Archaeological investigations at the Spring Village

Excerpt of 1828 McMahon Map showing the location of The Spring Estate and slave village

The Spring sugar estate was located on the Atlantic side of St Kitts. The location of the slave village is shown on the McMahon Map of 1828. The site lies in a narrow valley, sandwiched between the great house and mill complex on higher ground to the south, and a deep ghut to the north.

people in a grassy landscape with mountains in the background 

View of The Spring village looking west. Photograph taken in July 2008

The location of the slave village proved to be topographically problematic. Shovel-test-pits (STPs) in the valley bottom were in excess of 1 metre deep, while those closer to the ghut were 0.2 metres deep. This raises the unfortunate possibility that the site is a hydraulic jumble: both artefacts and sediment have been eroded from their original contexts and deposited along the valley centre line. For this reason, the survey team excavated only 18 STPs at this site.

Map of The Spring

Archaeological site map of The Spring, showing location of shovel-test-pits and the remains of the main house and sugar works

Despite the disturbed contexts, the 18 STPs yielded a wide-range of artefacts that point to 18th and 19th century domestic activities.

Gunflint excavated from The Spring

A total of 454 artefacts, including fragments of pottery, glass vessels, tobacco pipes, brick, architectural slate, nails, and a single gunflint, were recovered from the 18 STPs.

Wine bottle glass excavated from The Spring

Forty-five percent of the total pottery assemblage (n = 158) consisted of locally-produced Afro-Caribbean coarse earthenware pottery fragments (n = 72) from utilitarian vessels. The remaining pottery (n=86) represent expensive pottery imported from the UK and Continental Europe, including North Midlands Slipware (n = 1) and Delftware (n= 5) to creamware (n= 33), pearlware (n= 23) and whiteware (n= 4). These costly imported wares ranged in form from tablewares and teawares to storage vessels. The mean manufacturing dates for the pottery found at the village is 1787, with the most popular imported pottery being creamware and pearlware. See for detailed chronological information on The Spring.

Fragment of blue transfer printed pearlware excavated from The Spring. This ceramic type was manufactured between 1775 and 1830

Sherd of blue-painted delftware, which was manufactured between 1600 and 1802

Sherd of Pearlware with factory-made slipware decoration excavated from The Spring. Factory-made slipware was manufactured between 1790 and 1830. The form of this rim suggests that it was once part of a mug

Sherds of Afro-Caribbean ceramics recovered from The Spring

Fragments of imported wine bottle glass may have contained alcoholic drinks or served as reusable storage containers for liquids. Four fragments of pharmaceutical vials indicate that patent medicines had made their way to The Spring by the mid-19th century.

Fragments of a glass pharmaceutical bottle found at The Spring village

Fragments of imported tobacco pipes indicate that some of the enslaved smoked, and possibly grew, tobacco. Pieces of a pewter spoon suggest that some labourers acquired utensils that may have been used instead of hands or wooden or shell utensils. One bone from a medium-sized mammal was found.

Pewter spoon fragments found at The Spring

Dating the site

Preliminary analysis has focused on dating the site. If the erosion hypothesis is correct, then spatial patterning on which our digitization design relies will have been erased. Analysis of the STP data from The Spring suggests this is in fact the case: the correspondence analysis (CA) results show no pattern, nor is there a significant correlation between the CA dimension-1 scores and the MCDs.


Plot of the 18 STP assemblages from The Spring village on the first two axes of CA. Points represent STP assemblages. Points that are close to one another have similar type frequency profiles

We conclude that internal site structure has been erased. However, the site does offer a single artefact sample that can be usefully compared with the Nevis sites. These results indicate that the pottery assemblage from The Spring dates on average to the late 18th century. The date is a puzzle however, since it does not fit with the evidence of the McMahon map, which portrays a sizeable village on the site 40 years later. The absence of artefact spatial patterning we see at The Spring provides an important validation of both our field and analytical methods at this and other sites. . It shows that failure is detectable. That adds further confidence in the results from New River and Jessups.


Plot of mean ceramic dates (MCD) against CA dimension-1 scores for The Spring STPs. Note the lack of correlation

Read more about excavations at The Spring on the DAACS website