Archaeological investigations of Colonial Period slave sites in the Americas and Africa have been thorough in answering wide-ranging questions regarding slave life and culture. However, this research has primarily focused on sites in the British, Spanish, French and Danish colonies. No slave occupation sites in the Dutch Caribbean Colonies have been excavated until now.
"No slave occupation sites in the Dutch Caribbean Colonies have been excavated until now. "
One sugar plantation on the island of St. Eustatius in the Netherlands Antilles is currently being investigated by the S.E.C.A.R. The plantation is known as the Pleasures Estate and is located on the west side of the Quill volcano, facing the town of Oranjestad. It originally contained over 25 hectares (62 acres) and was probably occupied between 1742 and 1977 when the main home on the property burned down. Each plantation has substantial standing ruins including both sugar works and a main house.
Pleasures was first recorded in a general archaeological assessment of the island begun by Norman Barka in 1981 and finished by John Eastman in 1996 (Barka 1985; Eastman 1996). Battery St. Louis on the Atlantic side and near English Quarter Plantation was also investigated during 2000-2001. I.O.A. students mapped and conducted surface collections at the military site. It is imperative that the battery sites be assessed and protected as the cliff-top placement allows the normally devastating affects of goat and cow hooves to be much more detrimental. Without the current research much data would be lost at these sites.
The S.E.C.A.R. is working with the Historic Core Restoration team on two sites in Oranjestad. The first is known as the Godet Property and was the former residence of government officials. The second site is the Duinkerk Property named after its current residents
In addition to the field research, we are completing comprehensive investigation of the St. Eustatius archives kept in the Algemeen Rijksarchief (Royal Dutch Archives) in The Hague, Netherlands. This involves reviewing all the letters, wills, deeds and probate records kept in these archives for descriptions of slaves on St. Eustatius. This data is being assembled into a comprehensive database to determine the slave population on St. Eustatius and possibly how some of these individuals may have participated in the island economy.
19th Century engraving of a slave residence on Jamaica. Many of Statia's slaves may have lived in similarly impermanent buildings.