Shovel-test-pit methods

What are STPs and why are they cool? 

Brian McCray, DAACS archaeologist, and Krystle Edwards, UWI, Mona intern, excavate a shovel-test-pit at New River

Shovel-test-pits (STPs) are small holes dug on a grid that enable archaeologists to retrieve artefact samples and stratigraphic data across large areas of land. A STP survey is an ideal method for recognizing and understanding important shifts in the pattern of human activities. In the case of the slave villages surveyed by SKNDAI, STPs are revealing significant changes in the way enslaved people were living and working throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

To ensure standardized data recovery, archaeologists used the same shovel-test-pit methods on each estate. These methods are also identical to the methods being used to survey slave villages on 18th-century sugar estates on Jamaica. For nine weeks, archaeologists dug 50 centimetre diameter holes on 6 metre centres across each area that had been identified from documents and surface survey as being a slave village site. 718 shovel-test-pits were excavated during the 2008 field season at the three villages.