Historical Archaeology, Caribbean, Identity, African-Caribbean Cultures


I am a historical archaeologist whose research interests have focused upon how colonial systems impact the lives and cultures of indigenous and enslaved peoples and their descendants. I am particularly interested in how people maintain, modify, and adapt their identities under a variety of situations created by contact with groups of people with different identities. Historical archaeology is a discipline that blends the fields of history, historical anthropology, and archaeology, and is interdisciplinary by its very nature. It is well suited to studying and seeking to understand complex issues of changing identities over time. I have spent the last 30 years studying British, Spanish, and French colonial systems in the New World, with a particular focus on the experiences of colonized and subaltern populations. My research has included archaeological excavations in the Caribbean, Louisiana, and the West (primarily California).

As a historical archaeologist, my work is informed not only by traditional archival sources, but includes lines of evidence drawn from architecture, artifacts, and ethnohistoric sources.  My research is multiscalar, expressly exploring how individuals, families and communities are impacted by, and in turn, shape, the colonial systems in which they live.  From 1989 to 2007, my primary research area was the late 18th to early 19th century Bahamas.  My published work on the Bahamas is primarily concerned with the experiences of the African-Bahamian population.   African-Bahamian culture reflects the influence of many of the elements that shaped African-American cultures of the U.S. South, but in a West Indian geographic, environmental, political and economic setting, resulting in a unique Bahamian identity that has elements derived from each region.  Recent scholarship in African-American history is increasingly recognizing that enslaved Africans maintained distinct ethnic identities in the New World, contrary to earlier conventions.  My research, using archaeological evidence in conjunction with demographic analysis, has demonstrated this to be the case in the Bahamas, but also illustrates the ways that enslaved Africans created pan-African identities in the New World while simultaneously maintaining distinct ethnic identities.

My current research project in Anguilla continues my research into the construction of African Diasporic identities in the Caribbean through historical archaeology.  Specifically, as the first phase of what is envisioned as a multi-year project, in summer 2017 I am undertaking an archaeological survey and test excavations at Wallblake Plantation on Anguilla, B.W.I.  The fieldwork is to identify the location of houses occupied by enslaved African or African-descended people working at the plantation and to locate associated trash and other archaeological deposits they left behind, as well as recording the standing structures of the main house, kitchen, barn, cistern, cattle mill, and sugar processing house, etc.  The research will yield insights on the ways of life, ethnicity and identity of the enslaved African, or African-descended, population of the plantation.  

Selected Publications


  • Wilkie, Laurie A. and Paul Farnsworth, 2005, Sampling Many Pots: An Archaeology of Memory and Tradition at a Bahamian Plantation. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.  
  • Farnsworth, Paul, 2001, Island Lives: Historical Archaeologies of the Caribbean, edited by Paul Farnsworth.  University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.  
  • Farnsworth, Paul and Jack S. Williams (editors), 1992, The Archaeology of the Spanish Colonial and Mexican Republican Periods.  Columbian Quincentenary issue of Historical Archaeology 26(1).  

Selected Journal Articles:​

  • Farnsworth, Paul, 2016, The Role of Memory and Tradition in the Construction of Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Bahamas. Cultural and Religious Studies 4(7):411-426.
  • 2001  Beer Brewing and Consumption in the Maintenance of African Identity by the Enslaved, People of the Bahamas 1783 – 1834. Culture & Agriculture 23(2):19-30.  
  • 2000, Brutality or Benevolence in Plantation Archaeology. International Journal of Historical Archaeology 4(2):145-158.
  • Silliman, Stephen W., Paul Farnsworth and Kent G. Lightfoot, 2000, A Test of Magnetometer Survey Instruments and Implementation in Archaeological Investigations. Historical Archaeology 34(2):89-109.

Selected Book Chapters:

  • Wilkie, Laurie and Paul Farnsworth, 2011, Living Not so Quietly, Not So on the Edge of Things: A Twentieth-Century Bahamian Household. In The Materiality of Freedom: Archaeologies of Postemancipation Life, edited by Jodi A. Barnes, pp.58-68. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.
  • Wilkie, Laurie A., Paul Farnsworth and David T. Palmer, 2010, African-American Archaeology. In Archaeology of Louisiana, edited by Mark A. Rees, pp. 258-272.  Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Wilkie, Laurie. A. and Paul Farnsworth., 2010, Those who were Traded: African-Bahamian Archaeology and the Slave Trade. In Social Archaeologies of Trade and Exchange, edited by Anna S. Agbe-Davies and Alexander Bauer, pp.143-163.  Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.
  • Farnsworth, Paul and Laurie A. Wilkie, 2006  Fish and Grits: Southern, African and British Influences in Bahamian Foodways. In Caribbean and Southern: Transnational Perspectives on the US South, edited by Helen A. Regis, pp.34-72. Southern Anthropological Society Proceedings, No. 38, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA.
  • Farnsworth, Paul and Laurie Wilkie, 2005  From Prehistory to Present: 700 Years at Clifton Point, Bahamas. In The William G. (Bill) Haag Honorary Symposium, edited by Paul Farnsworth, Charles H. McNutt, and Stephen Williams, pp.167-196.  The University of Memphis Anthropological Research Center Occasional Paper No. 26.  
  • Farnsworth, Paul , 2001, "Negroe Houses Built of Stone Besides Others Watl'd + Plaistered". In Island Lives: Historical Archaeologies of the Caribbean, edited by Paul Farnsworth, pp. 234-271.  University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.

Courses Taught

Lower Division Undergraduate Courses:

  • Anth 0856 Evolution of Culture (General Education)

Upper Division Undergraduate/Graduate Courses:

  • Anth 3175/8110 Heritage Management in Archaeology
  • Anth 3177/5177 Approaches to Historic Sites in Archaeology
  • Anth 4196 Theory and Practice of Contemporary Archaeology (Writing Intensive)