In the mid-18th century, three large sugar estates in St. Andrew Parish, Jamaica--Papine, Mona, and Hope--shared boundaries and an impressive cut limestone and brick aqueduct that carried water to sugar mills and cisterns on each estate. In the 19th century, these estates flourished, driven by enslaved labor and the shared water source that powered the mills. By the late-19th century, Papine and Hope were no longer productive sugar plantations; however, the Mona Estate remained the longest running sugar plantation in St. Andrew until its closure in 1908 (Francis-Brown 2004). Today the complex of eighteenth-century buildings that once comprised the Mona Sugar Works lie in ruins on the grounds of the University of West Indies, Mona. The 18th-century bookkeeper's house is home to UWI's Archaeology Laboratory. Remnants of the mill, distillery, and trash house are incorporated into a garden associated with the UWI Conference center. Fragments of the aqueduct, running south from the Papine Estate, stand near the works.
Invisible are the houses of nearly 200 enslaved African and Afro-Caribbean laborers whose labor fueled the success of the plantation. Like the Papine Village, enslaved laborers at Mona lived within sight of the Mona Works-including the aqueduct, sugar mill, boiling house, distillery, trash house, bookkeeper's and overseer's houses. Several 18th-century plats show the location of the village in relationship to the works as well as to 18th-century roads that are still in use today: Mona Road and Queen's Way. Unlike the Papine Village, a large portion of the area where the Mona Village once stood was removed by the construction of the UWI Physics Building in the 1960s.
In January 2010, the University of West Indies, Mona Archaeological Field School in collaboration with The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), initiated a shovel-test-pit survey of the remaining undeveloped land that was once part of the Mona Village. Modeled on DAACS surveys in Jamaica and Nevis and using the exact same methods used at the Papine Village, UWI students and DAACS staff excavated 97 shovel test pits across a 2,452 square meter area. Although the survey was limited to narrow strip of land between a parking lot, Mona Road, and Queen's Way, the material record of slave life at Mona spanned over four decades and suggests ways in which the village changed during the third and fourth quarters of the 18th century.
Acquired in 1754 by Philip Pinnock, the Mona Sugar Estate was in full operation by 1759, the date inscribed on the keystone of the still house or distillery at the Mona sugar works. Estate maps dating to 1779 and 1831 clearly show the estate village to the west of the works yard, within sight of the overseer's and bookkeeper's houses. As described on the Mona Estate background page, the Mona Estate changed hands repeatedly, with at least two Mona Great Houses in existence during the last half of the 18th century. The enslaved laborers at Mona likely felt the impacts of these changes.
The enslaved population living on the Mona Estate is commemorated on a cut stone obelisk that stands within the area shown on estate maps as being the site of the village where they had their homes. Ackee and mango trees, accepted botanical markers for such communities, still dot the location, though much of the area is now under a car park for the Natural Sciences faculty of the University of the West Indies.
The obelisk has, attached, lists of men and women, boys and girls who researchers believe could have been living in the area at the time of emancipation from slavery - the state in which most plantation labourers, imported from Africa or born in Jamaica lived for nearly two centuries (Francis-Brown DATE).
The existing data suggests that the enslaved population at Mona generally numbered between 160 - 190 persons. Statistics for 1817, available from an island-wide Return of Slaves, show two lists totaling 187 persons - 88 men and 99 women, ranging in age between 3 months and 81 years, a little less than two-thirds of them Creole or Jamaican-born, the rest having been brought from Africa before the ending of the trade ten years before. In 1832, the number of enslaved persons was 165.
Archaeological investigation using survey test pits (STPs) was conducted at Mona in 2010, in collaboration between the UWI and DAACS. The aim was to confirm the site of the Mona - and neighbouring Papine - villages and to gain insights into the spatial and temporal extent of the village as well as a glimpse of the material culture of the inhabitants.
Excavation history, procedure and methods
The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, Mona Archaeological Field School, began and completed a shovel-test-pit survey of what remains of the Mona Village during the January 2010 field season. Two datums were established at the Mona Village site. We used a total station and Trimble HX GPS to place an UTM grid across the site. All shovel test pits were placed on 6-meter centers using a total station. An alphanumeric system was established for naming STPs that combined the Area, the Transect Letter, and the STP number. The Mona Village was divided into two areas, 1 and 2. Transects were labeled alphabetically across the site. STPs were numbered consecutively within each transect. As a result, STP context numbers follow this format: 1-G-01, which translates into Pit 1, on Transect G, in Area 1.
Together, students and DAACS staff excavated 97 STPs at the Mona Village site. Each STP was 50 centimeter in diameter and these were placed every 6 meters on transects across the village. Sediment from every pit was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Although the pits were not dug stratigraphically, the students worked with DAACS staff to record the stratigraphy of every pit. As a result, every STP context record contains detailed sediment and elevation data for each stratigraphic layer identified. Artifacts recovered were bagged on site. UWI students washed and did preliminary artifact counts prior to exporting the assemblage to the DAACS lab at Monticello. The artifacts were cataloged and digitized at the DAACS lab and returned to the University of the West Indies, Mona archaeology lab, where they are now curated.
The Mona Village Survey is part of the DAACS Caribbean Initiative (DCI), a large-scale, internationally collaborative initiative to document archaeologically through survey, excavation, and collections analysis, the trajectories of change in slave lifeways on the north and south coasts of Jamaica, and on the small islands of Nevis and St. Kitts during the 18th and 19th centuries. DCI's primary method for understanding change in slave lifeways is use of systematic shovel-test-pit survey to document change in the material record over time and space. The Mona Village survey is modeled on other DCI shovel-test-pit surveys on the north and south coasts of Jamaica, and on Nevis and St. Kitts.
Summary of research and analysis
Preliminary research and analysis has focused on establishing a chronology for the Mona Village and analyzing artifact distributions to see if temporal or spatial trends were observable with only small portion of the village undisturbed. Correspondence analysis proved to be successful in providing a three phase chronology for the Mona Village. Mean Ceramic Dates for Phases 1-3 range from 1770 through 1793, indicating that the sampled portion of the village was occupied from likely the 1750s through the beginning of the 19th century. Complete information on the Mona Village chronology can be found here.
When the phased shovel test pits are mapped, it becomes clear that the earliest occupation was located to the east of the site, closest to the Mona Works. The later phases stretch to the west and are severely truncated by the parking lot and Natural Sciences Complex. Artifact distributions echo the trend: early refined wares, defined here as refined stonewares, refined earthenwares, and porcelains dating to the third quarter 18th century or earlier, cluster along the eastern edge of the site. Later ceramic ware types such as pearlware and whiteware have higher densities throughout the western portion of the site. Wrought nails show relatively consistent density across the site, suggesting that nails may have been used in the construction of slave houses through time.
The work at the Mona Village was supported by the DAACS Endowment and the University of West Indies, Mona Department of History and Archaeology (http://myspot.mona.uwi.edu/history/).
None of this field work would have been possible without the consistent, engaged support of the University of the West Indies, Mona Principal's Office and the Department of History and Archaeology. Special thanks goes to Professor Gordan Shirley, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Mona Campus, for granting permission to the UWI-DAACS archaeological excavations at the Papine and Mona Villages and the Mona Great House; Professor Swithin Wilmot, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education; Professor Kathleen Monteith, Chair, Department of History and Archaeology; Professor Waibinte Wariboko, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education; Dr. James Robertson and many others in the Department of History and Archaeology have demonstrated a sustained interest in, and support of, the fieldwork since the beginning. We are ever grateful for their support and friendship.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) supported the fieldwork through excavation and export permits. Mr. Dorrick Gray and his staff were enthusiastic volunteers and engaged visitors throughout the field seasons.
Jillian Galle and Sabrina Rampersad co-directed excavations at the Mona Village in 2010. Ivor Conolley played a significant role in organizing and supervising fieldwork. Leslie Cooper, Ivor Conolley, Lynsey Bates, and Karen Hutchins played particularly significant roles in ensuring each field school ran smoothly on all fronts.
The short but intensely productive field seasons would not have been possible without our invaluable DAACS crew: Lynsey Bates (2008-2011), Suzanne Francis-Brown (2009-2011), Ivor Conolley (2008-2011), Leslie Cooper (2008-2011), Sarah Corker (2008), Krystle Edwards (2009-2011), Christopher Graham (2011), Clive Grey (2009-2011), Karen Hutchins (2008-2010), Brian McCray (2008-2010), Chris Mundy (2008), Fraser Neiman (2009-2010), Rim Patterson (2009-2011), Karen Spence (2008-2011) and Derek Wheeler (2008).
Dr. Suzanne Francis-Brown has provided invaluable historical research and advice on all manner of UWI-related concerns.
Karen Hutchins and Karen Spence supervised all laboratory work between 2008-2010.
Leslie Cooper digitized all of the site maps (.dgns, .pdfs, and .gifs) and artifact distribution maps.
Leslie Cooper, Lynsey Bates, Jesse Sawyer, and Sarah Payton analyzed the contexts and artifacts at the DAACS lab at Monticello.
This research would not have been possible with the energy and commitment of the students in H28A: Methods in Archaeology. These students remained upbeat and engaged in the face of hundreds of pits to dig.
2010 H28A Archaeological Field School Students: John-Marc Evans, Cornelia Francis, St. Marie Gibbs, Keri Goulbourne, Christopher Graham, Danielle Green, Jermaine Lambert, Krystina Laurence, Janice Malcolm, Ka-Sheena Minott, Mavis Morris, Machela Osagboro, Tanel Panton, Latoya Senior, Roslyn Smith, and Winston Watson.