New River I artefacts

A total of 6194 artefacts were recovered from the 381 shovel-test-pits excavated at the New River I village. Of these, 37% (n=2268) are pottery, 14.5% (n=891) are glass bottle and tableware fragments, 1% are animal bone, and a surprising 5% (n=384) are tobacco pipes. The remaining 43.5% is comprised of a range of artefact-types that include historic period brick, daub, mortar, nails, stone, shell, and tools as well as modern materials.

Of the 2268 pottery sherds, 64% (n=1451) were Afro-Caribbean sherds produced either on Nevis or surrounding islands. Fragments from a bowl and a jar were clearly identifiable while the remaining AC wares were unidentifiable utilitarian forms. Unlike New River II, many of the non-Afro-Caribbean pottery were costly imported 'refined' pottery made in table and teaware forms. Here it appears that Afro-Caribbean pottery functioned as both cooking and storage vessels while imported pottery made from white salt-glazed stoneware, creamware, delft, pearlwares, and porcelain was used to serve food. It is unlikely that much of this imported pottery was given to enslaved labourers by their owners and it therefore likely that some were purchased by slaves in local markets.

Fragments of imported wine bottle and case bottle glass may have contained alcoholic drinks and functioned as reusable storage containers for liquids. Ten fragments of pharmaceutical vials indicate that patent medicines had made their way to Nevis by the mid-19th century. Leaded glass tablewares and drinking glasses, like imported refined pottery, represent expensive material items that may have been purchased by enslaved men and women in markets.

The presence of marine shells, parrot fish bone, and a fishing weight indicate that enslaved men and women at New River spent some of their free time fishing and gathering molluscs to supplement their diet. Animal bones found on site include domestic pig, cow, sheep/goat and wild bird.

The large quantity of imported tobacco pipe fragments recovered from New River I (n=384) suggest that many enslaved individuals relied on the effects of nicotine for both pleasure and possibly to stave off hunger. It is possible that tobacco was grown in provision grounds. The presence of gunflints (n=3) and lead shot (n=2) suggests a few men at New River may have been employed as watchmen to guard pastures, orchards, livestock, and slave provision grounds. Watchmen were frequently armed with cutlasses and occasionally with guns (Higman 1976, 175). Unlike the US colonies where wild animals abounded, Nevis and St Kitts had virtually no hunting stock, therefore gun paraphernalia cannot be directly linked to food procurement.

Surprisingly, the villages on Nevis and St Kitts yielded few artefacts related to clothing and personal adornment, to agricultural and craft activities, or to leisure activities such as game playing. Of the 381 STPs at New River I, only two produced items that fell into these three categories. A wrought iron pick was unearthed from the southern portion of the village and a fashionable, gilt-plated copper-alloy button was found near the centre of the village. The button's large size (18.5 mm) indicates that it was most likely attached to a frock or great coat, male garments that would not ordinarily given to enslaved men.