An Archaeological History of Montserrat in the West Indies [Paperback]

John F. Cherry (Author); Krysta Ryzewski (Author)

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ISBN: 9781789253900 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2020 | Language: English 208p, H246 x W175 (mm) 90 colour and 24 b/w images

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An Archaeological History of Montserrat in the West Indies


Montserrat is a small island in the Leeward islands of the eastern Caribbean and at present a British Overseas Territory. It has suffered greatly in recent times, first from the devastations of Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and since 1995 from the still-ongoing eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano that has caused two-thirds of the island’s population to emigrate and left half the island a dangerous exclusion zone. Archaeological research here began only in the late 1970s, but work over the past four decades has now made it possible to present an archaeological history of Montserrat, from the earliest known traces of human activity on the island about 5,000 years ago to the present.

This book draws on all the available archaeological evidence (including that from the co-authors’ own island-wide survey and excavation project since 2010), as well as newly available archival documents, to trace this little island’s long history and heritage. This is not the story of an isolated and remote island: Montserrat is shown rather to be a place intricately connected to the flows of people and goods that have travelled between islands and across the Atlantic at various points in time, both Amerindian and historical. Despite its small size and seeming irrelevance, Montserrat has in fact always been networked into regional and global systems of connectivity. An underlying theme of this volume is resilience. It presents insights from the archaeological and documentary evidence on how the island’s inhabitants have coped with often adverse conditions throughout the course of its history – hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, slavery, disease, invasions, and impoverishment – all while remaining proudly connected to heritage that celebrates the accomplishments of island residents.

Table of Contents

List of figures
  1. Introduction: Montserrat’s island setting
  2. Archaeology and heritage on Montserrat
Box A. Airborne LiDAR on Montserrat
3. First humans on Montserrat
Box B. Long Island, Antigua: Montserrat’s source of chert
4. New peoples, new ways of living: the Ceramic Age on Montserrat
Box C. Ceramic adornos
Box D. Petroglyphs on Montserrat
5. The colonial period begins: European encounters and Amerindian persistence
Box E. Arawaks, Caribs, Taínos, and other such confusions
6. Establishing the English colony: new arrivals transform Montserrat
Box F. Were there Irish slaves on Montserrat?
Box G. The 1673 map of Montserrat in the Blathwayt Atlas
7. Montserrat’s sugar era, 1712–1834
Box H. Sugar processing: A step-by-step guide
Box I. Galways Estate: Archaeology reveals the workings of a historic sugar plantation
8. Slavery and the slave experience
Box J. A celebration of Irish and Afro-Caribbean heritage: St Patrick’s Day on Montserrat
9. Emancipation and its aftermath
Box K. Montserrat’s world-famous citrus limes
10. Disaster, destruction, and development: the future of the past on Montserrat
Box L. St Anthony’s Church, Plymouth
Box M. The sad story of Gun Hill in Carr’s Bay

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