of the collection while those between 1.01 and 2 cm increase to 45 per cent. The highly fragmented nature of faunal remains in all deposits suggests that meat was consumed in stews, with an awareness that post-depositional processes are also at play.78 The increased amount of small fragments in everyday contexts largely in the form of sheet middens can be partially attributed to post-depositional processes such as trampling and animal scavenging. In comparison, non-everyday contexts contain faunal remains that are less processed, with traces of heating and burning that are indicative of roasting larger cuts of meat.79 It is these specimens that are more often identifiable to the element and species level at Juffure. Individual bone fragments also contain fewer cutmarks per specimen than in non-feasting settings, indicative of larger cuts of meat. Traces of heating along with charring may either represent roasting or depositional trash burning; however, charring on bones that is mainly restricted to the ends can be associated with roasting. In feasting contexts at Juffure, both trash burning (deduced through burnt bone and surrounding ash) and roasting meat occurred in greater frequencies than in non-feasting deposits.

35During the height of the Atlantic trade at Juffure, the animal resources exploited contained a mix of terrestrial and marine species. Oyster, clam, and some gastropods were present in most deposits discussed here. Oyster shell appeared in discrete levels and was most numerous in feasting assemblages. Alternatively, clam species were the most exploited shellfish in everyday deposits at Juffure Factory and in the village. It is important to consider why the shell was brought to the village rather than shelling oysters and clams at the beachside, which is common practice today. This may be partially explained by the large-scale use of oyster shell for temper in local ceramics during the 18th century at Juffure Village, though this does not account for the clam and gastropods. Today, clam is often used as paving for paths in some compounds. One probable explanation is that these were served ‘on the shell’, a practice that does not occur today. The practice of tempering with oyster may therefore be viewed as a direct result of increased feasting and a need not only to produce more vessels for this purpose, but also as an innovative way to dispose of the shell. Additionally, the absence of oyster shell in 19th century deposits at Juffure Village coincides with the replacement of this temper type by grog as the favoured tempering agent. This implies that oyster was not readily available to residents in the 19th century, possibly tied to decreased wealth or over-exploitation from feasting.

  • 80  L. Gijanto, S. Walshaw, 2014.

36A comparison of botanical remains associated with feasting with smaller-scale meals also reveals distinct differences between private and public practices. In most 18th century contexts, rice is the most popular staple eaten at Juffure Village, based both on count and ubiquity, followed by pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum).80 Alternatively, the feasting contexts contained rice as well as pearl millet and at times sorghum (Sorghum bicolor).

37The types of food consumed and how it was prepared in everyday contexts at Juffure compared with feasting assemblages suggest that different ways of preparing the meal were practised and dependent upon the social context in which the food was consumed. In addition, the types of meat and plants eaten differ. Contrary to what might be expected from historical accounts of different feasts on the river, where cows and goats are emphasized, at Juffure there is a general increase in consumption of fish, bird, and reptiles as part of feasts (Table 1). This is intriguing when compared with the daily meals of European agents and their associates at the factory. There, the range of fauna exploited and forms of meat preparation (roasting versus stews) more closely resemble the feasting contexts at Juffure Village rather than everyday fare. The outlier in this comparison is the type of mammals consumed. Pig is present in a few of the village assemblages but makes up a greater percentage of the factory assemblage (19 per cent) than those in the village (4 per cent in everyday contexts and 6 per cent in feasting contexts). From Moore’s account as well as company correspondence, it is inferred here that the majority of the residents at Juffure were Muslims and therefore prohibited from eating pig meat. There was also a significant Luso-African community, who were Christians and therefore not subject to the same dietary restrictions. It is possible then that the pig remains found in the village were either prepared by Luso-Africans or were for company officials in attendance at these meals. The assemblage from the factory resembles the earliest feast (first half of the 18th century) in Deposit 2a of Juffure Village. Overall, there are more domesticates in both assemblages in Deposit 2a, as well as a range of non-domesticates, including herbivores not seen in everyday deposits in the village.

Table 1: Relative percentages of Animal Resources exploited

Site

Deposit

Mammal

Reptile

Aquatic fish

Avian

UID

Juffure Village

Deposit 1a post feasting

96%

--

--

2%

2%

Deposit 1a (feasting)

69%

1%

16%

5%

9%

Deposit 2a (post Period1)

81%

1%

2%

5%

11%

Deposit 2a (Period 1)

79%

1%

10%

1%

9%

Deposit 2a (post Period 2)

100%

--

--

--

--

Deposit 2a (Period 2)

69%

1%

9%

13%

8%

Juffure Factory

Deposit 1

81%

3%

6%

3%

7%

38Botanical remains were collected from all excavation units and provide further insights into what was consumed and when. In particular, baobab seeds are almost exclusively present in the feasting contexts in Deposit 1a at the village. The quantity of these seeds (n=53) indicates two possible forms of consumption. The fruit can be eaten raw or transformed into juice. In the feasting contexts in Deposit 2a, malvaceae is the second most numerous wild plant species. This plant family includes okra and hibiscus, the latter being used to produce bissap juice in the Senegambia today, while the former is a popular base for some stews. Maize was present in Period 1 of Deposit 2a of the village, implying that this feast was held towards the end of the rainy season when this crop usually matures. The presence of maize kernel and cob fragments signifies the integration of commodities from across the Atlantic as part of this display. It is significant that this is the only positively identified New World plant found at the site, and the maize was found in the village and not at the factory house where the British agents resided. The near total absence in non-feasting settings of other fruits, nuts, or plants that were in season for longer periods of time suggests that these may have held a special place in these events, most likely as a sign of wealth demonstrative of access to resources.

  • 81  F. Moore, 1738, p. 109.

39When comparing 18th century deposits, those representative of everyday consumption resemble Jobson’s description of daily fare, while feasts are more akin to Moore’s assertion that “there is scarce any thing which they do not eat”.81 Analysis of everyday faunal remains from archaeological contexts, however, contradicts Moore’s assertion. In fact, other than the dietary practices of those European traders residing at Juffure Factory, it does not appear as though large quantities of meat were consumed on a daily basis, despite the increased consumption of non-domesticates. Furthermore, besides feasting events, the factory is the only locale in this study where a diverse everyday diet of reptile, bird, fish, and mammal (domestic and wild) was encountered archaeologically. The continued minimal consumption of meat in the village is supported by the highly processed, comparatively small percentage of faunal material present throughout Juffure in trash middens not associated with feasting.

40The amount and variety of wild plants vary between contexts, as suggested above by the presence of baobab seeds in Deposit 1a. The wild species that appear in large amounts are from the Poaceae family. The Poaceae family includes bamboo and wild cereal grains. Interestingly, these are visible in both feasting periods from Deposit 2a, but not in Deposit 1a. There, Brassicaceae seeds are the most ubiquitous, a family that includes cabbage species followed by Solanaceae (examples of which are potato, tobacco, tomato, eggplant, and other vegetable species). Unlike the contexts in Deposit 2a, several berry seeds were also present in the feasting contexts in Deposit 1a. Notably, the array of plants as well as different amounts of each type in the assorted non-feasting contexts support the assertion that feasting at Juffure Village was a combination of quantity and kind with regards to the botanical resources exploited. Furthermore, the botanicals recovered from individual burnt silt pockets from Period 1 were predominantly grains. From these assemblages, it is clear that the plant types incorporated into feasts varied based on the compound’s access to different resources. The isolation of certain species to individual strata within the individual feasting assemblages—such as baobab seeds in Deposit 1a, for example (91 per cent of all baobab seeds from Deposit 1a, stratum 12)—indicates that the food present at the feasts varied based on seasonality, the participants’ wealth, and level of access to material resources.

The Nature of the Feast

  • 82  J. Goody, 1982, p. 81.
  • 83  L. Lecount, 2001, p. 937.
  • 84 Ibid., p. 937.

41Feasting at Juffure Village is jointly representative of ‘feasting in amount’ and ‘kind’. This is a departure from the common assertion that African feasting is merely an increase in ‘more of the same’.82 At Juffure, everyday foods were transformed into luxury or “festival fare” through quantity.83 At the same time, seasonal foods or rarities were incorporated into some feasts but were not common to all, demonstrating that the feasting assemblages at Juffure are characterised by relativity rather than set or generalised traits.84 In general, there was a marked increase in the types, as well as amounts, of meat presented as part of the feast. The preparation of meat in this context was distinct from everyday meals in the village. However, the most prominent example of ‘difference in kind’ is the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The larger variety of wild and non-grain types in some contexts is partially the result of seasonality, but can also be attributed to access and display. On the community level at Juffure, it is obvious that some residents participated in feasting events in the 18th century. The differences between these assemblages in the two areas of the village suggest that the scale and extravagance of feasts varied. This may be a result of a compound’s ability to procure certain resources or of the reason for the feasts (e.g. a wedding versus community-wide circumcision). While the feasts in Deposit 2a were comprised of both high amounts and varieties of food, the feast in Deposit 1a is clearly dominated by a smaller array of plants and animals. When compared to everyday settings, however, the feast in Deposit 1a does contain a greater amount of foodstuffs, though not a wider range of botanicals or fauna, with a single wild resource (baobab) dominating the assemblage. From this assessment, it can be inferred that the residents contributing to the feasts in Deposit 2a were wealthier by local standards and actively used their available resources to assert their status in the community.

  • 85  S. Silliman, 2001, p. 190.
  • 86  G. Ingram, 1847.

42Agents act strategically or intentionally, working within existing structures of acceptable behaviours in the social sphere.85 At Juffure in the 18th century, the practice of feasting was a form of social action. In the early 19th century, there is not only an absence of feasting in the archaeological record, but also a decrease in the variety of plants and animals being exploited in everyday settings. The three primary grains—rice, millets, and sorghum—are still present, but in more equal amounts. The greatest change is the overwhelming dominance of mammals, and, of these, a higher consumption of domesticates. Moreover, the cooking and deposition of the faunal remains also changed. As opposed to feasting and non-feasting settings in the 18th century, there was less evidence for roasting, as just 11 per cent of the bones are charred and 41 per cent of the faunal remains are neither burnt nor charred. Finally, 26 per cent of the early 19th century faunal assemblage contains burning patterns indicative of trash burning, a practice that appears to have increased at this time. This can be attributed to new standards set in the provinces by the colonial authorities regarding sanitation.86 All of these changes are ultimately the material representations of the larger events affecting this community—the end of the Atlantic trade and the emerging colonial period on the Gambia River.

  • 87  R. Beck et al., 2007.
  • 88  J. Gero, 2003, p. 287, emphasis in the original.

43Archaeological and historical sources in this study are viewed from multiple scales of analysis, situating feasts as local happenings within the long-term trajectory of broader world events such as the Atlantic trade. While documentary and oral sources define global and regional events and interactions, including ongoing involvement in trade networks and the nature of exchange, the archaeological record sheds light on the daily lives and smaller-scale communal events from the late 17th to the early 19th century. An event, regardless of scale, can either solidify the pre-existing order or cause ruptures in the existing structure.87 Events are defined here as points in time that change the existing social order, thus determining the future trajectory of local history. It is the small-scale events, or happenings, such as practices not enacted on a day-to-day basis, that are more difficult to discern or interpret; though they are repeated practices, each has a unique outcome. More often than not, it is these small-scale events that have the greatest impact on local communities in terms of changing or maintaining the known social order. These happen in tandem with larger, dramatic events, in addition to everyday practices set apart from the natural flow of communal life. In this sense, feasts at Juffure are viewed as a form of “context-renewing practice, where producing feasts at the same time produces social outcomes that encourage their existence”.88

  • 89  W. Sewell, 2005, p. 6-7.

44As soon as European merchants began to carry out regular voyages to the Gambia River, the daily lives of those residing in villages where trade occurred were in a constant state of flux tied to market demands and the trading season roughly between October and June (the dry season). In essence, “time is irreversible, in the sense that ... an event, once experienced, cannot be obliterated. It is lodged in the memory of those whom it affects and therefore irrevocably alters the situation in which it occurs.”89 This state of change would have been the new reality, and, consequently, when viewed at multiple levels, it is apparent that the larger events of contact and subsequent opening of the Atlantic enabled more people to access resources, in turn allowing them to engage in practices that challenged the social order. Additionally, the recognition of small-scale, neighbourhood happenings situated in the broader world contexts brings practices tied to social negotiations to the forefront of analysis. At Juffure, the impact of the Atlantic trade was not manifested in significant changes in the items used to denote wealth, but rather it is seen in the expression of wealth through feasting.

Status and Social Display: Feasts, Elite, or Both

  • 90  R. Rosenwig, 2007, p. 2; W. Wills, P. Crown, 2004, p. 154; T. Pluckhahn et al., 2006, p. 264.

45Archaeologists subscribing to a trait-based method of elite identification include feasting as one of a myriad of practices regardless of the broader social context in which these occur.90 An understanding of social stratification and the status of the contributors to the archaeological record is an important achievement, but such analysis needs to be taken a step further. By situating feasting within a sphere of communal interaction, exploring how individuals acted and asserted status is the next logical avenue of inquiry. In keeping with these observations, it is proposed here that feasting at Juffure should not be seen as simply elite consumption, but an act of public display and most likely food sharing that solidified the participants’ place in the social hierarchy through a highly visible practice meant to assert this status in a very visible way. Recognizably, although it is not possible to fully distinguish which meals were community-wide or restricted to invited guests, the act of communal deposition made these acts visible through refuse disposal.

46Several aspects of the feasting contexts signal elite consumption. However, it is important here to bear in mind the distinction between food presentation and consumption. In this study, elites are defined based on their ability to access resources. As such, it is the elites of these communities that most likely provided the more costly types of food for these communal events that were distinguished from more ordinary fare by the types and cuts of meat. But it was not just the elites that consumed the food presented as part of these events. Because these were typically communal events, and public displays of status, it was important for those with restricted access to resources to physically see the elite in order to benefit, thus affirming all parties standing in the social order. At Juffure, the ability to procure different subsistence resources was integral to asserting status through food.

  • 91  K. Hirth, 1993; G. Gunnmerman, 1997, p. 117-118; T. Bray, 2003.

47The diversity of meat present in the feasting contexts is one feature of faunal assemblages often associated with elites. Researchers have used this as a marker of status while simultaneously demonstrating that commoners were restricted to opportunistic species like wild game or shellfish.91 At Juffure Village, the ability to consume a limited range of domesticates over a more diverse diet of wild game and fish (shell and aquatic) was a sign of wealth. In this light, the lack of diversity, rather than diversity of diet, was a feature of the elite diet. The presence of a more diverse range of fauna in feasting contexts is most likely the physical traces of the events’ communal composition, with the diverse meats and plants constituting the contributions of the less wealthy. For example, while the wealthier members of the community could provide domesticates such as cow or goat, those with restricted access to such resources most likely contributed wild species or less costly domesticates like chicken.

  • 92  British National Archives, T70 847, 563, 561, 565, 574.

48At the factory, both diversity in meat and plants characterise the assemblage. The primary deposit located to the north-west of the 18th century factory house (Figure 8) is reminiscent of everyday deposits in the village. There is a noticeable absence of ash and oyster shell deposits, and a mix of non-food related artefacts in all contexts. The deposit accumulated over the course of the 18th century into the early 19th century, based on associated European materials. The botanical assemblage contains an extremely high number of wild seeds and nuts similar to feasting assemblages in Deposit 2a. Of those identified, Brassicaceae seeds (cabbage or leafy greens), Poaceae (bamboo or cereals), Caryophyllaceae c.f. Stellaria (a North American flowering plant whose leaf is used for food), Lablab purpureus (bean), and Vigna unguiculata (pea/bean) are noteworthy. Additionally, the staple grains consumed were similar to those in all feasting deposits. The residents at the factory ate more millet (Pennisetum and other forms) than rice. Millet was not only identified in greater quantities, but was present in more contexts, thus proving to be more ubiquitous throughout the factory deposit. The preference for millet over rice is further supported when considering the availability of both grains for sale throughout the village throughout the 18th century.92

Figure 8: Juffure Factory deposit highlighted in full Juffure Map

Figure 8: Juffure Factory deposit highlighted in full Juffure Map

Liza Gijanto

  • 93  F. Moore, 1738, p. 229.

49The consumption trends related to meat at the factory are similar to the patterns observed in the botanical assemblage. The faunal remains at the factory site resemble those from feasting contexts in the village. The diversity of the animals exploited as well as incidence of processing are indicative of a local diet and not a continuation of European culinary practices. This phenomenon is likely due to the lack of women of European descent at the factory and the employment of local village women for domestic tasks like cooking.93 The fact that the factory’s staff was willing to consume a range of wild species in addition to domesticates such as pig, cow, and goat/sheep is intriguing. The factory faunal assemblage has one of the highest incidences of cut marks and a comparatively low occurrence of charring, indicating the consumption of stews more than cuts of roasted meat, and thus resembling everyday meals in the village in terms of preparation but resembling feasts with regard to diversity. The range of diet—though predominantly mammalian—may be indicative of access to various resource networks in the village that locals reserved for special occasions like feasting. The almost complete absence of oyster shell from this deposit suggests one of two possibilities: oyster was not consumed regularly, or the majority of the shell was removed by those servants discarding the meals for use in the village. In contrast, the high percentage and discrete levels of clams are reminiscent of European cooking whereby these are served on the shell. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that the company employees’ diet was influenced by the identity of their cooks and their ability to procure status food in the village, as well as by a desire to maintain some semblance of English ideals through the presence of a variety of European imported ceramics, some glassware, and bottle glass.

Conclusions

  • 94  M. Van der Veen, 2004.
  • 95  J. Goody, 1982, p. 82.
  • 96  M. Van der Veen, 2003, p. 413.
  • 97  M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001b; L. Junker, 2001; T. Bray, 2003.

50Different types of food based either on their scarcity or context of consumption are considered luxuries.94 Feasting in quantity rather than kind has been described as the norm in Africa.95 In contrast to these assumptions, at Juffure the variety of the meal lay in the grains and wild plants consumed rather than the meat, with the exception of the factory house, which was likely more closely linked to the Europeans living there than to local villagers. Feasts are good contexts in which to look at the role of luxury food because they are “often used either to enhance or establish social relations”.96 What are not considered as part of either the kind or luxury aspect of feasting are the other components of the event. The range of artefacts recovered from everyday trash middens represent all facets of life, while the presentation of luxury was limited to foodways, tobacco pipes, and adornment items that were accumulated during feasting episodes held as a form of social display.97

  • 98  I. De Garine, 1984, p. 160-161.
  • 99  British National Archives, T70/30.
  • 100 Ibid.

51De Garine asserts that Herskovits was correct with regards to food and the social order in stating that when societies have a surplus they are better able to use food for prestige.98 The practice of feasting at 18th century Juffure certainly supports this claim. The decline in feasting by the 19th century and its absence in the 17th century can also be attributed to surplus—namely its absence. The trajectory of the Atlantic trade at Juffure is buffeted by the village’s role as a substance supplier in the 17th and 19th centuries. As early as 1759, it is clear that inland caravans were no longer coming to Juffure, but that those on the coast had to proceed to upriver posts to engage in direct commerce.99 At this time, the Committee of Merchants correspondence discusses going ashore at Juffure and elsewhere near James Island only for provisions and water.100 In order to revive direct trade in Niumi, the Committee of Merchants who succeeded the RAC re-established Juffure in the 1760s. It is likely this resurgence that enabled residents to continue to hold feasts in the late 18th century, though on a less grand scale (Deposit 2a, period 2).

  • 101  R. Jobson, 1968; A. Almada, 1984.
  • 102  C. Cobb, 1991; C. Gosden, 1994; D. Agrawal et al., 1999; J. McGlade, 1999; L. Foxhill, 2000; A. Jo (...)

52Taking the above facets into account, available archaeological data demonstrate that public displays through food, such as feasting on various scales, occurred fairly frequently at Juffure in the 18th century, but this activity is absent from 19th century archaeological contexts. This can be directly correlated with access to wealth and levels of interaction in the former commercial centre. It is argued that the near absence of imported materials and the presence of a diverse array of meal-related materials dominating a number of deposits at these sites are evidence of status displayed through food during the height of the Atlantic trade. Archaeological and historical sources are viewed from multiple scales of analysis, situating local happenings such as feasting within broader world events like the opening and closing of the Atlantic trade. While documentary and oral sources shed light on global and regional events and interactions, including long-term involvement in trade networks and the nature of exchange, the archaeological record sheds light on the daily lives and smaller-scale communal events affecting those residing at Juffure from the late 17th to the early 19th century on a day-to-day level. As indicated in documentary sources, feasts were regularly held during the trading season on the Gambia River and were integral in marking the rhythm of social time.101 These small-scale ‘happenings’ are intimately connected to long-term historical trajectories of commercial engagement occurring only during the height of the Atlantic trade in the 18th century at Juffure. Therefore, the archaeological record is the material embodiment of the long-term chronological events as well as the distinct rhythms of both daily life and cyclical social time.102

  • 103  M. Sahlins, 1985, p. vii; M. Sahlins, 1993, p. 17.
  • 104  J. Yaeger, M. Canuto, 2000; M. Varien, J. Potter, 2008.
  • 105  D. Loren, 2008, p. 2.
  • 106  L. Turgeon, 1997; L. Galke, 2004; L. Gijanto, 2011a.

53As part of the Atlantic world, the residents of Juffure were in a process of negotiation between the local socio-economic structure(s) and interaction with foreign traders introducing new commodities and ideas. But, as Sahlins notes of many groups brought into contact with European traders at this time, “European wealth is harnessed to the reproduction and even the creative transformation of their own cultural order”.103 More than anything, communities are socially produced entities tied to practices—whether conscious or not—that support their social world.104 As in other communities, Juffure’s residents were defined by their actions, practices, and place within local institutions, the results of which culminated in the material culture representative of these in the archaeological record. Juffure was intricately connected to events and circumstances occurring throughout the Atlantic world; and entangled in this connection, the inhabitants experienced a previously unknown level of wealth in the 18th century. The maintenance of this prosperity was tied to the continuation of economic exchange and contact with foreign traders. Therefore, those individuals who gained status in the village through commerce were dependent upon continued contact with outsiders to maintain that wealth and status. To understand these dynamics, contact and exchange must be seen as an ongoing event, “characterized [by] many small-scale and large-scale historical encounters and cultural entanglements of different groups of people with each other”.105 The ability of individuals to negotiate through material means is visible in the archaeological record and is directly correlated in how wealth was displayed at the local level.106 Archaeological data demonstrate that communal feasting related to this negotiation occurred at Juffure in the 18th century. In addition, diet and ceramics were more varied in the 18th than in the 19th century, corresponding with the rise and fall of the Atlantic trade.

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Bibliographie

Archival Sources

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T70/4: Extracts of Letters June 20, 1720 to May 1, 1746.
T70/19: Abstract of Letters received by the Royal African Company of England so far as relate to the Committee of Accounts no. 2 from November 3 1714 to August 4 1719.
T70/29: Committee letters July 11 1751 to 1763.
T70/30: Letters from the Coast of Africa to the Committee of Merchants Trading in Africa 1753–1758.
T70/55: Copies of letters sent by the Royal African Company of England to the Gambia, Dec 1 1720 to May 19 1737.
T70/56: Copies of Letters Sent by the Royal African Company of England to Gambia no. 2. Sept 29 1737 to 1751.
T70/561: Gambia Journal G. From Jan. 1 1734 to June 30 1734. Received in Accountants Office July 28 1735 (In Gambia called journal F).
T70/563: Gambia Journal I, Jan. 1, 1735 to June 30, 1735. Received Feb. 16, 1736/7.
T70/565: Gambia Journal L, From Jan. 1 1736 to June 30 1736.
T70/574: Journal of the Gambia U. From July 1 1740 to Dec. 31 1740.
T70 847: Gambia Ledger G. From Jan. 1 1734 to June 30 1734. Received in the Accounts Office July 28, 1735. (J in Gambia).

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Notes

1  P. Curtin, 1975, p. 4.

2  L. Gijanto, 2011a.

3  Cf. D. Haggis, 2007; I. Hodder, 2005; H. Jackson, S. SCott, 2003; J. Blitz, 1993.

4  Cf. A. Giddens, 1979; P. Bourdieu, 1977; W. Sewell, 2005.

5  P. Bourdieu, 1990; A. Giddens, 1979, 1984.

6  C. Cobb, 1991; M. Dietler, I. Herbich, 1993; D. Agrawal et al., 1999; T. Murray, 1999; G. Lucas, 2005; G. Bailey, 2007.

7  T. Pauketat, 2001, p. 10.

8  M. Varien, J. Potter, 2008, p. 9.

9  W. Sewell, 1992; W. Sewell, 2005, p. 140-141; M. De Certeau, 1984.

10  A. Giddens, 1979; W. Sewell, 2005, p. 131.

11  C. Crone, 1937.

12  R. Jobson, 1968; F. Moore, 1738; C. Crone, 1937; F. Coelho, 1989.

13  D.R. Wright, 1977, p. 13.

14  F. Paris, 2001, p. 31, 33; F. Coelho, 1989, ch. 2, p. 2-3.

15  F. Moore, 1738, p. 67; F. Paris, 2001, p. 31; D.R. Wright, 2004, p. 82-87.

16  D.R. Wright, 2004, p. 81-82, 87.

17 Ibid. p. 81-82.

18  British National Archives, CO 1/16, p. 492, J.M. Gray 1966, p. 56.

19  British National Archives, T70/56.

20  P. Cultru, 1913, p. 198-199.

21  British National Archives, T70/55.

22 Ibid.

23  British National Archives, T70/19.

24  British National Archives, T70/4.

25  British National Archives T70/55.

26  F. Moore, 1738, p. 56.

27  C. DeCorse et al., 2010.

28  British National Archives, T70/56.

29  British National Archives, T70/29; British National Archives, T70/30.

30  British National Archives, T70/30.

31  Curtin, 1975, p. 104, 108.

32  M. Park, 1807, p. 5.

33  K. Lupton, 1979, p. 46.

34  G. Ingram, 1847, p. 150.

35  M. Douglas, 1984, p. 11.

36  D. Kirkby, T. Luckins, 2007; F. Braudel 1961.

37  F. Braudel, 1961, p. 545-9; D. Kirkby et al., 2007, p. 4.

38  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 70.

39  A. Appadurai, 1986, p. 3.

40  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 70; A. Appaduri, 1981, p. 494.

41  S. Alpern, 1992.

42  C. Crone, 1937, p. 26.

43  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 275.

44 Ibid., p. 163.

45 Ibid., p. 104-105.

46  F. Moore, 1738, p. 108-109.

47  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 269.

48 Ibid., p. 104-105.

49 Ibid., p. 93.

50  F. Moore, 1738, p. 109.

51 Ibid., p. 132.

52 Ibid., p. 144.

53  F. Paris 2001, p. 29.

54  British National Archives, T70 Series.

55 Ibid.

56  M. Dietler, 2001.

57  B. Hayden, 2001, p. 28; M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001a, p. 3.

58  M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001b.

59  J. Potter, 2000, p. 472.

60  M. Dietler, 1996, p. 117; M. Dietler, 1999; L. Junker, 2001; L. Kelly, 2001; T. Bray, 2003; M. Stockett, 2007.

61  A. Almada, 1984, p. 22.

62  M. Dietler, 2001, p. 88.

63  M. Hegman, 2008, p. 222-223.

64  K. Grammer, 1996; P. Wiessner, W. Schiefenhövel, 1996; M. Dietler, 2001; B. Mills, 2004; R. Rosenswig, 2007.

65  D. Gamble, P. Hair, 1999, p. 269.

66 Ibid. p. 152.

67 Ibid. p. 152.

68  F. Moore, 1738, p. 132.

69  J. Goody, 1982; I. De Garine, 1996; M. Dietler, I. Herbich, 2001.

70  R. Rosenswig, 2007, p. 2.

71  I. De Garine, 1984, p. 160-161.

72  F. Moore, 1728, p. 229.

73  B. Hayden, 2001, p. 48; L. Junker, 2001, p. 284.

74  S. Van Keuren, 2004, p. 195.

75  L. Gijanto, 2011b.

76  P. Hammond, 1966; N. David, H. Hennig, 1972, p. 25; D. Papousek, 1974, p. 1010-1011; B. Chatterjee, 1975; D. Arnold, 1985, p. 179; E. Chilton, 1996; L. Joyner, 2007.

77  A. Heinrich, 2014, p. 2.

78  A. Heinrich, 2012.

79  J. Fisher, 1995, p. 5; R. Bauer, 2008, p. 1.

80  L. Gijanto, S. Walshaw, 2014.

81  F. Moore, 1738, p. 109.

82  J. Goody, 1982, p. 81.

83  L. Lecount, 2001, p. 937.

84 Ibid., p. 937.

85  S. Silliman, 2001, p. 190.

86  G. Ingram, 1847.

87  R. Beck et al., 2007.

88  J. Gero, 2003, p. 287, emphasis in the original.

89  W. Sewell, 2005, p. 6-7.

90  R. Rosenwig, 2007, p. 2; W. Wills, P. Crown, 2004, p. 154; T. Pluckhahn et al., 2006, p. 264.

91  K. Hirth, 1993; G. Gunnmerman, 1997, p. 117-118; T. Bray, 2003.

92  British National Archives, T70 847, 563, 561, 565, 574.

93  F. Moore, 1738, p. 229.

94  M. Van der Veen, 2004.

95  J. Goody, 1982, p. 82.

96  M. Van der Veen, 2003, p. 413.

97  M. Dietler, B. Hayden, 2001b; L. Junker, 2001; T. Bray, 2003.

98  I. De Garine, 1984, p. 160-161.

99  British National Archives, T70/30.

100 Ibid.

101  R. Jobson, 1968; A. Almada, 1984.

102  C. Cobb, 1991; C. Gosden, 1994; D. Agrawal et al., 1999; J. McGlade, 1999; L. Foxhill, 2000; A. Jones, 2007, p. 57-58.

103  M. Sahlins, 1985, p. vii; M. Sahlins, 1993, p. 17.

104  J. Yaeger, M. Canuto, 2000; M. Varien, J. Potter, 2008.

105  D. Loren, 2008, p. 2.

106  L. Turgeon, 1997; L. Galke, 2004; L. Gijanto, 2011a.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: The 18th century Niumi commercial centre
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Figure 2: The early 19th century Gambia commercial and political centre
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 83k
Titre Figure 3: Juffure Site Map with key deposits labeled
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 68k
Titre Figure 4: Profile Deposit 1a
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 66k
Titre Figure 5: Profile Deposit 2a
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 148k
Titre Figure 6: Feasting ceramics
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 101k
Titre Figure 7: Relative percentages of temper types at Juffure
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Titre Figure 8: Juffure Factory deposit highlighted in full Juffure Map
Crédits Liza Gijanto
URL http://afriques.revues.org/docannexe/image/1618/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 54k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Liza Gijanto, « Events and Happenings: Uncommon Meals and the Atlantic Trade at 18th century Juffure (The Gambia) », Afriques [En ligne], 05 | 2014, mis en ligne le 22 décembre 2014, consulté le 27 mai 2016. URL : http://afriques.revues.org/1618

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Auteur

Liza Gijanto

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

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