Preparing for the Field Season

Historic and Industrial Colonial Landscape

June & July in Nevis

Five students joined the team this season and produced significant results at three sites of historic sugar production. The group helped answer some questions about two plantation sites and unearthed a new mystery at a third. The 2005 field season can best be describe as hot, humid, and green. The drought that caused die back of vegetation over the past few years has ended and with the increased rainfall there has been a renewed and revitalized jungle grow-back. So intense was the vegetation that even using GPS we found it difficult to relocate previously worked sites. At one point we stood fewer than fifteen feet from a sugar boiling facility and could not see it. We spent as much time cutting paths through the vegetation with machettes as we did on excavation. Without doubt, the wide swaths cut by Jonathan Rider from University of Nottingham were a key element in our success this season at locating sites. Survey results from past seasons would not have been possible had these conditions prevailed then.

 

Pictured at right. Beth Houpt (University of Wisconsin) and Casey Hanson (recent graduate from Texas A&M) excavate the interior floor of the residential structure found on the ridge adjacent to Saddle Hill.

Go to 2005 Season results

 

Documenting Site Features

Our previous seasons were dramatic. Eight weeks of surveying in 2003, hiking in several environmental zones, provided valuable information on changes in natural and built landscape. Two sites in particular attracted our attention for detailed documentation and limited excavation. One site offered both a mill-complex and associated multi-roomed residential structure with masonry foundation, slate steps, and small private garden enclosed by a stone wall. The other was a sugar mill complex near the new road leading to Nevis' recently completed deep water pier at Long Point. Pictured at left, Krysta Ryzewski (Brown University), Bart Beecroft (Texas A&M University), Kaitlin Deslatte (University of Massachusetts), and Dan Rourke (Bridgewater College )in the process of producing measured drawings of an eighteenth century boiling house structure at the Long Point site. The project in 2005 will return to these two sites for a more extensive excavation. No roads lead to either site, requiring the crew to hike two miles from project headquarters to the archaeological sites. Scroll down to read about past work which this season will build on.

Mill ruins, St John Parish.

Kaitlin Deslatte came to the project from Northwestern State University, Nachitoches, (now a graduate student at University of Massachusetts) was familiar with sugar mill in her home state of Louisiana. Here she is shown preparing for the daunting task of documenting the collapsed ruins of a boiling house and sugar factory dated to the eighteenth century. The windmill tower stands in the background at the upper left. This mill is well known on the Nevisan landscape and is visible from several vantage points below Brown's Village. It contrasts with the other mills we found during the 2002 and 2003 seasons in that it is easy to access. Most of the mills we found during survey were obscured by so much forest that we often did not see them until we were within a few feet.

Among her many talents, Kaitlin was an expert at preparing the best !!*#!#@! Cajun rice and beans anyone ever ate on the projects. Taking over the cooking from time to time, the crew was treated to a true Cajun flavor. I mean hot! We wish her well in her graduate studies.

 

 

The standing walls at Indian Castle Estate in 1997.

The ruins at Indian Castle in the Parish of St. George are somewhat enigmatic. According to tradition, the estate was built above the ruins of a Carib "fort" or village compound. To be sure, Carib ceramics are found in the area, and in 1997 we located a ground stone celt.The complex is unlike any other on the island and may have served not only as a sugar processing facility, but as a harbor complex or custom house as well. Artifacts recovered from the surrounding area during random sampling include ceramics ranging from seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries, gunflints,pipe bowls, onion bottle bases and necks, slag from smithing, and a "piece of eight" (Mexico City mint 1758 pillar dollar) among many other items.

The 1997 season was highly productive. The southern side of the structure stands on a cliff and its outermost wall has already collapsed to the sea below. Sugar boiling cauldrons (known as coppers) were found in situ during excavation. The excavation was precarious as we were literally perched on the edge of the cliff.

Diving operations were logistically difficult, but were fruitful. Four certified divers were on the project specifically to investigate the waters below the structure for evidence linking the site to a maritime function. Owing to the rugged coast, remote location, and steep rocky cliff side, all equipment had to be managed with care. we owe a considerable debt of gratitude to Ellis Chaderton of Aqua Safari, located at Qualie Beach, for his assistance and equipment.

More about Indian Castle and Port St. George Project

Diving from the rocky shore at Indian Castle

Diving operations below the ruins at Indian Castle. Note the large section of the exterior wall that has fallen to the rocky shore. John Foucher (Texas A&M) and Eric Emory (University of Vermont). Additional divers took part in the underwater survey, which located tiles, pottery, hurricane debris, and two ship's canon, including a demi-culvern. The off-shore coral reef had been mined for lime in the past and the resulting destruction of the reef barrier has permitted unrelenting pounding by the surf along the shore, hastening erosion and land loss.

Beautiful flora of Nevis.

Flame tree in full bloom. Every season we are delighted to find the Flame trees. Sometimes called Flamboyant tree or Poinciana (Delonix regia), these magnificent trees are usually in full bloom in June and July when we work on Nevis. These shade trees are native to Madagascar, just one of many non-native plants that make up the modern flora in the Caribbean.

Approaching Nevis from the sea.

Charlestown viewed from the ferry that links Nevis to St Kitts. This view is always exciting for first timers to the island. The waterfront has changed considerably over the past few years as new roads were completed and old ones widened and paved. Sadly, some of these improvements to infrastructure obliterated several archaeological sites.The square building just right of center with the hip roof and two windows is the Museum of Nevis History. The restored building is believed to be the birthplace of American statesman Alexander Hamilton.

Artifact processing begins with cleaning and recording.

Paul White (Brown University) and Michigan State student Meredith Martin (now a graduate student at Florida State University) spend the afternoon cleaning ceramics, .Paul has branched out to create "Extreme Archaeology"--he has worked in Alaska, Death Valley, and the Caribbean, not to mention his homeland of New Zealand.

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