Tuesday, July 21, 2015

End of Season Summary Overview

Wow, that was one long dinner. As it turned out, a small team kept digging through July 4 to finish up Cave Site and to try (and fail) to get to the bottom of the new cistern tank feature, which went down more than two feet and still has at least another foot of strata, according to a probe. I was still washing artifacts and entering them into the master database  the morning I flew out, and then came home to a heap of university-related administration backlog and the requirement to write a preliminary season summary. I think in future years I need to appoint a student as a communications officer and put him/her in charge of posting regular blog entries, since I've had quite the epic fail this year!

June 2, 2015
July 2, 2015

Rather than post a hugely long entry, readers can read up on each of the sites in their own entries to follow, drawn from the preliminary report I just finished....

This was the Smiths Island Archaeology Project's fifth season of fieldwork and the fourth University of Rochester academic field school conducted at Smiths Island. Excavations were conducted from May 26 to July 4, 2015. This year's investigations involved a team of three graduate students and seven undergraduates, as well as volunteers including a university professor, a former Smiths Island UR alum, an incoming UR graduate student, and thirteen Bermudian volunteers. Excavations were conducted at four sites: Oven Site, Smallpox Bay, Cave Site, and Limekiln Site. We also engaged in limited pedestrian surveying to identify new sites and conducted a number of digital archaeology initiatives, which included creating photogrammetry series for all sites, remote sensing thermal scanning to locate subterranean features, and 3D laser scanning recording of Oven Site, with mixed results. The SIAP continued its commitment to public archaeology and educational outreach by holding two public talks in the St. George's Foundation's World Heritage Site at the start and end of the season, giving an additional talk at the St. George's Club to visitors, and hosting two public tours of the archaeology sites: one for St. George's Primary School and a second Bermuda National Trust-sponsored one for the general public on June 20.

In addition to fieldwork, Data Manager Leigh Koszarsky designed an improved database linking context and master context information with artifact inventories for every SIAP site to date (Oven, Cotton Hole Bight, Cave, Limekiln, Smallpox Bay, and Dickinson Phase I survey) and oversaw entry of artifacts for 98% of all contexts excavated to date; the remaining contexts were processed after she left and will be entered (using individual context bag inventory forms) by the end of August 2015.

 Total Fieldwork Volume, 2010-2015

# Contexts, 2010-2014
# Contexts 2015
Cotton Hole Bight
Smallpox Bay
26 + 5 (test pit)
Cave Site
Dickinson Building Site
Oven Site, end of 2014 season, facing east

The 2015 field season was a remarkable success in terms of its advancement of the understandings of every site under investigation and the unique insights it provides into Bermuda’s earliest architectural traditions. Oven Site constitutes the oldest domestic structure excavated in Bermuda to date (circa 1615) and the posthole arrays uncovered at Smallpox Bay may relate to even older structures erected in July 1612. The discovery of the water cistern near Oven Site may also lead to the identification of a larger main residence house and other associated early farm and work buildings. Cave Site now boasts a richer array of activities dating to the 18th century and still has much to tell us, perhaps about the hidden social lives of enslaved islanders. And considered as a whole, we have only begun to assess the occupation and uses of Cottonhole Bight valley.
Oven Site Sparse Point Cloud 3D model, end of 2015 season, facing east.
The new cistern site is in the upper left corner.

In addition to fieldwork, artifact analysis and data management at the BNT Reeve Court lab will make it possible to analyze patterns in artifact distributions within the Master Contexts of all Smiths Island sites in the off season and enable P.I. Jarvis to undertake a comprehensive synthetic interpretation of all previous archaeology in 2016.


Archaeological excavations are highly collaborative projects that depend upon the contributions and expertise of a large number of supporters and participants. The investigations and discoveries accomplished in 2015 would not have been possible without a vital international supporting cast of generous, patient and hard-working collaborators.
This season’s fieldwork was funded through financial support from the University of Rochester. I am grateful to Renato Perucchio (Director of the Archaeology, Technology, and Historic Structures Program), Jacqueline Levine (Study Abroad Director), History Department administrator Jacqui Rizzo and other U of R staff who helped with the logistics of setting up the field school. I thank Lisa Johnston and the Bermuda Government’s Department of Parks and Heritage Officer Richard Lowry for granting me permission to continue my archaeological investigations and Bermuda National Trust Director Jennifer Gray and Archaeological Research Committee Chair Andrew Baylay for their help in securing permission to help in obtaining emigration permits, recruiting Bermudian volunteers, and making available vital field equipment and the BNT’s Reeve Court Archaeology Lab. In the Bermuda Archives, Andrew Baylay and Karla Ingemann helped students conduct additional research on Smiths Island’s history and other research topics.

Other people and organizations made our time in Bermuda educational, and enjoyable. Faith Bridges, Neil Moncrieff, and their army of workmen worked miracles and long hours to make Block House ready to receive our group – and what a fantastic place it is! Living in an 18th-century building located at the heart of St. George’s literally immersed us in history on a daily basis, yet with all the 21st-century creature comforts we could ask for. (Thanks also for the late season loan of a portable generator, and many pleasant dinner conversations!) The St. George’s Club generously donated the use of two luxurious condo units and the club’s facilities for the first three weeks of the program, an absolutely vital contribution in the week before the dig proper started up.

Mr Ramotar, Chef Arup, Ryan, and the management and staff at Somers Market in St. George’s donated bread and food from its salad bar, which made a vast difference in keeping morale up and replacing the calories we burned in the field – and it was fantastic not to have to cook after a long, exhausting day excavating!

Geoffrey Redmond provided the use of his work boat and barge for the season, which enabled us to get to and from our island worksites each day. The residents of Smiths Island shared their island with us and suffered numerous invasions of public visitors who came to see our sites. I am especially grateful to Garth Rothwell for allowing us to use his dock and the modern facilities of his cottage throughout the season, and to Jurgen Dale for the use of his boat battery to power scanners and heat guns in the field. The St. George’s Foundation and the Spurling family have continued their year-round support and promotion of our research. I am grateful especially to Rick Spurling for his long-sustained support and to Director Charlotte Andrews for allowing us use of the World Heritage Center as a classroom and for public lectures at the beginning and end of our season to share our goals and findings.

 Student education was also considerably enriched through field trips and visits to important Bermuda heritage sites. Debbie Atwood kindly welcomed students into the National Museum of Bermuda to study its exhibits, collections and archaeology lab, while Elena Strong met with two students interested in museum studies careers to share her advice and experiences. Outward Bound Director Mark Norman opened up Fort Cunningham for students to explore and study, as well as his high ropes course to test their nerves and mettle. John Cox graciously opened up Orange Valley, his ancestral home, to students and enlightened them about Bermuda's past through family stories and antiques. Rick Spurling once again allowed us to spend the night in the Settler’s House at Carter House Museum, enabling us to experience the cooking, dining, and sleeping conditions of the earliest Bermudian settlers whose lives we spent our days investigating on Smiths Island. I am further grateful to Larry Mills and Ronnie Chameau for sharing their expertise in traditional Bermudian crafts with me and the students. It was a truly memorable night in so many ways, the best and most comfortable yet.

My biggest thanks go to my field crew, led by the very capable returning supervisors Leigh Koszarsky and Jim Rankine. Field school veterans Miriam Beard, Samantha Martinez, and Alice Wynd returned to develop specialized archaeological skills and provided enriching mentorship and patient guidance to the new students. This year’s entire team was enormously productive and a joy to work with, and I am grateful to Cameron Barreto, Ethan Dimmock, Bailey Hilt, Gabby Pulsinelli, John Sterritt,  for their dedication, diligence, professionalism, and enthusiasm, especially in light of the much hotter digging season we had this year. I am also grateful for the hard work and commitment of numerous Bermudians who volunteers this season – Jessica Balfour-Swain, Arthur Begeman, Emilie Boucher, Faith Bridges, Xander Cook, Ashley Desa, Terrilyn Griffiths, Max Johnson, Alicia Marshall, Ryan Marshall, Sara Roberts, Fae Sapsford, and Abby Stuart – as well as American volunteers Katrina Ponti, Heather Kopelson, and former field school alum Kristina Fricker. Collectively, they helped me to surpass our excavation goals and added local insights and a contemporary cultural dimension to the students’ time in Bermuda. Finally, I thank Anna, Charlotte, and Katie Jarvis for putting up with Bermuda field work that takes me far from home each year.

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