Archaeological survey of Port Louis

A historic black and white map of Port Louis from a survey in 1774

Map of Port Louis, surveyed in 1774

Documentary and historical sources

Port Louis figures in a number of views, maps and plans of the 18th and 19th century, along with a rich documentary record. These are held in archives in Britain, the Falkland Islands, Spain, Argentina and France. There are also views and detailed plans exist for the site from the first years of the settlement. There are two excellent British maps dated 1842 and 1843. Our own mapping of the site with modern instruments shows that these are very accurate.

The earliest map dated 1765, a year after the settlement's foundation, was located in the French National Library. This has been an important find. It has enabled us to see what the settlement looked like in its early years as well as to identify the earliest buildings in the islands. One of these was the location of the first house ever built in the Falklands as well as the residence of the first Governor, an elegant cruciform building and the French fort.

The archaeological survey

The survey was carried out over three seasons from 1994-96 by Rob Philpott of Museum of Liverpool Life and David Barker, formerly of the Potteries Museum, Stoke on Trent. The survey's aims were:

  • to record the surviving archaeological features, largely earthworks and buildings, produce detailed plans and descriptions and to compile an overall site plan.
  • to create a detailed photographic record of the site
  • to combine the information from the field survey with evidence from maps and documents to interpret the function and date of the various elements of the settlement.

The surviving archaeological remains at Port Louis are very extensive, extending for over a kilometre beside an enclosed lagoon. Over a hundred separate features in the settlement were recorded, including the remains of over fifty buildings and other features. Amongst these are:

  • two governor's residences
  • smithies
  • peat sheds
  • store buildings
  • powder magazines
  • a variety of ordinary houses and gardens
  • failed tree-plantations
  • two forts
  • gun batteries
  • horse and cattle corrals and pens
  • tanneries for sea-lion skins
  • two naval cannon