Project 9: Documenting the material legacy of slavery in the Dutch Antilles

Fellow:  Ryan Espersen
Supervision:  Dr. Jay Haviser and Prof. Corinne Hofman
Host Institution:  Faculty of Archaeology, University of Leiden | SIMARC, Saint Martin
Duration:  3 years – starting from 1 June 2012

This project aims to assess and document the material legacy of slavery in the Dutch Antilles in view of the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies in 2013. To this end, we plan to conduct an archaeological survey on three islands in the Dutch Antilles, namely Saint Martin, Saint Eustatius and Saba. Although only very little documentary evidence survives, dozens of plantations and slave villages are identifiable on old maps and through archaeological remains.

During the first phase of the project we will document these sites and identify potential areas for further investigation and conservation. All the sites will be mapped in detail and transferred to a robust GIS database to analyse their physical layout, size, and distribution; and test excavations will be undertaken at a selection to assess their potential for full-scale archaeological investigations in the second phase.

Phase II will focus on one or two specific sites identified during Phase I. The principal aim of Phase II will be to gain better understanding of the African experience at these sites through detailed analysis of the material remains unearthed during the excavations. This is a partnership project supported by the faculty of Archaeology of the University of Leiden with research conducted through SIMARC and SECAR, who have been providing a direct operational platform for Leiden University in the Dutch Caribbean for more than 10 years.

The results of the study will be showcased locally as well as in an exhibition organised by the National Institute for the Study of Dutch Slavery in Amsterdam.

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