Trunk Island Invasion!

Forgive me, Smiths Island!  I am not forsaking you! Tomorrow we begin a week-long mini-field school in partnership with the Bermuda Zoological Society to assess archaeological sites on Trunk Island in Harrington Sound. This project has been a long time in development and is now about to actually happen, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Ian Walker of BZS and the University of Rochester's Center for Community Leadership. Last summer, Ian took me to Trunk to explain their ambitious project to restore the island to its pre-human-arrival state so it can serve as a living natural history museum and research center - much like Nonsuch Island but far easier to reach. In tearing out invasive species, however, Ian and his volunteers became concerned that they might be damaging archaeological sites dating from the past four hundred years, so contacted me to explore doing an assessment - basically doing for seven-acre Trunk what we've been doing on sixty-acre Smiths Island.  Ente

I can figure out this site in. . . four squares

With limited time and help, this summer's investigations concentrated entirely on the western of the two foundations at West End Bay.  As such, it was important to place our meter-square units carefully to maximize our field data. Selecting the structure's southeastern corner was an obvious choice, to immediately give us a window into how the foundation was built and its relationship to the surrounding pre-construction stratigraphy - never mind the surprise of the four features cut into the bedrock. This unit immediately revealed that the foundation was fairly recent and supported only a light building, since it was laid upon soil and not tied into the underlying bedrock.  Unfortunately, this meant that there was no helpful builder's trench to date its construction. But artifacts from the layer the foundation was built upon establish that its construction could be no earlier than the early 19th century, based on the most recent artifacts (transfer print earthenware) f

Modest Cottages By The Sea

West End Bay - Western Cottage Foundation Eastern Cottage Foundations I have discovered that when I am my my own boss and am working alone, that I am terrible at giving myself days off. . . .  Which is why we've gotten a lot done in the past six days of this speed-metal excavation trip.  Our focus is on two modest house foundations, both quite near the shoreline of Smiths Island's West End Bay. They both measure fifteen feet square, and what is distinctive about the western one is its flat foundation profile, suggesting it supported a wooden framed house - an architectural form still quite common in Barbados and many Caribbean islands but increasingly rare in Bermuda today. These two sites are a real mystery, since they do not appear on any of my historical maps or aerial photography series.  As such, they might date to the period between the 1795 Durnford/Hurd map and the 1898 Savage survey, or between 1898 and the 1941 US base aerials. Some well-placed test units sho

Smiths Island Rebooted - A Mini-dig in July 2019

Thanks to the generosity of Ian Walker and the Bermuda Aquarium Zoo and Museum, the Welch Family, and the continued support of the Bermuda National Trust and Smiths Islanders, I will be spending the next two weeks undertaking a preliminary assessment of several new sites at the west end of Smiths Island. We first discovered a cluster of above-ground ruins in 2013 but have never had the chance to properly map, model and date them. Because they do not appear on any historical map or document or aerial photograph of Smiths Island, the sites pose a mystery that archaeology alone can begin to unravel.   I am coming off my third digital archaeology field school in Ghana and this year had the thrilling opportunity to excavate within two rooms in Elmina Castle.  In one area, we found a thick layer with only Iberian pottery, dating to the 16th century. In the other, we came right down on the bedrock footing of the original Portuguese curtain wall, dating to circa 1482. It was humblin

Sadness and Woe for Summer 2018

I am sorry to have to report that there will be no Smiths Island Archaeology field school this summer. This is largely due to our inability to secure affordable accommodations in or near St. George's to house the staff and students, despite the multiple valiant efforts all spring of various friends of the SIAP.  Instead, I will be shifting my energies across the pond to our other UR field school based at Cape Coast in Ghana, where I'll be lecturing on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Portuguese, Dutch, and British activities on the Gold Coast, as well as teaching and supervising laser scanning, photogrammetry and ethnographic research in and around Elmina Castle along with University of Ghana faculty. I won't be entirely alone though - Ewan from the 2017 Bermuda dig will be taking up this new digital archaeology work as well. We hope next year to reposition the field school back to July and early August, which will make participation available to UK students as well a

2018 Field School and a video from the vault

Hard to believe, but we are just five months from the start of the 2018 field school! If you are interested in participating, click on the new Field School tab above for information and how to apply. I will be spending the spring at the John Carter Brown Library in Providence, Rhode Island, working on making an interactive GIS map of Richard Norwood's 1663 survey of Bermuda, and if all goes well, a walkable 3D version of the island in 1663 in Unity. In doing housekeeping among my many old hard drives, I came upon a video we shot on the last day of the 2010 reconnaissance, showing the very first unit we excavated, and our three-person field crew!  "From small acorns mighty oaks grow..." (Benjamin Franklin)

Guest Blogger Karemy Valdez - “What am I doing here, and who do these people think they are?"

‘What am I doing here, and who do these people think they are?’: Reflections on my time in Bermuda and my coming-of-age as a historical archaeologist It’s orientation week for incoming graduate students at Yale University. As an event organizer and facilitator this year, I’m getting to mingle with a lot of eager, bright-eyed scientists, doctors-to-be, and library fiends. I love meeting people, but I dread the moment I hear, “So, what do you do?” directed at me. My academic existentialism kicks in and the only answer I can muster is usually somewhere along the lines of, “Well… I’m a professional, certified, 100% free range ancient dumpster diver.” That usually gets a bit of a laugh and a comment about how dinosaurs are really cool and Indiana Jones must be my idol. But, all jokes aside—really, what do archaeologists do? I set out to find the answer to this question five years ago, during my first trip to an archaeological site with a professor from UC San Diego. Out in the Per