Stewart Castle Village
Excavations at the Stewart Castle Main House and Slave Village were initiated by DAACS in May 2007 as part of the DAACS Caribbean Initiative. Located just east of Falmouth Jamaica, in Trelawney Parish, Stewart Castle was patented in 1754. It functioned as a large-scale sugar plantation through the early nineteenth century. Due to a massive decline in sugar prices, the property gradually converted to a cattle pen by the mid-19th century. A 1799 plat by the surveyors Munro, Stevenson, and Innes captures the scope of the sugar plantation in detail, showing the location of the slave village, the fortified main house, sugar works, and slave provision grounds.
Prior to 2007, no archaeological work relating to the historic period occupations at Stewart Castle had been conducted. The goal of the 2007 DAACS excavation was to assess the temporal components at the main house, and to understand both the temporal and spatial occupations at the slave village. With the help of students from the University of the West Indies and the University of Virginia, 176 shovel-test-pits (STPs) were excavated across a 7000 square meter area east of the road that bisects the village. Three 1-x-1 meter units were also excavated, one placed near an early nogged house, one on the interior of a cut limestone foundation, and the third on an earthen terrace. 10,298 artifacts were recovered from these pits and quadrats. Architectural and landscape features, such as stone walls, foundations and limestone nog piles, and landscape terraces, were selectively mapped with a total station at the village.
Stewart Castle, patented in 1754 by James Stewart I, began as a small, 167 acre landholding. By 1799, the sugar plantation had grown to well over 1200 acres, with approximately 500 acres planted in sugar cane. During the second decade of the 19th century, an average of 332 enslaved Africans lived and worked on the property. James Stewart II had difficulty managing the property and was forced to mortgage the plantation in 1797. Although Stewart did not officially sell the property until 1830, it may have been managed by an agent of the London merchants who held the mortgage, hence prompting the creation of the 1799 Munro, Stevenson and Innes plat (Panning 1996a,1996b). Although it has been suggested that the estate became a cattle pen at the time of its sale in 1830, Stewart Castle was clearly converting to cattle well before then, as it had an average of 282 cattle each year during the second decade of the 19th century (Panning 1996a).
The Munro, Stevenson, and Innes plat is currently the best primary source regarding slavery at Stewart Castle. The plat shows at least 43 structures located on approximately 45 acres, which are labeled on the plat “Negro Houses”. Located to the northeast of the village is an area of approximately 170 acres that was designated as “Negro Grounds” and “Rocky Woodlands and Negro Grounds”. A portion of the current road overlaps with the path represented on the plat by the dashed line. The path passes through the village and continues through a marginal limestone forest that was once the provision grounds. Today, the road ends but the path continues over the crest of the ridge, and descends along a steep, rocky face before ending at the wharf. This path is still used by fishermen who make a daily fishing camp at the late 18th-century storehouse located along the wharf. One fisherman, who lives in the Refuge community located near Stewart Castle, has been walking this path daily for at least 60 years. His father walked the same path throughout the early twentieth century and it is likely this path has been in use since slavery.
Stewart II, like most resident Jamaican planters, was clearly concerned about living in close proximity to over 300 enslaved individuals. The almost obsessive focus on fortifications demonstrates a perceived and possibly very real threat to Stewart Castle from the Maroons and those he enslaved. If the Castle came under attack, Stewart had the ability to secure people and animals inside the courtyard, as well as ensure a large supply of safe drinking water stored in a large water cistern (3.1 meters x 5.5 meters by 2.5 meters deep) inside the main house (Panning 1996b:202).
Excavation history, procedure and methods
In March 2006, DAACS staff undertook a two-day surface survey of the Stewart Castle property. By laying the 1799 Munro, Stevenson, and Innes plat onto a modern topographic map of the area, we were able to pinpoint the exact location of the now densely overgrown Stewart Castle slave village. A thorough surface inspection of the village revealed cut-limestone foundations, piles of limestone cobbles used for the construction of nogged walled houses, as well as a thick surface scatter of late-18th century domestic artifacts spread over approximately 33,457 square meters.
The goal of the 2007 DAACS excavation was to assess the temporal components at the main house, and to understand both the temporal and spatial occupations at the slave village. DAACS began by dividing the Stewart Castle property into three survey areas. Area 1 encompasses the Stewart Castle Main House and Yard, Area 2 is comprised of the area in the slave village west of the road, which bisects the village along a north/south trajectory, and Area 3 is located to the east of the road in the village. Archaeological excavations only occurred in Areas 1 and 3 in 2007. Both areas were covered in heavy bush and required extensive clearing prior to excavation
DAACS staff returned to Stewart Castle in May 2007 with a team of students from the University of Virginia and the University of West Indies, Mona. Excavations began at the main house, where a datum and UTM-grid was established. A total station was used to connect the main house datum to a village datum. As occurred at the main house, both the village datum and total station back sight were excavated as 50 centimeter STPs. These pits were then filled with concrete and rebar was placed into the concrete. A GPS unit was used to confirm the location of the village datum, ensuring that excavations at both the village and main house were accurately placed on the same UTM grid.
A dirt road that overlaps with the path represented on the 1799 plat cuts the village nearly in half along the north/south axis. DAACS used this road to divide the village into two survey areas. The portion of the village to the west of the road is Area 2, and no STPs or excavation units were placed in this area in 2007. Area 3, the section of the village to the east of the road, was the focus of the 2007 excavation season.
One hundred and seventy-four shovel-test-pits were placed on 6-meter centers in a 144-x-56 meter area using a total station. An alphanumeric system was established for naming STPs that combined the Area, the Transect Letter, and the STP number. Transects were labeled alphabetically. Transect K represents that northernmost transect and Transect R is the southernmost transect excavated during 2007. STPs were numbered consecutively within each transect, beginning at the western edge of each transect and moving east. STP labels therefore look like 3-L-01, which translates into Pit 1, on Transect L, in Area 3. The same system was used for the main house.
A total of 176 pits were excavated at Area 3, in addition to the datum and back sight pits. All STPs were 50 centimeters in diameter and all excavated sediment was screened through 1/4 inch mesh. In most cases, the pits were excavated to either subsoil or bedrock. Please note that those using the STP data for analysis will encounter data from 3-DATUM and 3-BKSIGHT, which are the STPs excavated for the datum and back sight and which are not on the 6-meter STP survey grid.
Three 1-x-1 meter units were also excavated in Area 3. The placement of Units 1 and 2 was motivated by the desire to date the occupations of two different housing types, a nogged-walled house with no apparent foundation and a house with a rather substantial, cut limestone foundation. The house with the cut-limestone foundation was located on the eastern edge of a large earthen terrace. Unit 3 was located at the top of the western edge of this terrace, and its purpose was to date and clarify the stratigraphy of this terrace.
One goal of this shovel-test-pit survey is to identify temporal trends in occupation across the village. Unit 1 was placed in the middle of one of the many piles of limestone cobbles that are scattered throughout the village, and which likely represent the remains of nogged-walled houses. This cobble scatter was located just south, and southwest of two STPs (3-M-06, 3-M-07) that produced sherds of White Salt Glazed stoneware, the earliest dated ceramic excavated during the 2007 season. Only three other STPs scattered throughout the village contained WSG.
Unit 2 was excavated inside the only clearly identifiable cut-limestone foundation in Area 3. It is likely that the construction of the earthen terrace to the west of this foundation relates to the construction of this house. Sediment layers within Unit 2 were filled with limestone rubble. Although an intact plaster floor was not discovered, concentrations of mortar and plaster were found in 002A (60 mortar fragments) and 002B (114 mortar fragments). This debris is likely evidence of nogged walls or possible plaster floors.
Unit 3 was placed on the western edge of the earthen terrace, whose construction may have been linked to the construction of the house with the cut limestone foundation. Unit 3 contained multiple layers of fill, all of which have mean-ceramic dates that are between 1795 and 1805.
Artifacts were washed and cataloged to DAACS standards on Jamaica and in the DAACS lab at Monticello. Faunal remains from the main house and village excavations are currently being analyzed at Colonial Williamsburg’s Zooarchaeological Laboratory and will be available through this website in early 2008.
Architectural and landscape features, including stone walls, terraces, limestone cobble piles, and a grave, were selectively mapped with a total station. The dense overgrowth in the village made it difficult to map landscape features in a systematic fashion; those represented on the site map are features that could be easily mapped with the total station and limited clearing. Future seasons will focus on clearing large swaths of the foliage to ensure more complete coverage.
Excavation plans for future seasons include extending the STP transects into Area 2, and to the north and south in Area 2. We will continue to use 1 x 1 units to clarify stratigraphy, explore architectural features, and date buried deposits. All data collected in future excavation seasons will be cataloged to DAACS standards and provided through the DAACS website.
Summary of research and analysis
The most complete historical research on Stewart Castle to date was conducted by Steven Panning in the mid-1990s. In addition to conducting research in Jamaican archives, Panning produced an accurate measured drawing of the Stewart Castle Main House complex (Panning 1996a, 1996b). He visited the main components of the property, including the main house, wharf, village, overseer’s house, and works. Panning recommended that archaeological excavations be conducted at the village (Panning 1996b: 200).
In her honors thesis titled "Surveillance and Production on Stewart Castle Estate: A GIS-based analysis of models of plantation spatial organization" (UVA, 2007), Lynsey Bates used viewshed and cost-surface analysis to analyze plantation organization at Stewart Castle. Through the combination of modern topographic maps and the 1799 plat, Bates concluded that surveillance of the enslaved population at Stewart Castle was secondary to minimizing travel time between the village, the sugar works, and certain fields. By placing the works and village in locations that minimized travel between the two, Bates demonstrated that Stewart sacrificed visibility, since neither the provision grounds nor village were observable from the main house or the overseer's house (Bates 2007). Bates' thesis is available for download at: http://www.daacs.org/research/BatesThesis.pdf.
A number of research papers and posters related to DAACS's 2007 research at Stewart Castle will be presented in 2008. These will be made available through the DAACS website after they are presented.