|St. Peter’s Parish, Montserrat
|Eighteenth century (ca. 1712–1783)
|Boston University (Mary C. Beaudry, Jessica Striebel MacLean); University of Tennessee (Lydia Pulsipher, Conrad M. Goodwin, Barbara J. Heath)
|2005–2007, 2010–2014. The excavation data in DAACS features only work conducted in December 2006/January 2007 and March 2007.
The Little Bay Plantation site is the core area of what was once an extensive plantation extending well beyond the current boundaries of the site. Currently owned by the Montserrat National Trust, Little Bay Plantation is preserved as a park within an area being developed as the new capital for Montserrat. Massive construction projects have been undertaken on three sides of the site; to the east and north there are new roads, to the west, a huge cricket pitch, and directly adjacent to the northern edge of the site, a new national museum. The museum houses the offices and collections of the Montserrat National Trust, which has sponsored several seasons of archaeological investigation at the Little Bay Plantation site.
Archaeological excavations were conducted at Little Bay Plantation between 2005 and 2007 and again between 2010 and 2014. Excavation data provided through the DAACS website only features work conducted by Dr. Mary Beaudry, Dr. Lydia Pulsipher, Dr. Mac Goodwin, and Dr. Barbara Heath between March 2006 and March 2007 (Beaudry and Pulsipher 2007; Beaudry, Pulsipher, and Goodwin 2007; Pulsipher 2006).
During March, 2007, excavation and mapping at the archaeological site of the Carr
Estate at Little Bay, Montserrat, focused on the laborers’ village, the bulk of which lies
outside the fenced area deeded to the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) as a heritage
site. The work was in advance of impending road construction aimed
at creating necessary infrastructure for the new town planned at Little Bay. It was likely that road building would destroy archaeological evidence in this laborers’ village locale. The archaeological effort was conducted at the request of Chief Minister Lowell Lewis and the MNT, with the aim of recording and saving information about the laborers’ village in advance of construction (Beaudry and Pulsipher 2007).
Robert Piper obtained the title to a parcel of land known as Carr’s Little Bay Plantation near the northern tip of Montserrat sometime between 1710 and 1712 and renamed it Little Bay Plantation. Robert Piper was described in a 1729 census as a “Planter and Cooper” with a house and plantation, a household of nine members, and owner of 39 enslaved men, women, and children. His real estate included a cattle mill and three houses—a boiling house and still, a curing house, and a dwelling house—and 100 acres of land with thirty-six acres planted in cane and four in cotton. The nine people in Piper’s household included Robert and his wife Jane, their sons Christopher, Robert, Jr., William, and John and daughters Elizabeth and Sarah, and a “White Man Servant.”
In his will, written about a year before his death in 1740, Robert Piper left all of his real estate to his four sons and their lawful heirs, but the sons soon divided the property among themselves. William and John, the younger sons, retained the Little Bay Plantation. William died in 1762 without heirs, leaving the plantation to his brother John, who survived him for five years before his own death; also childless, John willed the plantation to his nephew Robert Piper. In the ensuing years two Piper cousins, Hugh Allen Piper and John Hugh Allen, contested ownership of the property. It is unclear who among these three was living on the plantation when the planter’s dwelling house burned to the ground in 1783. The plantation was abandoned after the fire and never reoccupied, although in the 19th and 20th centuries the area was planted in cotton and sometime in the 19th century stones and bricks from the 18th-century plantation structures were robbed and reused in the construction of a cotton warehouse just northeast of the former sugar works.
Currently there are no known primary documents or plats associated with the Workers’ Village.
Excavation history, methods, and procedures
Archaeological research at the Laborers’ Village began in March, 2007 with a systematic systematic walking survey across the cleared village area. Several passes were made across the village along informal but regular transects and surface finds such as ceramic, glass, pipestems, brick, rock concentrations, etc., were flagged.
While archaeologists could see the remains of house platforms scattered across the hillside, two large areas, subsequently labelled Area 1 and Area 2, were selected for intensive mapping as they had the highest concentrations of flagged surface finds. Both areas were heavily broomed to remove the topsoil “tuff”. These “broomed” areas are represented on the site map as the “limits of excavation”. Once the surface walkover was finished the flagged surface material were collected. Additional such finds came to light throughout fieldwork and were added to the collection of surface finds.
Three 1-x-1 meter test units, TU1, TU2 and TU5, were begun in Area 2. Only the topsoil layer of these three units was exavated, therefore there are no later stratigraphic or artifact data from these units. Test units 3 and 4 were opened and excavated in Area 1. These two 1-x-1 meter units were excavated to a “transitional subsoil”, however no depth for these layers were recorded in the field notes.
Twelve 50-x-50 centimeter shovel-test-pits were excavated downslope from Areas 1 and 2. These STPs contained ceramic, glass, and iron artifacts. Ceramics included North Midlands/Staffordshire, Pearlware, Whiteware, and Yellow ware. Iron fragments may represent a small hollow vessel, such as a pot, but are very fragmentary. Glass vessel fragments are from wine-style bottles. These artifacts are more indicative of site occupation during the nineteenth century. However, their spatial and temporal association with the Workers’ village is unclear.
All sediment from the units and shovel-test-pits were dry screened through 1/4 inch hardware cloth.
Summary of research and analysis
Because the village was on a hillside, the site has been subject to a great deal of erosion, hence many artifacts have washed downslope from the house sites. The area was also cultivated in cotton up until fairly recent times; for the past several decades it has been subjected to fairly heavy foot traffic by livestock (cattle and goats). All of these activities have affected the condition of the archaeological remains negatively, with the result that the traces of the homes of the Carr Estate workers have become difficult to discern, and the artifacts that represent the possessions of the people who lived there are few in number and highly fragmented.
These conditions notwithstanding, the excavations turned up evidence of house locations in the form of alignments of stone indicating steps leading into houses, especially obvious in Area 1 and concentrations of stones likely used to buttress support posts on which the houses were set. Nog holes into which the posts would have been placed were not located, but a clear pattern in the spatial distribution of buried artifacts was seen: artifacts occurred only outside of the areas interpreted as houses, normally outside what was understood to be the doorway. The houses were oriented with their long axes roughly north-south, with the doors facing roughly northwest to catch the prevailing breeze (though the wind direction is highly variable in this locale, the prevailing direction seems to be off the bay, to the southeast).
In Area 2 evidence of a drainage ditch dug into the soak stone, around a house platform, suggested efforts by a villager to direct rainfall runoff away from his or her home. Other evidence of self-reliance comes in the form of fragments of clay pots, made locally, perhaps on site, and used for cooking, water storage, and eating. Caribbean historical archaeologists call this sort of hand-made pottery “Afro-Caribbean Ware”—it seems to have been made by enslaved Africans on all of the Caribbean islands and indicates both that workers were not provided with much in the way of factory-produced European ceramics and that people of African descent tended to prefer food cooked in traditional earthen pots. A very limited amount of bottle glass and some European ceramics, mainly English, were found, indicating that some residents may have been able to purchase European goods or to acquire them in some other way. Only a few fragments of white clay smoking pipes were recovered in contrast to the Galways slave village, where such artifacts were abundant.
The Workers’ Village sites presents a challenge for archaeologists studying the lives of enslaved peoples in the Atlantic world. In what ways might archaeologists better understand the lives of enslaved peoples living in the Caribbean, when soil erosion has erased most archaeological signatures? What can be interpreted from a small number of mostly non-diagnostic artifacts, when the site has already been destroyed? This site is not the usual candidate for DAACS because of its small number of artifacts and lack of personal artifacts/small finds, but the worker/slave village is part of a larger plantation context and it is hoped that the materials from the 18th-century manor house complex and associated boiling house and cattle mill will bolster the data set in the near future. A site like the Little Bay Workers’ Village would benefit from in-depth analysis of landscape, archaeological features, and historical and ethnographic analogies, since the material culture is so sparse. Despite the dearth of artifacts and poor site preservation, the Little Bay Workers’ Village merits further study and analysis, especially because the cataloging of all finds from the worker village has demonstrated that the ephemeral structural remains in Areas 1 and 2 are contemporary with the main occupation period (ca. 1725–90) of the Little Bay Plantation. Another advantage of having the data in DAACS is the possibility of comparative analysis of the Little Bay worker village with those of other plantation slave village sites that have stronger archaeological footprints.
Ceramic artifacts from Area 1 primarily consist of Caribbean Coarse Earthenware. There were also two sherds of North Midlands Slipware/Staffordshire and one sherd of White Salt Glaze Stoneware. While vessel form could not be definitively identified for any ceramic artifacts, the base of one Caribbean Coarse Earthenware vessel suggests a hollow ware, probably a bowl or pot. One North Midlands/Staffordshire sherd may represent the base of a bulbous mug and the other (of unidentifiable form) fits the description of “Red-bodied vessels with marbled or joggled slip decoration” in the Monticello ceramics manual. The White Salt Glaze Stoneware sherd represents a hollow vessel, likely a tea bowl. Glass vessel fragments are primarily from wine-style bottles, but several case bottle fragments are also present. One sherd of glass appears to be from an aqua/light green colored bottle, although it is too small to identify vessel manufacture or form. General artifacts include several “not a wire nail” nails, corrosion/rust, and brick and coal fragments. These artifacts suggest primarily utilitarian activities, but are also indicative of the consumption of tea and alcohol. Occupation is most likely during the eighteenth century.
As in Area 1, ceramic artifacts from Area 2 consist primarily of small Caribbean Coarse Earthenware fragments of unidentifiable vessel form. There were also two sherds of North Midlands/Staffordshire, likely from the base of flat ware vessels. One of the North Midlands/Staffordshire vessels fits the description of “Red-bodied vessels with marbled or joggled slip decoration” in the Monticello ceramics manual. One sherd each of White Salt Glaze Stoneware and Creamware were also present in Area 2, the White Salt Glaze sherd from a hollow tea or tableware and the creamware sherd from a flat tableware vessel. Glass vessels included fragments of wine-style bottles and case bottles, as well as one aqua/light green bottle. General artifacts include a small copper alloy handle and a wrought/forged nail fragment, as well as brick, mortar, and marine shell fragments. As with Area 1, these artifacts suggest primarily utilitarian activities, but also the serving of food and drink in refined earthenware tablewares. Ceramic dates, as well as the presence of a significant number of case bottle fragments and a wrought nail would suggest an eighteenth century date of occupation.
The STPs contained ceramic, glass, and iron artifacts. Ceramics included North Midlands/Staffordshire, Pearlware, Whiteware, and Yellow ware. Iron fragments may represent a small hollow vessel, such as a pot, but are very fragmentary. Glass vessel fragments are from wine-style bottles. These artifacts are more indicative of site occupation during the nineteenth century. However, their spatial and temporal association with the Workers’ village is unclear.
Gate Area (Surface Collection)
DAACS did not have access to the artifacts from the surface collection around the “gate area” at the village. However, Beaudry indicates that this area is represented by a collection of ceramics collected from the modern ground surface near the site gate. Ceramic dates vary temporally, dating as early as the seventeenth century (North Devon Plain) and as late as the nineteenth century (Whiteware/White Granite). As can be expected from a surface collection, the artifacts come from a well-mixed “context”, representing approximately two hundred years of the plantation’s occupation.
Mary Beaudry, with contributions from Laura Masur and Jillian Galle
Boston University and The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery
Things you need to know about the Workers’ Village before you use the data:
- Excavations were conducted at the Village site in March 2007.
- Measurements are in meters and centimeters.
- All sediment was dry screened through 1/4 inch hardware cloth.
- The artifacts were cataloged by Laura Masur at Boston University with the assistance of DAACS staff at Monticello.
Feature numbers for the Little Bay Plantation Workers’ Village are identified by the unit number followed by the feature number, e.g. “U1-F1” refers to Feature 1, located in Unit 1.
Excavated contexts that belong to the same depositional basin (e.g., a posthole and postmold or the layers in a single pit) have been assigned a single feature number. In addition, single contexts have been given feature numbers when the original field records indicate that the excavators recognized a context’s spatial distinctiveness from surrounding contexts.
DAACS Seriation Method
DAACS staff aim to produce a seriation-based chronology for each site using the same methods (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). The use of common methods for all sites in the archive is designed to increase comparability among temporal phases at different sites. The methods they produced are summarized below. Archive users may also use the Mean Ceramic Date queries provided on the Query the Database section of this website to calculate MCDs for individual contexts or features.
Due to the exceptionally small sample sizes at the Little Bay Workers’ Village, DAACS was unable to produce seriation-based chronology for the site. However, the site-wide Mean Ceramic Date derived from the 13 datable ceramics recovered from the excavated areas date from the late eighteenth-to-early nineteenth centuries. Two other measures that are less sensitive to excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might introduce a small amount of anomalously early or late material into an assemblage were used. They are TPQp90 and TPQp95. The TPQp95 of 1830 provides a robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 95th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising it. The TPQp90 also of 1830 provides a more robust estimate of the site’s TPQ based on the 90th percentile of the beginning manufacturing dates for all the artifacts comprising it. These identical dates suggest that occupation intensity at the Village may rest more solidly in the early-to-mid nineteenth century.
Little Bay Workers’ Village Mean Ceramic Dates and TPQs
Little Bay Workers’ Village Harris Matrix
The Harris Matrix summarizes stratigraphic relationships among excavated contexts and groups of contexts that DAACS staff has identified as part of the same stratigraphic group. Stratigraphic groups and contexts are represented as boxes. Lines that connect these boxes represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
This Harris Matrix is based on data regarding stratigraphic relationships recorded among contexts in the DAACS database and was drawn with the ArchEd application. See http://www.ads.tuwien.ac.at/arched/index.html.
See Little Bay Workers’ Village Chronology for stratigraphic and phase information.
For a printable version, download the Harris Matrix [PDF].
PDF site map compiled by Laura Masur and DAACS.
Beaudry, Mary C., and Lydia M. Pulsipher
2007 Narrative Report of March 2007 Archaeological Investigations at the Montserrat National Trust Heritage Site at Little Bay. Report submitted to the Montserrat National Trust, Olveston, Montserrat, WI.
Beaudry, Mary C., Lydia M. Pulsipher , and Conrad M. Goodwin
2007 Legacy of the Volcano: Archaeology and Heritage at William Carr’s Little Bay Estate, Montserrat, WI. Paper presented at the annual meetings of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Williamsburg, Virginia.
Harris, Edward C.
1979 Principles of Archaeological Stratigraphy. Academic Press, London, England.
Pulsipher, Lydia M.
2006 Preliminary Report: Little Bay Estate Project, Montserrat, West Indies Last accessed March 27, 2015: https://www.academia.edu/5565677/Preliminary_Report_Little_Bay_Estate_Project_Montserrat_West_Indies