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Historical Archaeology in the Caribbean: New Directions and Current Perspectives

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2014

In a conference dedicated to reviving ‘questions that count,’ this symposium is a forum to revive previous questions and formulate new ones in inter- and intra-island contexts across the Caribbean. All parts of the Caribbean were shaped by the same forces, among the most prominent of which are race-based slavery, sugar, capitalism, and the tropical and sometimes deadly natural environment. But within these commonalities there is also a great deal of diversity. Different crops, such as cotton, coffee, or indigo create different social and economic environments, and each island has a unique history which influences daily life and political and social developments. In the last three decades, archaeologists have incorporated the latest theoretical and analytical trends to explore this diversity, studying enslaved populations in urban, military, and plantation contexts, but also the lives of indentured servants and free people of color.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-20 of 20)

  • Documents (20)


  • At the Margins of the Plantation: An Archaeology of the ‘Poor Whites’ of Barbados (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Matthew Reilly.

    Plantation studies continue to be a mainstay of historical archaeological scholarship, particularly in the Caribbean where, for centuries, the plantation system dominated political, economic, and social life. In Barbados, the advent of this system engendered a ‘poor white’ underclass on the island that would survive on the margins of the plantation landscape. Archaeological investigations of a ‘poor white’ tenantry village, abandoned since the 1960s, are revealing a web of relationships...

  • Beyond Sugar: Rethinking Caribbean Plantation Landscapes (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Jane Seiter.

    Much has been written about the ‘sugar revolution’ sweeping the islands of the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries. Recent work by archaeologists, however, has challenged this overarching narrative. On the island of St. Lucia, a program of landscape survey joined with a close analysis of maps and census records has revealed a surprisingly different pattern of landscape development. Building on a legacy of subsistence agriculture inherited from the Amerindians, early European settlers on St....

  • Blue Caribbean: A Possible Indigo Plantation, Great Camanoe Island, British Virgin Islands (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT John Chenoweth.

    Indigo was a major cash crop in the eighteenth-century Caribbean, but it has received less study than sugar. Though similar in many ways, requiring intensive cultivation and dangerous and difficult processing (accomplished by enslaved Africans), indigo required less capital outlay and grew in more marginal soils. Therefore it was a transitional crop and was popular in poorer areas. Indigo also held symbolic, spiritual, and practical importance to many African groups, and its production and...

  • Contesting Identities on an Emancipation Era Barbadian Plantation (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Sean Devlin.

    The emancipation of the enslaved population throughout the British colonial empire in 1834 represented a complicated transition within those constituent societies, whereby the population was quickly transformed from bonded to ‘free’ laborers. This process is exemplified on the island of Barbados. Traditional historical studies have focused on colonial domination as maintained in this changing social context through the reinforcement of educational system, which served to enculturate the newly...

  • Fieldwork and Footprints: Identifying Former Slave Villages on the Island of St. Eustatius (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Deanna Hamblin.

    The discovery of dry stone rock features in the northern hills on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius presented a unique opportunity to investigate four potential former slave villages. After emancipation, these villages were abandoned and have remained virtually undisturbed by eco-tourism. The intact nature of the sites held potential to add significantly to our understanding of slave village design, orientation, and construction on the island. Research for this project began in the summer of...

  • Fishing and foraging strategies among enslaved children at Stewart Castle, Jamaica (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Jillian Galle.

    Identifying children’s activities in the archaeological record is a difficult task. Enslaved children are especially elusive; forced to labor at a young age, their access to toys and time to play were limited. While archaeological contexts of slavery do produce children’s toys, the quantities in which they are found are too small to meaningfully support arguments about children’s roles in any given society. Looking for the remains of children’s work, however, can provide critical insight into...

  • From Cane to Provisions: Spatial Organization of Cultivation and Processing on Jamaican Sugar Estates (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Lynsey Bates.

    Estate owners throughout the Atlantic World employed various strategies of plantation landscape management to maximize the profitability of cash crop production. In the British colony of Jamaica, contemporary planters and travelers identified numerous principles for sugar estate organization, four of which are quantified and analyzed in this paper, namely cultivation suitability (slope and soil quality), centrality, proximity, and visibility. By evaluating these principles through the...

  • Habitation sucrerie et sources archéologiques : le Château Dubuc en Martinique (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Anne Jégouzo.

    Cette communication présente les nouvelles données archéologique découvertes au Château Dubuc, ancienne habitation sucrerie de la Martinique. L’opération d’archéologie préventive menée par l’Inrap en 2012 s’inscrit dans le cadre des restaurations de ce monument historique. La fouille porte sur un secteur encore inconnu d’environ 4000 m& 178;, situé en contre bas de la maison d’habitation. Elle a ainsi dévoilé nombre de données inédites : -Des bâtiments anciens en bois sous les entrepôts. -Un...

  • Military and Material Life in the British Caribbean: Historical Archaeology of Fort Rocky, Kingston Harbor, Jamaica (ca. 1880-1945) (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Steve Lenik. Zachary Beier.

    Archaeological research at Caribbean military sites has investigated the lives of free and enslaved military personnel in the context of each outpost’s strategic significance in defending imperial domains. Relatively little work has explored the militia infantry, artillery, and engineers stationed in British Caribbean colonies from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. During this period, Rocky Point Battery, later Fort Rocky, was built near Port Royal, Jamaica to defend Kingston Harbor....

  • Military Sites and Social History: The Fort Charles Archaeological Project in Nevis, West Indies (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Diana Gonzalez-Tennant. Edward Gonzalez-Tennant.

    The site of Fort Charles, first set aside as a military outpost during the early 1600s, is home to one of the earliest British forts in the Caribbean. Following unsuccessful attempts to colonize the North American mainland, the British quickly turned their attention towards the Caribbean and established settlements in St. Kitts and Nevis during the 1620s. Today, these settlements remain occupied by a diverse group of descendants. This paper presents an overview to the Fort Charles Archaeological...

  • Negotiating Transnational Identity in Post-Revolutionary Hispaniola (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Kristen Fellows.

    Fleeing a tremendous rise in racial tensions, a small group of free blacks fled the US for the island nation of Haiti in 1824 and settled in Samaná. Subsequent to the settlers’ arrival, this area experienced a great deal of political turmoil and is now part of the Dominican Republic. Within the span of less than 150 years, the American community witnessed the transition from Haitian to Dominican control, annexation by Spain, the War of Restoration, commissioned investigations supporting...

  • People’s Collection Wales and the Great Gale of October 1859 (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Lynsey Bates.

    On the night of 25-26 October 1859, a devastating hurricane hit the United Kingdom causing large numbers of shipping losses. The loss of life associated with one ship, the ROYAL CHARTER, was so great that it sent the nation into mourning and gave impetus to the estblishment of a storm warning service and the establishment of UK’s Met Office. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales has been working with Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage agency, and the...

  • Potato Hill, Montserrat: The Role of Multi-Method Survey in Caribbean Historical Archaeology (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Krysta Ryzewski. John Cherry.

    This paper demonstrates the advantages of a survey-centered approach for examining cultural landscapes on Montserrat. Our case-study focuses on the multi-method survey of the Potato Hill landscape employed during the 2013 field season of the Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat project. Potato Hill’s artifact assemblage is the largest and among the earliest historic-period collections of artifacts to be recovered on Montserrat from the 49 archaeological sites we have surveyed since...

  • Recreating Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation Through Geographic Information System (GIS) (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Catherine Davis.

    Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies have advanced archaeological investigations through the use of analytical tools in conjunction with global positioning. Such work has provided insights to archaeologists who research land use patterns over time. This research project focuses on recreating the landscape at Betty’s Hope sugar plantation in Antigua, West Indies through GIS. With the aid of historic survey maps, Global Positioning System (GPS), ground survey, and the historical...

  • Rethinking the Slave Village: A New Perspective on Slave Housing in Early 19th Century Jamaica (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT James Delle.

    Much of what we know archaeologically about the material realities of enslavement in the Caribbean is based on the analysis of material culture recovered from concentrated settlements generally referred to in the literature as ‘slave villages.’ In this paper, I demonstrate through the analysis of archival, cartographic, and archaeological evidence that residence patterns on Jamaican plantations were more dispersed and complex than the slave village model has previously assumed. While it has been...

  • The Role of Caves and Gullies in the Creation of Community Networks Among Enslaved Workers in Barbados (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Frederick Smith.

    While the archaeology of plantation slave villages demonstrates planter control, the spaces in between these sites offer information from places where the reach of the planter was most minimal. Archaeological investigations in the caves and gullies that run through the plantation lands at St. Nicholas Abbey sugar plantation in St. Peter, Barbados offer insights into the social practices that enslaved workers pursued. The gully between St. Nicholas Abbey and the modern-day village of Moore Hill...

  • Scales of production and exchange for Afro Caribbean wares from slave villages on Nevis and St Kitts (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Fraser Neiman.

    My goal in this paper is to show how the statistical analysis of compositional data, derived from INAA, can advance our understanding of scales of production and exchange for Afro-Caribbean ceramics during the eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries on Nevis and St Kitts. I use classical and newly developed multivariate methods to explore and evaluate the compositional distinctiveness of sherds recovered from recent STP surveys. Assemblages from two Nevis plantations are compositionally...

  • Small Scale Farming to Large Scale Sugar Production, Capitalism, and Slavery in Barbados (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Douglas Armstrong.

    Domestic deposits associated with early Barbadian plantations are providing a basis to examine the revolutionary shift from small scale farming to large scale sugar production in the early to mid- seventeenth century. Using the 1647 Hapcott Map (John Carter Brown Library) as a guide, and GIS as a locating tool, features associated with «Fort Plantation», now known as «Trents Plantation» have been identified and excavated. The settlement at this site was initially organized as a series of...

  • Social and Spatial Dimensions of a Pre-emancipation Village: Preliminary Analysis of Material Culture at Morgan’s Village, Nevis, West Indies (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Marco Meniketti.

    Throughout the British Caribbean emancipation for enslaved Africans came in 1833. Many lived in clusters on Estate lands, some of which transitioned to ‘Free Black’ villages. On the island of Nevis, in the eastern Caribbean, a village is depicted on an 1871 map in association with the Morgan estate. The possible pre-emancipation scope of this village, however, offers the greatest potential for reconstructing the lives and social dimensions of enslaved Africans who labored in the agro-industrial...

  • Unexpected Results for X-Ray Fluorescence Applications in Zooarchaeological Research (2014)
    Citation DOCUMENT Alexis Ohman.

    The use of a Tracer X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) hand-held laboratory system in archaeological research has increased dramatically over the last decade. Research projects have investigated lithics, ceramics, pictographs, glass, and sourcing methods in order to find out more about the materials that humans utilized in the creation of artifacts. The study of fish remains from Betty’’s Hope sugar plantation in Antigua, West Indies, has opened up new avenues of XRF applications in zooarchaeological...

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America