Archaeological Artifacts from 17th Century Returned to Bermuda

By Jurassic JennJun 24, 2024 11:04 AMScience
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Archaeological Artifacts
Archaeological Artifacts. Source: discover.hubpages.com

In a significant development, a collection of 17th-century archaeological materials has been brought back to Bermuda after undergoing extensive study at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The thirty-six boxes of artifacts and records, previously used for the First Forts Project, have now been thoroughly cleaned, cataloged, and studied. These materials, consisting of thousands of archaeological finds, will find a new home at the National Museum of Bermuda (NMB). This was reported by SSPDaily.

The First Forts Project, conducted between 1993 and 2003, was a collaborative effort between the Department of Anthropology at William and Mary, the Bermuda Parks Department, and the National Museum of Bermuda (formerly Bermuda Maritime Museum). Led by archaeologists Dr. Norman F. Barka of William and Mary and Dr. Edward C. Harris of the Bermuda Maritime Museum, a dedicated team of students and volunteers successfully excavated, recorded, mapped, and photographed five forts from the 17th century.

These forts, including King's Castle and Devonshire Redoubt on Castle Island, Paget Fort and Peniston's Redoubt on Paget Island, and Smith's Fort on Governor's Island, are historically significant structures and form part of Bermuda's World Heritage Site since 2000. They represent the earliest stone fortifications found in Bermuda and are heralded as the best-preserved examples of their kind in the world.

The recovered artifacts unearthed during these excavations shed light on the daily lives of the inhabitants of these forts. The findings include fragments of pottery and tobacco pipes, glassware, nails, musket balls, buttons, coins, and various bones. Notably, the assemblage of bones discovered at King's Castle offered insights into the 17th and 18th-century diet, documenting the utilization of cahows, fish, turtles, domesticated animals, as well as lobsters and crabs.

The archaeological digs also revealed unexpected discoveries such as 19 pieces of rare Hogge money hidden in the ditch at King's Castle. Additionally, over 700 military buttons dating back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries were found at Paget Fort, suggesting that they may have originally fallen into a privy. At Smith's Fort, the remains of two men dating to the late 1700s were discovered. Speculation suggests that these men were either stonecutters, masons, or boatmen.

It is worth noting that the First Forts Project has yielded valuable publications, including reports featured in the Bermuda Journal of Archaeology and Maritime History, as well as several Master's dissertations at the College of William and Mary and University College London. All the artifacts and archaeological records from this endeavor are meticulously curated and preserved at the National Museum of Bermuda, where they are accessible for further study and research.

Dr. Deborah Atwood, Curator of NMB, expressed gratitude for the enduring partnership with William and Mary and emphasized the importance of these archaeological findings in illuminating Bermuda's rich cultural heritage. She highlighted the profound value of meticulously examining and researching these artifacts to comprehensively understand the past. Through this process, the NMB aims to deepen public engagement, support education, and promote research by using these invaluable resources as channels to connect with Bermuda's intriguing history.

The repatriation of these materials marks a milestone, ensuring that Bermuda's rich archaeological heritage is preserved for future generations to cherish and learn from. The returned collection stands as a testament to Bermuda's enduring connections with the Atlantic world, enriching our understanding of both the island's diverse past and its influence on the present and future.

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