The Plymouth Colony Archive Project

Illustrations of Archaeology
at the Parting Ways Site, Plymouth Massachusetts

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Excavators at the Parting Ways site uncovered two concentrated areas, shown below, with remarkably high concentrations of stone cobbles, pieces of pottery and glassware on the surface.
surface features of potential grave sites at Parting Ways

These surface remains produced a pattern that suggested comparisons with the material culture of African American ritual practices and their West African roots. The Parting Ways features presented a strong parallel to grave decoration practices as they were known from the American South and particular regions of West and Central Africa. The rendering below depicts the grave of a Kongo chieftain, from West Central Africa, decorated with ceramic and iron vessels and other offerings.
This rendering appeared in an article by E. J. Glave in the <i>Century Magazine</i>, Vol. 41, p. 827 (1891), and was republished in J. M. Vlach, <i>By The Work of Their Hands: Studies in Afro-American Folklife</i>, p. 44, 1991.

The etched, glass decanter pictured below, which dates from the early nineteenth century, was among the ceramic and glass vessels uncovered from the surface of the likely grave sites at Parting Ways.
19th century glass decanter

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1995 Keynote AddressParting Ways Chapter

Plymouth Colony Archive

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Patricia Scott Deetz, Christopher Fennell
and J. Eric Deetz