This course is designed to introduce students to the hard realities of archaeological fieldwork and research methods through hands-on fieldwork on a research site in the Caribbean. The fields of archaeology and the study of history are as rich and diverse as they are compelling. This upper division course explores the panorama of events in the Caribbean during the historic period, beginning with contact and colonialism, with particular emphasis on plantation studies, the African Diaspora, slavery, and human impact on environmental change. Archaeology is a lively scientific pursuit and current developments within the field will highlighted. Although current theoretical frameworks and methodologies are integrated into the course, the chief focus is on establishing a broad understanding of practical research design, site survey, excavation techniques, adapting to unexpected problems during research, and the context for archaeological interpretation. The course is interdisciplinary in scope and will investigate how archaeologists use various scientific techniques to learn about the past. This course is as much about the practice of archaeology and the political ramifications of research as it is about findings in the field and methodology. Students will be led in discussions on critical analysis and how modern society understands the past.
Students will live and work on the island of Nevis, part of the St. Kitts-Nevis Federation. On a daily basis students will interact with Nevisians and come to know their views and values. Nevis is a former British colony, independent since 1984. Students discover that the history of Nevis and the United States intersect at several junctures, from being the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton to being the scene of the first naval battle ever fought by the US Navy. During the colonial period before the American Revolution, Nevis and the continental colonies were critical trade partners with an intertwined economy base on sugar and slaves. Many Nevisians attend American universities and have family ties to communities in the US.
Through archaeology, students will be contributing directly to knowledge about the past of Nevis and its citizens. Through museum visits and daily interactions students will gain the Nevisian perspective on their former colonial past and what it means to be a Caribbean island nation. Students will read about the history of Nevis, but more significantly they will be contributing directly to the reconstruction of the historical past through their archaeological work.