The 2015/2016 Field School held from
May 18 to 29, 2016 at Mona Work Yard, The UWI Mona
The 2015/2016 Archaeology Field School

Archaeology Field School 2016

2016 Mona Work Yard Field School (May 18-29)

The 2016 UWI Mona Archaeological Field School builds on previous research conducted on the UWI Mona campus, most recently between 2008-2011 (DAACS Caribbean Initiative) that contributes to scholarship dealing with the everyday lives of individuals and communities impacted by the realities of slavery.  This year we investigated areas of significance within the Mona work yard.  The UWI Mona 2016 field crew included second year undergraduates, Stephanie Butterfield, Randy Davidson, Shoshana Dyer, Desiree Edwards, Michelle Mais, Raveese Pinnock, Tonia Revers and Nathan Vickers, as well as two graduate students in Heritage Studies, Ashley Jones and Adrian Reid, who were all under the supervision of the Assistant Lecturer in Archaeology, Mr. Zachary J. M. Beier.

The Mona estate was active between the mid-eighteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century.  The estate had a number of different owners and managers along with an enslaved laborer population numbering just under 200 individuals.  It was the last functioning sugar estate in the parish of St. Andrew, which offers the opportunity to study long term change in agro-industrial technology and the material and spatial practices of inhabitants.  Its impressive work yard features massive cut limestone and brick sugar works along with housing for the Book keeper and Overseer.

Our research efforts were concentrated around above-ground features in this industrial quarter.  This work encompassed the full range of archaeological field methods, including site survey and mapping using a Total Station Theodolite (TST), controlled surface collections, and examination of subsurface deposits using shovel test pits (STPs) measuring 50 cm. in diameter and test excavation units measuring 1m. x 1m. square.  A total of 18 STPs and 1 excavation unit was completed during the 10 days of fieldwork.

Students also carried out preliminary artifact analysis, including cleaning, classifying, and sorting recovered finds.  Thousands of artifacts dating between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were recovered during the 10 days of fieldwork, including a mixture of domestic materials, such as ceramics imported from Europe or manufactured locally, bottle glass fragments, kaolin clay tobacco pipes, buttons, as well as architectural evidence like slate, cut stone, bricks, and different types of nails.  While artifact analysis will be ongoing over the next year, this evidence aids in the reconstruction of this historic landscape as well as in interpretation of everyday lives of people living and working in this industrial quarter.  Initial findings suggest a great deal of activities took place in the Mona work yard beyond labor alone. 

Particular emphasis was placed on excavations around what is believed to be the Overseer’s House.  While development at the site since the mid-twentieth century has transformed the original architectural outline of this dwelling, the recovered artifacts provide an interesting glimpse into the life of an Overseer on a Jamaican sugar plantation. Some of the most significant finds in terms of dating the occupation of this structure and better understanding the lifeways of its inhabitants include a mixture of imported and locally manufactured ceramic vessels, animal bones from meals, ceramic fragments modified into gaming pieces for betting games, as well as a currently unidentified animal tooth that was perforated and polished, presumably to be worn by an individual.

This year’s archaeology summer field school continued the tradition of research and training that has become synonymous with this annual offering from the Department of History and Archaeology.  The collected evidence will be used for a variety of formal and informal presentations and publications to offer insights into the lives of individuals and communities living and working at the Mona estate during a significant period in Jamaican history.  Perhaps most importantly, this project provides students with accessible, hands-on experience that can serve as a foundation for future professional practice.  Finally, campus archaeology enhances the visibility of applied techniques in the Humanities and Social Sciences that are particularly relevant in addressing issues in contemporary Jamaican society, including the preservation of cultural resources along with the process of development.  Special thanks to the UWI Campus Registrar, UWI Mona Museum, Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), Mona Geoinformatics Institute, and the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS) for their assistance with this research project.

1779 survey map of Mona estate. (A) Mona work yard. (B) Laborer village. (C) Original Great House.



Setting up the total station for survey.