Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat

Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat, West Indies

For recent project news & updates click here: Collaborations, Research Support, and Dissemination

Project Overview

On July 18, 1995 the Soufriere Hills volcano erupted in the southern half of the Caribbean island of Montserrat, destroying the capital city of Plymouth and countless archaeological sites, and also forcing two-thirds of the island’s population of 12,000 to flee abroad. Since 1995 the volcano has remained active, dramatically transforming the “Emerald Isle’s” landscape and causing Montserrat’s remaining inhabitants to relocate and to rapidly develop new settlements in the northern portion of the island. This area is home to numerous significant prehistoric and historic archaeological remains, many of which are undocumented, but are now under threat from relocation and volcanic activity.  More.

The Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat project (SLAM) involves a team of archaeologists from Brown University, Wayne State University, Boston University, and University College Dublin in collaboration with members of the local Montserrat community and the Montserrat National Trust. Krysta Ryzewski (Wayne State University) and John F. Cherry (Brown) are the project Co-Directors. In January 2010, SLAM began to record and map the standing structures and archaeological sites within the pedestrian-accessible non-exclusion zone using traditional and innovative survey methods. Archaeologists have returned annually since 2010 to continue the initial phase of research and recovery.

SLAM has two aims: 1) to produce, from pedestrian survey and targeted excavations, a thorough inventory and chronology of archaeological sites in the non-exclusion zone, and to develop from this inventory (in collaboration with local cultural resource authorities) heritage management strategies; and 2) to examine the relationship between people on Montserrat and their environment over the course of the island’s history. This interdisciplinary and diachronic research focus explores aspects of settlement, sustainability, environmental management, intercultural interaction, and risk awareness on Montserrat. GIS, landscape, archival, and artifact-based interpretations are generated through several collaborative relationships within and beyond the academic community. Dissemination practices include a range of presentation formats, publications, and exhibit preparations.

Montserrat's location in the Lesser Antilles, and a map of the island showing the exclusion zones to the south
Montserrat’s location in the Lesser Antilles, and a map of the island showing the exclusion zones to the south

Project Scope

The scope of SLAM is also designed to address important archaeological questions about landscape use and transformation, migration, and material culture exchange in Montserrat, and within the broader contexts of the Caribbean and the Atlantic region. Archaeologists working in the Caribbean have long observed the presence of distinct prehistoric island cultures, and the participation of these groups in complex networks of inter-island communication and exchange (Honychurch 1986; Rouse 1992). Likewise, the legacy of the island’s historic plantation economy is manifested in the architecture, traditions, and contemporary communities on Montserrat (Pulsipher and Goodwin 1999). This project examines these histories in a long term perspective by documenting remains from all periods of occupation, from prehistory to the recent past. SLAM also explores the applicability of advanced surveying techniques in Caribbean environmental and archaeological contexts, many of which are well-demonstrated in archaeological survey projects on Mediterranean islands (Cherry et al. 2009) and in Mesoamerican environments (Saturno et al. 2007), but seldom employed in the Caribbean.

Please explore these links for more information about SLAM and Montserrat

Questions: Please contact Krysta.Ryzewski(at)wayne(dot)edu or John_Cherry(at)brown(dot)edu

SLAM Homepage | Montserrat Archaeological Resources | Soufriere Hills Volcano | 2010 Fieldwork | Project Crew Members | Collaborations, Publications, etc. | Bibliography | Links