www.thebermudian.com 16 | THE BERMUDIAN
From the Crow’s Nest | THE SCENE
tion began, a post hole was found outside the cave entrance, perhaps
used to hold up a “blind” or hidden front wall to this part of the cave.
The archaeologists found numerous mammal and fish bones reflecting
the diet of people who used the cave, but no evidence of cooking as
there was no smoke staining within the cave. Three shards of Astbury
ware, refined earthenware produced
between 1725 and 1750, provide the
only dating clue so far. Such ceramics
were fit more for the tables of rich St.
George’s merchants than for a rustic
cave dwelling, but as this excavation is
in its early stage we will have to wait
for Dr. Jarvis and his team to return
next summer to discover more about
who might have lived in this cave.
Another hike through the trees and
we arrive at Cotton Hole Bight where
Dr. Jarvis had hoped to find evidence
of Carter, Chard and Waters setting
up the first Bermudian homestead.
This “house” had been built into the
hillside adjacent to a valley leading to
a sheltered bay with ready access to the
open reefs, a perfect location for our
first settlers to set up their tobacco and
provision fields and build and launch
their boats, all the while keeping a
watchful eye on the ocean approaches
to the island.
At this site, an even larger hearth
and oven were discovered carved into
the back wall of the dwelling. An
excavated test pit revealed a curious
basin or water catchment carved out of the bedrock which contained a
mature boar’s tusk. As excavations continued, the team found they were
digging through rubble that was backfill from an early eighteenth-cen-tury quarry where an abundance of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century
ceramics, glass and pipe stems were unearthed. While the group did not
find evidence of the dwelling of the first settlers in Bermuda, they are
not giving up and plan to extend this excavation next year.
Our next trail took us to the fourth and final site—Small Pox Bay,
where standing in the woodland is an old stone ruin. It was thought
this site was used as a quarantine house for sailing vessels arriving in
Bermuda with sick passengers or crew. From the 1730s onward any passengers with symptoms of illness were not allowed to land on the main
island but instead had to check in for quarantine. The name of nearby
Small Pox Bay and the close proximity of this structure make for a probable link. Interestingly, the 2013 dig at this site did not unearth any
medical supplies or any evidence of cooking which one would expect
in a place of convalescence. Discoveries made in 2014 include regiment
buttons, suggesting the building was used by soldiers of the 20th and
56th Regiments. It is now thought that Smith’s Island could have been
one of a few islands where garrison soldiers fled to distance themselves
from yellow fever when it afflicted Bermuda. Occupancy by the Royal
Navy or other imperial agent is suggested by an inscription on the
interior north wall with the carved royal cipher GR with a broad arrow
below. On the western wall, additional
smaller inscriptions are clues that still
need to be deciphered.
A small cast toy cannon and clay
marbles found at the site suggest the
presence of children at some point;
the site was clearly used intensively in
the second quarter of the nineteenth
century, based on artifacts of Annular
ware and other ceramic types. The
interpretation of Small Pox Bay is
further complicated by the discovery
of post holes below the soil surface,
two of which were clearly sealed under
a wall of the stone building which
confirms there was a wooden structure
predating the stone ruin. A search in
the vicinity led to the discovery of a
midden (a mound or deposit containing shells, animal bones and other
refuse that indicates human settlement) which turned up a bucketful of
ceramics and artifacts scattered on the
hillside halfway between the ruin and
Small Pox Bay.
With more than just one time
period to consider, and perhaps more
questions than answers at this point
in the excavation, there are many more stories waiting to be told—and
much work still to be done.
“Archaeology,” as Dr. Jarvis explains to his students, “has little
to do with Indiana Jones or Lara Croft and is hardly the romantic
action-packed enterprise that movies present. This field school is both
physically and mentally challenging and involves meticulous attention to detail in the archives, field and lab.” Despite this warning from
their scholarly professor, all the University of Rochester field school
students—and the local volunteers—thoroughly enjoy the experience
of the Smith’s island archaeology dig every summer.
The Smith’s Island Project is making some of the most exciting
discoveries in Bermuda’s history. We are indeed fortunate to have Dr.
Jarvis returning year after year, uncovering the layers of our past and
matching clues to give us insight into how our forefathers lived on these
islands. It is fascinating, and we can’t wait for the story to continue next
summer. The Bermuda National Trust is proud of this partnership and
grateful for the many volunteers, donors and supporters of the Smith’s
A bone-handled knife belonging to one of the first
residents, the commander of Smith’s Fort, was unearthed at Oven Site.