by Shawn Cumberbatch
This is one literally for the history books.
Having played a virtual second fiddle performance to Bridgetown and its Garrison in recent times, Speightstown has become the source of some significant new archaeological finds dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, Barbados TODAY has learnt.
And an investigatory team headed by prominent British Archaelogist, Dr. Niall Finneran, of the University of the Winchester thinks the discoveries and others yet to be unearthed could bring heritage acclaim to area and other historic sits in the north.
The nature of what has been found, specifically the marriage of buildings archaeology, graveyard survey, historical survey, excavation and maritime work in a historical setting is being called “unusual and ground breaking”.
For the past three years Finneran and others from the British university have been partnering with Dr. Sabrina Rampersad of the University of the West Indies, Barbados National Trust, Barbados Museum and Historical Society, Bellairs Research Institute and others here on a Speightstown Community Archaeology Project.
Now, Finneran, who is Reader in Medieval and Historical Archaeology at the University of Winchester and Convenor Centre for Applied Archaeology and Heritage Management is reporting that the exercise has been worth their while.
Among the archaeological finds on and offshore Speightstown and other locations in St. Peter, St. Lucy and St. James:
• A “cave church” in an area between Mile-And-A-Quarter and nearby All Saints Church which was believed to have sheltered Catholic Recusants in the 17th century.
• Large quantities of African pottery mixed with occasional prehistoric material.
• Distinctive items of 18th-century military material culture, including a six-pounder cannon ball and clay pipes, one of which “bears a makers mark from a house in Bristol and dates from the mid-eighteenth century”.
• Structures at Maycock’s Fort dating back to the late 17th century with discoveries of six pound cannon balls, a non-standard calibre of musket ball, items of military dress, tools, and musketry pointing heavily towards military occupation.
• A building thought to be a mercantile house found in the yard of the St. Peter Parish Church.
• Remains of old jetties, cranes, machinery, and industrial machinery believed to have belong to a whaling centre.
In a report submitted to local stakeholders, including the Barbados Tourism Authority, Finneran called the various discoveries “hugely exciting” and said it had to potential to attract an even larger archaeological team to further investigate.
Surveys this year are continuing in the immediate area of Speightstown and also seaward of the remains of coastal forts at Denmark Fort, Orange Fort, Heywoods Fort, Sunderland Fort, Six Mens’ Fort, Half Moon Fort and Rupert Fort.
“It is important to emphasise that these research initiatives are hugely exciting and such a wide-ranging urban archaeology project which marries buildings archaeology, graveyard survey, historical survey, excavation and maritime work in a historical setting in the Caribbean is unusual and ground breaking,” Finneran said.
“This said, it is also important to stress the training element and knowledge exchange which flows between professionals and students, volunteers, locals, Barbadians and non-Barbadians, and which is central to the ethos of this work.
“The project has benefitted from a huge amount of interchange and discussion between many individuals; meetings were held with members of the UWI, Barbados Museums and also the Barbados Tourist Board to help develop aspects of heritage tourism. The future for the project is now assured; it is well established and now seeks to grow,” he added.
Working with Barbadian officials including tourism representatives, Finneran and his team are also hoping to achieve a number of other goals, including seeking additional grant funding to work with the Barbados Tourism Authority “for an international collaboration based upon developing heritage tourism ideas, especially with reference to sharing British and Barbadian good practice in this area”.
This was in addition to expanding the current project into “an academic, research exercise to include the whole of the north of the island as an integrated historic landscape study”. [email protected]