|Location:||The Spring, St. Mary Cayon, KNS, British West Indies|
|Occupation Dates:||Late-18th to early-19th century.|
|Excavator(s):||The St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative.|
|Dates excavated:||July 10-11, 2008.|
The St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative conducted a two-day shovel-test-pit survey in July 2008 to confirm the location of the slave village associated with The Spring, an 18th-century sugar plantation located in St. Mary Cayon Parish on the island of St. Kitts. Eighteen shovel-test-pits were excavated in an area identified as the village on the 1828 McMahon map of St. Kitts. Domestic artifacts dating from the mid-18th century through mid-19th century, including a high concentration of African-Caribbean coarse earthenware ceramics, suggest the presence of the village. Unfortunately, heavy erosion throughout the last century has destroyed any useful spatial data as well as evidence of house platforms.
The plantation recorded on McMahon’s map of 1828 as ‘The Spring’, was first recorded as such in 1770, when Daniel Cuningham, then of Ludlow in Shropshire but late of the island of St Christopher, in his will of that date demised to his wife Elizabeth and her trustees his plantation in the parish of St Mary Cayon called The Spring which he purchased from Clement Crooke Doctor of Physic (National Archives PROB11/1036).
The earliest detailed maps of St Kitts possibly show the Spring Plantation. Norwood’s map of 1700 and De Buor’s map of 1706 both show a plantation, held by Ensign Crook and Clement Crook respectively, which is possibly the Lodge; on both maps the Spring may be an un-named or un-numbered plantation shown to the south.
One Clement Crooke certainly held a plantation in the parish of St Mary Cayon by c.1706, when he made claim for losses suffered in the recent French attack on the island. The following claims by Crooke are possibly our earliest description of the Spring:
“Framed house of 2 rooms 34 feet long and 15 broad of Leeward timber except the rafters, ends and sides boarded … worth £150
A framed room 17 by 21 feet with a porch, some part boarded, £80
A boiling house 34 by 21 feet with Leeward posts and sides …. Molasses cistern of boards (National Archives, CO 243/2, Fo.86).”
Daniel Cunningham esq. evidently owned the Spring by 1750 when he mortgaged it to Robert Colhoun esq. for £14,880 plus interest. By then it was described as “all that plantation in the parish of St Mary Cayon, c.168 acres 3 roods 11 perches, and all that mountain land and wood land belonging to the same bounded to the N with lands late of Samuel Crooke, to the E with lands of William Ottley esq.and Timothy Earle esq., to the S with the tops of the mountains, to the W partly with the ridge and partly with the gut which divides the same from the lands of John Burryau”, together with 130 negro and other slaves (St Kitts Common Records Book H, No.4, 1833, fol.326). At this stage Clement Crooke may have retained some interest in the estate. First, in the period 1755 to 1758 the index to deeds records transactions from Clement Crooke to Daniel Cunningham as deeds 5703-4 and 5932 (St Kitts Common Records, Index Book X, no.1; unfortunately the volumes for these years were too fragile even to be microfilmed so are not accessible for this research). Secondly, Clement Crooke was shown as the owner of this estate on Baker’s map of 1753.
Later title deeds show that by 1832 the two plantations known as the Spring and the Lodge formed a single estate, which had formerly belonged to one William Crooke who was now deceased. By a series of complex legal proceedings linked to the redemption of existing mortgages the two plantations then passed to David Elliott esq., formerly of Clifton, the wealthy suburb of Bristol, who in that year sold the estate to Charles Adamson, a planter of St Kitts, recorded as the owner on McMahon’s map of 1828 (St Kitts Common Records Book H, No.4, 1833, fols.308-345). The deed of sale includes a schedule with the names, ages and gender of the slaves sold with the estate; this can be compared with the earlier list of 1750 and the triennial register of 1828 (St Christopher Triennial Return of Slaves Book D).
The 1832 list also provides the names and general ages of each individual owned by Adamson. That year he owned 20 men, 25 women, 7 boys, 4 girls, 14 infant boys and 7 infant girls. The slave population totaled 77. Only one name was embedded with a clue to a person’s ethnicity, age, origin or parentage. In such cases, two names are provided for a single individual, one proper name and one descriptor. Here Tom Creole was of the creolized Caribbean. No men or women had occupations linked to their names and none carried names suggestive of their origins in Africa.
Four slaves had names indicating they had been born on or purchased from other plantations: Alexander Cunnyngham, Robert Cunnyngham, Mary Mathew, Glasgow Mathew and Polly Ottley were likely connected to the adjacent Cunningham, Matthew (or Brighton) and Ottley plantations.
Excavation history, procedure, and methods
In 2004, staff with the Nevis Heritage Project in collaboration with National Museums Liverpool, conducted a large-scale landscape survey of sugar plantations and slave villages on St. Kitts. Their work focused on two parishes on the island, St. Mary Cayon and Christ Church Nichola Town. Using the 1828 McMahon map as their starting point, archaeologists linked modern topographic maps of St. Kitts to the McMahon Map, allowing them to locate and map eight plantations in St. Mary Cayon and three in Christ Church Nichola Town. The Spring was one of eight plantations in St. Mary Cayon surveyed by Dr. Robert Philpott and his team in 2004. The major components of the estate, including house, windmill, cisterns, and slave village, were mapped using a total station.
The Spring Estate occupies a site which slopes down strongly towards the ocean to the northeast. A modern dirt track that leads to the spring, a water source uphill from the plantation, runs along the eastern edge of the estate. The plantation works are built on a series of terraces and the remains of the plantation buildings are disposed around a rectangular yard. The upper range of buildings to the south appears to contain the main house. Though not extant, a series of rectangular cellar rooms, including one constructed with a brick vault, is visible above the surface. An adjacent detached structure with a possible fireplace and open oven was identified and mapped. This may have been a kitchen.
The center of the yard is occupied by a stone windmill tower with an entrance on the west side that is approached by a ramp. The northern side of the yard, down slope, is bounded by a rectangular building, probably the boiling house, which incorporated two cisterns in the structure, and a possible platform. The yard is cut by a track that is probably contemporary with the use of the yard. Another building survives only as a single wall and its function is uncertain .
The slave village shown on the 1828 McMahon map was located in 2004. It lies in the base of a sloping valley. The windmill and sugar works are located east of the village, separated by a steep slope and accessed by a track. The southern edge of the village is defined by a steep earth bank with a ditch on its south side that channeled water from the plantation above. The western side is marked by a deep and steep-sided ghut while the eastern edge is defined by a steep slope up to the works. The interior of the valley gently slopes towards the north. To the north are cultivation ridges and the northern limit of the village is marked on McMahon’s map of 1828.
The 2004 survey was the starting point for the St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative, which is a collaboration among archaeologists from The International Slavery Museum (Philpott), The University of Southampton and Nevis Heritage Project (Leech and Morris), and DAACS (Galle, Neiman, Hudgins, Heath). In May 2008, archaeologists with SKNDAI and students from The University of Southampton’s archaeological field school conducted a one-day shovel-test-pit survey at The Spring’s slave village in order to confirm its location.
The team placed 18 test pits on three N/S transects through the center of the valley that contained the village. The pits were placed on 6-meter centers using a total station. Each pit was 50 centimeters in diameter. In most cases these pits were excavated to either subsoil or an apparent sterile layer. All sediment was screened through ¼-inch mesh. Artifacts were washed on Nevis and flown to Monticello where they were cataloged to DAACS standards. The artifacts will be returned to St. Kitts in 2009.
Domestic artifacts dating from the late-18th-to-early-19th centuries were discovered. However, it appears that over the last century heavy erosion through the ghut had destroyed any spatial data and evidence of house platforms.
Summary of research and analysis
The 18 excavated shovel-test-pits yielded a total of 453 artifacts, including ceramics, glass vessels, tobacco pipe fragments, brick, architectural slate, nails, and a single gunflint. Forty-five percent of the entire ceramic assemblage (n = 158) was comprised of Afro-Caribbean coarse earthenware ceramics (n = 72). The remaining imported ceramics (n=86) range from North Midlands Slipware (n = 1) and Delftware (n= 5) to creamware (n= 33), pearlware (n= 23) and whiteware (n= 4). Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis was conducted on six of the 72 Afro-Caribbean ceramic sherds excavated from The Spring. The raw data from the INAA analysis will be made available through a query on the DAACS website in the Fall of 2010. A detailed report on the INAA results from samples taken from Jessups, New River and The Spring can be found here.
DAACS’s preliminary analysis has focused on dating the site. As noted earlier, the village lies in a narrow valley, sandwiched between the great house and mill complex on higher ground to the south and a deep ghut to the north. Shovel test pits in the valley bottom were in excess of 1 meter deep, while those closer to the ghut were 0.2 meters deep. This raises the unfortunate possibility that the site is a hydraulic jumble: both artifacts and sediment have been eroded from their original contexts and deposited along the valley center line. For this reason, our digitization team excavated only 18 STPs at this site.
If the erosion hypothesis is correct, then spatial patterning on which our digitization design relies will have been erased. Analysis of the STP data from The Spring suggests this is in fact the case: the CA results show no pattern, nor is there a significant correlation between the CA dimension-1 scores and the MCDs (Figures 1 and 2). We conclude that internal site structure has been erased. The evidence from The Spring provides an important test of our field digitization techniques at the other sites. It shows that failure is detectable. That adds further confidence in the results from New River and Jessups.
However, the site does offer a single artifact sample that can be usefully compared with the Nevis sites. These results indicate that the ceramic assemblage from The Spring dates on average to the late-18th century (MCD: 1787). The date is a puzzle, since it does not fit with the evidence of the McMahon map, which portrays a sizable village on the site 40 years later. Perhaps, as we have seen at New River and Jessups, we are capturing the eroded remains of an early village, with the location of a later village as yet unidentified.
Jillian Galle1, Fraser Neiman2, Robert Philpott3, and Roger Leech4
1The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, 2Monticello Department of Archaeology, 3International Slavery Museum, and 4The University of Southampton
Things you should know about The Spring before you use the data:
- Field measurements are in meters and centimeters.
- All excavated sediment was passed through 1/4 inch mesh.
- Shovel-test-pits are on the UTM grid system.
- Eighteen shovel-test-pits were excavated at The Spring village during the 2008 excavation season.
- An alphanumeric system was established for naming STPs that combine the Area, the Transect Letter, and the STP number. Transects were labeled alphabetically across the site. STPs were numbered consecutively within each transect. As a result, STP context numbers follow this format: 1-N-03, which translates into Pit 3, on Transect N, in Area 1.
- In the DAACS database, The Spring’s village site is designated as Project “1215”. Artifact ID numbers for artifacts associated with The Spring therefore begin with the 1215 prefix.
- Architectural and landscape features including terraces, roads, and exposed foundations 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.
The St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative
The archaeological survey of the slave village at Tthe Spring Estate was conducted as part of the St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative (SKNDAI). Funded by a JISCNEH Transatlantic Digitization grant in 2008, The St. Kitts-Nevis Digital Archaeology Initiative is an innovative collaborative project designed to further scholarship on slavery. The goal of SKNDAI is to develop an integrated digital archive of diverse archaeological and historical data related to the experiences of the enslaved men and women who labored on 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century sugar plantations in the Caribbean. An international team of scholars from The Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia (http://www.daacs.org), the University of Southampton’s Nevis Heritage Project (http://www.arch.soton.ac.uk/Research/Nevis/Nevis.html), the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/) are working together to digitize and deliver on the web information from 18th-century plantations and their slave villages located on Nevis and St. Kitts. The result will be a first-of-its-kind digital collection of fully searchable archaeological and historical data from multiple slave village sites in the Caribbean.
Led by principal investigators Jillian Galle and Fraser Neiman (DAACS, US) and Roger Leech (University of Southampton, UK) and Robert Philpott (National Museums Liverpool/International Slavery Museum), SKNDAI undertook 9 weeks of archaeological survey on three slave villages during the summer of 2008. In addition, Leech worked in archives in Nevis, St. Kitts, and the UK to recover nearly 70 18th and 19th century documents related to slavery on these sugar estates. The archaeological and historical data have been digitized and are available through easy-to-use queries on the DAACS website and through the International Museum of Slavery’s website.
The work at The Spring was supported jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities (US) (www.neh.gov) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England of the United Kingdom acting through the Joint Information Systems Committee (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/).
Leslie Cooper (DAACS), Carter Hudgins (Clemson University), and Derek Wheeler (Monticello) provided field support that was essential to the success of the project. Jesse Sawyer, Leslie Cooper, and Brian McCray analyzed the contexts and artifacts from each site.
Barbara Heath (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), in collaboration with MURR, is conducting the instrumental neutron activation analysis on the African-Caribbean coarse earthenware ceramics. Elaine Morris (University of Southampton) is conducting the petrographic analysis on these same sherds sampled for INAA. INAA and petrography data will be made available through DAACS artifact queries in August 2009.
Excavations conducted on Nevis and St. Kitts were made possible through the help of many hard working crew members. Lynsey Bates (DAACS/UPenn), Ivor Conolley (DAACS/UWI, Mona), Karen Hutchins (DAACS/UMass), Sara Corker, and Brian McCray (UVa) served as field and lab supervisors for the project.
John Guilbert and Paul Diamond from the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society (http://www.nevis-nhcs.org/) provided invaluable help and support during our field work on Nevis.
Students from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica participated in a three-week DAACS Internship in Historical Archaeology during which time they surveyed a large portion of the New River I village. These interns included: Krystle Edwards, Suzanne Francis-Brown, Clive Grey, Shailean Hardy, Khadene Harris, and Kenesha King. The Reed Foundation, Inc. generously funded these internships.
University of Southampton students who participated in a four-week archaeology field school were also essential to completing the surveys at New River, Jessups, and The Spring.
There were no archaeological features identified or excavated at the village at The Spring Estate.
DAACS Seriation Method
DAACS staff aims to produce a seriation-based chronology for each site using the same methods (see Neiman, Galle, and Wheeler 2003 for technical details). The majority of sites in the archive are comprised of data derived from deposits within quadrats. On these sites, only assemblages from features or stratigraphic groups with more than five ceramic sherds are included in these ceramic-based seriations. Plowzone contexts do not contribute to a DAACS seriation-based chronology.
The DAACS Caribbean Initiative focuses on exploring large-scale change on slave villages in the Caribbean through the use of shovel-test-pit surveys. For villages with extensive STP coverage, including the New River villages, a variation on our site-based seriation method is employed. This is because each STP is small (50 cm. in diameter) and provides a small artifact sample. As a result, STP assemblages are rife with sampling error. The samples from individual STPs are so small that variation among STPs is almost entirely statistical noise.
Successfully analyzing STP data, without first aggregating those pits into counting units called sites, requires methods to suppress sampling error. Here we use empirical-Bayes methods. They offer a smart way to smooth both artifact density surfaces and relative frequencies of artifact types. To understand how these methods work, consider an STP – let’s call it STP 12. The number of artifacts found in STP 12 is likely to be similar to the number of artifacts in the STPs within a certain distance of it. The information contained in the neighborhood of pits is combined with the actual number of artifacts from STP 12 to arrive at an estimate of artifact counts that are less influenced by sampling error (Neiman et al. 2008).
We use two forms of Bayesian smoothing in succession. First, to smooth counts of ceramic ware types in individual STPs, we use a gamma-Poisson model. The gamma-Poisson algorithm highlights positive STPs that are near other positive STPs. We then use a beta-binomial model to estimate relative frequencies (percentages or proportions) of ceramic ware-types in individual STPs. Together two forms of Bayesian smoothing provide smoothed, stable estimates of artifact-type frequency variation in individual STPs, allowing us to see overall site patterning that may otherwise be distorted using raw data (Neiman et al. 2008).
To infer a chronology from the STPs we used correspondence analysis (CA) of ware type frequencies. We employ CA because with the numbers of STP assemblages in the hundreds, a traditional manual frequency seriation is completely impractical. CA converts a data matrix of ware-type frequencies into a set on scores which estimate the positions of the assemblages on underlying axes or dimension of variation. MCD’s are weighted averages of the historically documented manufacturing date for each ware type found in an assemblage, where the weights are the relative frequencies of the types. Measuring the correlation between CA axis scores and MCDs offer an indication of whether the CA scores capture time (Ramenofsky, Neiman, and Pierce 2009).
Dating The Spring’s Village
The CA results for The Spring indicates that there is no temporal trend within the village (Figure 1) nor is there a significant correlation between the CA dimension-1 scores and the MCDs (Figure 2). However, a village-wide Mean Ceramic Date of 1787 points to the village’s occupation the late 1700s. Two other measures that are less sensitive to excavation errors and taphonomic processes that might introduce a small amount of anomalously late material into an assemblage were used. They are TPQp90 and TPQp95. The TPQp95 of 1797 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 of 1775 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.
The Spring 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, while lines connecting them represent temporal relationships implied by the site’s stratification, as recorded by the site’s excavators (Harris 1979).
There is no Harris Matrix for The Spring village site, since the 2008 archaeological survey consisted of only shovel-test-pits.
PDF of excavator’s plan of the slave village at The Spring Estate, St. Kitts showing shovel test pits and landscape features.
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