Fort Charles Archaeology Project Year 1

The Fort Charles Archaeological Project (FCAP) is a multi-year project exploring one of the earliest British forts in the Caribbean. The site is home to an early 17th century fort built shortly after the settlement of Nevis in 1628. Our work seeks to understand the changing nature of Caribbean society for more than two and a half centuries. In many ways, forts acted as points of contact between islands and the broader world. This is especially true at multipurpose sites like Fort Charles, which served as a customs fort for at least part of its occupation. You can learn more about this exciting project at the FCAP Website.

Main gate at Fort Charles (2013).

An interest in contact archaeology is only part of the reason I chose Fort Charles as the location for a long-term project. There are also collaborative reasons for working at the site. Although a considerable amount of Caribbean historical archaeology seeks to engage various publics (e.g., plantations and their descendants), many African diaspora groups share an equal or greater interest in different types of sites. These communities have a broad conceptualization of their heritage and identity which takes into account the heterogeneous and mixed nature of colonial contexts. Unfortunately, historical archaeologists are not always well-prepared to engage these broader histories (a notable exception is the work of Anna Agbie-Davies). As such, collaborative archaeology in the Caribbean focuses on plantations while ignoring other types of sites as potential locations of meaningful collaboration. My upcoming article in the Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage explores these issues in greater detail.

Students screen dirt to find artifacts near guard house.

The 2013 field season focused on three interrelated goals. First, establish a map grid and update previous work at the site. Since our 2013 field season is the first archaeological investigation of the site, we spent considerable time establishing mapping protocols to support several field seasons. Second, investigate the standing ruins which are located onsite (see above image). There are two ruined structures within fort’s walls, a large cistern and a building commonly referred to as an officer’s quarters. Preliminary dating of artifacts from the officer’s quarters suggest a construction date from the early 1700s. Third, work closely with local groups to understand the cultural significance of the site for modern Nevisians. This involved speaking with various groups and scheduling a very successful public day.

Heavy rains in recent months made for a dense covering of foliage.

The 2013 field season only scratched the surface of this fascinating and well-preserved site. The Nevis Island Administration and Nevis Historical and Conservation Society have kindly agreed to loan us artifacts, which are being analyzed at Monmouth University. As the project continues we will create museum displays, author numerous reports, and work closely with local heritage workers to protect and interpret Fort Charles.

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