Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and Virginia stood as a remote landscape in the heart of the Tidewater throughout the historical period. Between ca. 1630 and 1860, thousands of Diasporans took advantage of the remoteness of the swamp in various ways and formed a variety of communities. Within these Diasporic communities were Native Americans, maroons, and enslaved canal company workers who joined or formed communities based on individual and specific reasons for choosing to permanently inhabit the swamp. Diasporic communities emerged on islands in the swamp and the relative locations of these landforms had significant impacts on what kinds of communities would form and persist on each landform. as a result of the florescence of these Diasporic communities, a dynamic political-economic world developed and was sustained in the swamp. This Diasporic world is very poorly understood and recognized in traditional historical discussions and narratives. This exposition utilizes a political-economic landscape perspective that emphasizes community structuration, exile, and alienation in order to interpret the archaeological and historical record at several sites that were explored and partially excavated by the author through the Great Dismal Swamp Landscape Study (2003-2006). Using research models developed for this project, it will be demonstrated that communities maintained differing levels or degrees of connectedness to the world outside the swamp throughout the ca. 230 years prior to the Civil War. Each type of community left behind unique archaeological signatures that provide much insight into community structuration, exchange systems, subsistence systems, and daily life. It will also be shown that archaeological materials and information can provide knowledge about how exile and alienation were a dialectical aspect of the pre-Civil War political economy of the swamp. Through this comparative historical archaeological study and its political-economic landscape perspective, we will gain new and unique insights into the Diasporic world of the Great Dismal Swamp.



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