Bermuda Field School
A look at enslaved mariners and their families.
During the first summer session of 2011, the joint William and Mary/National Museum of Bermuda archaeological field school spent five weeks investigating a fascinating and extremely well-preserved eighteenth and nineteenth-century domestic complex in Southampton Parish, Bermuda. known as the Dickinson/Bell Site.
The field school was co-directed by Marley Brown, Research Professor of Anthropology, and Edward Harris, Visiting Professor of Anthropology. Graduate student teaching assistants included current doctoral students Jenna Carlson and Ellen Chapman, as well as Brent Fortenberry and Travis Parno of William and Mary's class of 2006, who are now doing their dissertations at Boston University under the direction of Mary Beaudry.
The property being excavated contains multiple buildings, both residences and support structures, as well as a large lime kiln used to produce the building materials for all of the structures. Associated with a prominent seafaring family on Bermuda's west end, the site's two smaller structures shown in the accompanying photographs appeared to have housed enslaved mariners and their families, who would have served on one of the several sloops owned by the family. A rich assemblage of domestic materials associated with these enslaved Bermudian families was recovered just in the modest test excavation that could be accomplished in the five week field season.
Tentative plans have been made to return to this site with a section of the 2012 William and Mary field school in order to further explore the material lives of these enslaved Bermudians. This is the best preserved site of its kind ever discovered on the island, and represents an exciting opportunity to document how the enslaved population of Bermuda was incorporated into the larger maritime economy of the Atlantic World, as well as investigate how these same people fared in the period immediately following emancipation (post-1834).