PhD Dissertations: Robyn Patricia Woodward, 2006
Medieval Legacies: The Industrial Archaeology of an Early Sixteenth Century Sugar Mill at Sevilla la Nueva, Jamaica
To date, historical and archaeological research has focused only on the late seventeenth to nineteenth century French, British, Dutch and Portuguese sugar plantations and their associated slave villages in the Caribbean and Brazil; attempts by the Spanish to establish sugar estates in the sixteenth century have been largely ignored. Despite its early introduction to the Caribbean in 1494, the sugar industry was not firmly established until 1517 on Hispaniola and Jamaica, and slightly later in Puerto Rico. Within the broader framework of sugar production and its history on a gloabl scale, this study focuses upon the archaeology, analysis and interpretive reconstruciton of an early sixteenth century sugar mill and industrial quarter in the town of Sevilla la Nueva (1509–1534), the first Spanish capital of Jamaica. Archaeological excavations and historical research demonstrate that this was a water powered mill set within the urban confines of an early colonial administrative and trading centre. Analysis of the unique assemblage of material culture reflects the industrial nature of the site but also provides insight into the cultural and social identities of those who worked there. Finally, the dissertation examines how this enterprise was structured by the economic and social systems of Spain and her Atlantic colonies in the late medieval period while also illustrating a nascent emergence of capitalism by the middle of the sixteenth century.