Historical Archaeology

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 73–85 | Cite as

Flat Ontologies, Cosmopolitanism, and Space at Carolina Forts

  • Charles R. CobbEmail author
Original Article


English forts in the Carolina Colony embodied the ongoing struggle between the ambitions of imperial impositions and the aspirations of frontier autonomy. This tension is acutely reflected in the spatial organization of forts. Whereas colonial authorities sought to separate Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans through the formal segregation of the built environment, life on the frontier encouraged a fluidity in space and identity. The theoretical construct of flat ontologies can be used to explore how frontier forts were a catalyst for complex and emergent spatial relations that subverted hierarchical space. Archaeological data from early 18th-century forts on the Carolina frontier exemplify the connective processes of flat ontologies that blurred space and identity.


colonial forts multiscalar archaeology cosmopolitanism Carolina flat ontologies 


Los fuertes ingleses en la colonia de Carolina encarnaban la lucha continua entre las ambiciones de imposiciones imperiales y las aspiraciones de autonomía en la frontera. Esta tensión se refleja agudamente en la organización del espacio en las fortalezas. Mientras que las autoridades coloniales buscaban separar a los europeos, africanos y americanos nativos a través de la segregación formal del entorno construido, la vida en la frontera alentaba una fluidez en el espacio y la identidad. La construcción teórica de ontologías planas puede utilizarse para explorar de qué manera los fuertes fronterizos fueron un catalizador para las relaciones espaciales complejas emergentes que subvertían el espacio jerárquico. Los datos arqueológicos de las fortalezas en la frontera de Carolina desde principios del siglo XVIII ejemplifican los procesos conectivos de ontologías planas que desdibujaban el espacio y la identidad.


Les forts anglais de la colonie de la Caroline personnifient l’opposition continue entre les ambitions des impositions impériales et les aspirations de l’autonomie pionnière. Cette tension est très bien représentée dans l’organisation spatiale desdits forts. Tandis que les autorités coloniales tentaient de diviser les Européens, Africains et Amérindiens en scindant formellement leur environnement construit, la vie au front pionnier favorisait une fluidité d’espace et d’identité. La trame théorique des ontologies linéaires peut être utilisée pour explorer la façon dont les forts des fronts pionniers furent des catalyseurs pour l’émergence de relations spatiales complexes ayant renversé l’espace hiérarchique. Des données archéologiques provenant des forts de la Caroline du début du 18e siècle démontrent les processus de connexion desdites ontologies linéaires qui obscurcissent à la fois l’espace et l’identité.



I am grateful to Mark Tveskov and Chelsea Rose for inviting me to participate in this collection, and my contribution greatly benefitted from their very helpful commentary. Likewise, Laurie Wilkie had important constructive criticisms, and I appreciate her useful insights. A broad and enthusiastic thanks goes out to all of my former colleagues in South Carolina who patiently introduced me to the archaeology, history, and methods of addressing colonial forts, especially Chester DePratter, Steve Smith, and Jim Legg. I also appreciate the great learning experience of working alongside former students on these issues, notably Stephanie Sapp and James Stewart.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Florida Museum of Natural HistoryUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleU.S.A.

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