Introduction: Historical archaeology in Jamaica

Mark W. Hauser, James A. Delle, Douglas V. Armstrong

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemForeword/postscript

5 Scopus citations


The largest and wealthiest of Britain's former Caribbean colonial possessions, Jamaica has long been a major locus of inquiry into the archaeology of the colonial experience. This volume assembles for the first time the results of nearly three decades of historical archaeology in Jamaica. Spanning four hundred years of Jamaica's colonial history, the essays in this volume consider topics ranging from the late fifteenth- century settlement of Jamaica's north coast by the Spanish, through the seventeenth- century establishment of what was once the world's wealthiest colonial entrepot, to the eighteenth- century fluorescence of slave- based plantation agriculture, to the post- emancipation hopes and dilemmas arising in the aftermath of the nineteenth- century abolition of slavery. Through their work on Jamaica, which Christopher Columbus reputedly described as "the fairest isle eyes have seen," the archaeologists represented here have explored in microcosm the material realities of co lo nial ism as experienced throughout the New World. Jamaica's national motto, "Out of Many, One People," expresses a deep understanding of the diverse heritage of the population that emerged during the colonial period, a concept that has been carried over in the breadth of archaeological research conducted in Jamaica. The island nation projects a rich diversity of cultural settings and a corresponding set of archaeological remains from contact period sites linked directly to Columbus and early Spanish settlers, to the complex of colonial forts and urban settlements associated with the late seventeenth- century maritime trading center at Port Royal that was devastated by an earthquake in 1692, to an array of plantation sites relating to the British colonial period and tied to a complex set of social and economic structures built upon the labor of enslaved Africans. Jamaica's colonial history did not end with the abolition of slavery, how ever, and an increasing number of archaeological projects have focused on postand extra- slavery contexts. In this introductory chapter, we frame the historical archaeology of Jamaica through an outline of the primary temporal and topical themes that have shaped the history of the island nation. In so doing, we provide a condensed history of the colonial experience on the island, providing a context for the historical archaeological explorations that follow in the subsequent chapters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationOut of Many, one People
Subtitle of host publicationThe Historical Archaeology of Colonial Jamaica
PublisherThe University of Alabama Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780817356484
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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