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7 Surveying a Long-Term Settlement on Potato Hill, Montserrat Krysta Ryzewski and John F. Cherry The starting points for plantation-era archaeology on the small Lesser Antillean island of Montserrat (see Figure 1.2) differ from those on islands where the physical evidence of plantations remains relatively intact and where estate plans, plat maps, and other types of documentation provide a wealth of information about the historic landscape. On Montserrat, surviving archival records are modest in quantity (there appear to be none, in fact, for Potato Hill, the focus of this chapter), and an active volcano has caused widespread damage to more than half of the island’s built environment during the past two decades. As a result, other strategies for carrying out historical archaeological research become necessary, especially when the focus is on the “spaces in between” the industrial and domestic centers of plantation estates (Armstrong 2003; Delle 1998, 2014). As an example of such strategies, in this chapter we present evidence from a systematic, gridded survey and modest test excavations conducted on Potato Hill, Montserrat, in 2013. Potato Hill is a prominent elongated knoll that runs east–west and divides Little Bay from Carr’s Bay on the northwest coast of Montserrat (Figure 7.1). With its relatively flat summit, steep slopes, and (at the western end) vertical sea cliff, this location was both attractive for settlement and defensively advantageous; it also had access to water sources from the small ghauts (stream courses) that run down into the bays to north and south. Archaeological evidence indicates that Potato Hill was home to a small but long-term or repeatedly occupied settlement between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Since it was nestled within the bounds of three modest plantation estates that were active during the peak of the island’s eighteenth-century sugar economy and into the nineteenth century, understanding this site—as we aim to Surveying a Long-Term Settlement on Potato Hill, Montserrat · 153 Figure 7.1. The archaeological landscape of Potato Hill (A) includes the Little Bay Plantation (B), Little Bay (C), Carr’s Bay (D), and the Gun Hill battery (E). demonstrate—depends on setting it within a broader context and employing a multisited, multimethod strategy of inquiry. The origin of the unusual toponym “Potato Hill” is not known. The hilltop settlement may have been home to an early community of Irish indentured servants who arrived from neighboring islands in the 1630s and composed the majority of Montserrat’s labor force until the large-scale importation of African slaves replaced them by the turn of the eighteenth century (Akenson 1997; English 1930; McAtackney et al. 2014; Ryzewski and Cherry 2015; Zacek 2010). Local accounts recall a community atop Potato Hill during the nineteenth century populated by free and recently emancipated Afro-Caribbean residents. Neither of these suggestions, however, can be verified by firm historical evidence. A 1903 photograph of Potato Hill and its environs shows the hilltop unoccupied and overrun with vegetation, confirming that the settlement was abandoned by the turn of the twentieth century (Montserrat National Trust, Olveston, Montserrat, Sturge Family Papers). A primary aim of our discussion is to evaluate the archaeological evidence from Potato Hill in ways that might contribute to identifying the communities who lived there during the plantation era, about whom the historical records remain relatively silent. The material culture recovered from the 2013 survey informs a multiscalar interpretation that extends from 154 · Krysta Ryzewski and John F. Cherry individual dwellings, to the hilltop community, and to the wider northern region of Montserrat where the settlement was positioned within the island ’s plantation-dominated landscape. Archaeology on Montserrat Montserrat is a challenging and unusual setting in which to do archaeology. In comparison to others of the Leeward Islands, not much archaeology has happened there. Important work was conducted in the 1980s and 1990s by David Watters and colleagues at the site of Trants and several other prehistoric sites (Watters 1980, 1994; Watters and Scaglion 1980, 1994), and by Lydia Pulsipher and Conrad Mac Goodwin at Galways Plantation (Pulsipher 1982, 1991, 1994; Pulsipher and Goodwin 1982, 1999, 2001). A few short-term salvage excavations have also taken place since the 1970s (e.g., Bocancea et al. 2013; Miles and Munby 2006; Petersen and Watters 1988). The most recent sustained archaeological investigation is the excavation by Mary Beaudry and colleagues at the Little Bay Plantation (Beaudry and Pulsipher 2007; Beaudry et al. 2007; MacLean 2015), no more than a few hundred...


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