Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History


Anthropology and Archaeology



First Advisor

Rod Mather


Since the abolition of the international slave trade in 1807, and even before, scholars and activists have focused on the conditions Africans experienced during the Middle Passage. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to the ships that carried the captives. This study will examine the historical and archaeological evidence of the vessels involved in the slave trade. It will address their form and function; and why and how they were built? It will also address the question of design-dedicated slave ships and the issue of whether or not some slave ships were built specially for the trade. This study will look at the historical and archaeological implications of viewing slave ships as purpose-built entities that have a unique place in the archaeological record. As such, it challenges the commonly held perception that slave ships where sent haphazardly to Africa without regard for profit or the maintenance of their human cargoes.