Date Awarded

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Neil L Norman

Committee Member

Jonathan Glasser

Committee Member

Martin Gallivan

Committee Member

Mary C. Beaudry


This doctoral dissertation is aimed at determining changes in seafarer-thing relationships—which I define as entanglements—from 1624 to 1880 at two saltpans on two islands of the Venezuelan Caribbean. Three sites with four occupational phases will be discussed: one site with two occupational phases (Dutch, 1624–1638; Anglo-American, 1638–1781) on the island of La Tortuga, and two sites each comprising one occupational phase (multi-component, c. 1700–1800; Dutch Antillean/US American, 1810s–1880) on the island of Cayo Sal, in the Los Roques Archipelago. More specifically, this research seeks to determine how the development of European capitalism and consumerism impacted entanglements involving seafarers and things during short-term and seasonal events of salt cultivation and raking at the saltpans, while concomitantly exploring how seafarers navigated and shaped such multi-faceted phenomena. to answer this research question, a multiscalar spatiotemporal framework is formulated, which involves three spatial scales: the local, regional and supra-regional; and three temporal scales: the short-term, medium-term and long-term. as regards the theoretical framework, the spatial characteristics of entanglements beyond the site are primarily analyzed by developing and operationalizing the concept of itineraries of things. Diachronic change through time in entanglements will be explored by means of the concept of assemblages of practice. as an interdisciplinary historical archaeological project, this dissertation research employs the documentary record, oral sources and an analysis of the archaeological remains and their depositional contexts systematically excavated at the saltpan sites of Punta Salinas (TR/S) on La Tortuga Island, as well as Uespen de la Salina (CS/A) and Los Escombros (CS/B) on Cayo Sal. The archaeological excavations at these seasonal and temporary salt-raker campsites have brought to light the diverse material belongings of 17th- through 19th-century seafarers from Anglo-America, France, the Netherlands Antilles, Bermuda, and the Low Countries, among others. The exhaustive vessel-level analysis of the thousands of recovered things combined with the examination of written descriptions of personal possessions and practices at sea, aids in understanding where these items came from (their itineraries) and, more importantly, how assemblages of practice (involving seafarers and things) were enmeshed in the everyday practices of salt cultivation, fishing, dining and drinking. By inserting the assemblages of practice into the three-scale perspective of space and time and by critically comparing them, this dissertation endeavors to diversify our understanding of the recursive relationship between everyday seafarer-thing entanglements evidenced in assemblages of practice and the “big given” of the large-scale and long-term phenomena of capitalism and the attendant growth of consumerism.




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