The 2013 UWI Mona archaeology field school at Fort Rocky, on the Palisadoes near Port Royal, was the second year of excavations at the site directed by Dr. Steve Lenik, Lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology. This fort was part of the defenses of Kingston Harbor from the 1880s until World War II. The UWI Mona students who participated in the 2012 and 2013 field schools worked in collaboration with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), as the organization which currently manages the site, as well as members of the Jamaica Military Museum at Up Park Camp, the Archaeological Society of Jamaica, and students from Syracuse University, Binghamton University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Appalachian State University in the United States.
Fieldwork was guided by archival materials collected from the National Archive at Spanish Town, the National Library of Jamaica, and the JNHT, as well as the National Archive in London, England. Archival findings included several maps of the site that revealed changes over time and distinct periods of occupation, and written reports about the site’s strategic significance. This research found that the site was known as Rocky Point Battery before World War II, as it was part of a network of four batteries, including Victoria Battery, Apostles Battery, and Fort Clarence, that defended Kingston Harbor.
The 2013 field school continued work from the first field season by investigating areas inside and outside of the fort. Over the two years, UWI Mona students and their collaborators completed 74 shovel test pits, 31 one-meter² units, and surface collections, in addition to mapping the site and recording standing structures. Archaeological findings included material culture associated with the everyday lives of the Jamaica Militia Artillery, Jamaica Militia Infantry, and British officers who were stationed at the site. Recovered artifacts include fragments of glass bottles, ceramic vessels, tobacco pipes, buttons, and other military accoutrements. The excavations also uncovered subsurface remains of structures marked on maps that were no longer standing, as well as architectural debris such as nails, tiles, concrete, and brick.
This project has sustained a multi-year collaboration among various local and international organizations in the recording of a site that would probably not otherwise see such close examination. Any future plans to develop Fort Rocky will incorporate these findings, so as not to damage any archaeologically significant deposits that remain. The two field seasons provided training for a range of students, professionals, and volunteers who participated in all phases of archaeological excavation, artifact analysis, and historical research. This project has also investigated a period of Jamaica’s military history which has seen limited historical research, and very little archaeological investigation on the island or the wider region. This work reveals the experience of Caribbean people on their home front during wartime and times of peace, as opposed to the overseas experience elsewhere in the British empire that tends to shape the dominant narrative. In the coming years this fieldwork will generate both formal and informal presentations at local and international conferences, and academic and popular publications.
Steve Lenik, PhD, University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica
Zachary Beier, MA, Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University