The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery is a Web-based initiative designed to foster inter-site, comparative archaeological research on slavery throughout the Chesapeake, the Carolinas, and the Caribbean. Our goal is to help scholars from different disciplines use archaeological evidence to advance our historical understanding of the slave-based society that evolved in the Atlantic World during the colonial and ante-bellum periods. The archive was conceived and built by archaeologists at Monticello, with the collaboration of archaeologists, historians, and research institutions from across the Atlantic World. As a result, DAACS serves as a model for the use of the Web to foster new kinds of scholarly collaboration and data sharing among archaeologists working in a single region.

The DAACS Project

DAACS is an ongoing project, with new archaeological data added to the archive as resources allow. Archive staff, in consultation with Steering Committee members, choose new sites for inclusion in the archive on the basis of their research potential. Working with DAACS classification and measurement protocols, archaeological analysts process artifacts and excavation records in the DAACS Lab at Monticello. Faunal remains are analyzed in the Zooarchaeological Laboratory at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Once the data-entry phase for each site is complete, DAACS staff prepares feature summaries, stratigraphic analyses, and intrasite chronologies. Site research summaries are developed with the help of the institutions and archaeologists who curate the collections involved. The results of this work are then made available on the DAACS website.

DAACS supports scholarly research and engagement with archive data through a variety of initiatives, from teaching and fieldwork to training and fellowships.  Currently DAACS and The Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies offer one to three-month fellowships to scholars interested in traveling to Charlottesville to pursue research projects that use DAACS data. Applications are due April 1 and November 1 each year.

The DAACS Database

The heart of DAACS is a relational (SQL) database that contains a wide array of information from multiple archaeological sites where enslaved Africans and their descendants once lived and worked. DAACS data systemically describes both artifacts and the archaeological contexts from which they were excavated. The data are recorded by DAACS staff using a single set of classification and measurement protocols. This makes possible, for the first time, seamless quantitative analysis of assemblage variation across multiple sites. Researchers using DAACS data can discover previously unknown spatial and temporal trends, recognize site-specific departures from them, and more effectively evaluate hypotheses about the causes of these archaeological patterns.

The DAACS database is available to anyone with an Internet connection at Point-and-click query tools make it easy for users to pull data from the database. Query results may be viewed on screen or downloaded for import into local statistical and mapping applications.

The DAACS Website

For each archaeological site represented in the database, the DAACS website also includes:

  • background information on documentary evidence and previous archaeological fieldwork and interpretation
  • brief descriptions of the major archaeological features excavated at each site
  • summaries of work on intrasite seriation chronologies
  • a Harris matrix summary of stratigraphic relationships among contexts
  • site plans

The DAACS classification and measurement protocols and the data structures they instantiate are fully described in the About the Database section of this site. The Research section also features the results of recent research using DAACS data.