Fieldwork 2015

I would like to give a huge shout out to all of the amazing volunteers and students who made this year’s fieldwork possible. Anyone who has worked in archaeology knows that we are completely incapable of making ends meet and make a project run smoothly without the generous (and free!) support from friends, colleagues, students, and interested volunteers. For 2015 and 2016, a special thanks to Dr. Shane Miller, Dr. Jesse Tune, Annah Pennebaker, Anja Krieger, Katie Phillips, Brittany Higgs, Lauren Bagwell, and Rukiya Andrews.

Shane mapping the site

Shane mapping the site

Also a huge thank you to the Wenner Gren Foundation, Stanford Archaeology Center, Stanford Department of Anthropology, the Ric Weiland Fellowship, and the Classical American Homes and Preservation Trust and the Richard Hampton Jenrette Foundation for their support. And a huge thank you to SHPO, especially David Brewer and Sean Krigger.

In 2015, I began archaeological survey and excavations at Estate Cane Garden focusing on the plantation ‘sick house’. The first mention of a plantation hospital building or ‘sick house’ at Cane Garden comes from a property inventory dated to 1798. Written documents do not indicate how long the hospital building was in use, but mean production dates of imported British ceramics from the hospital building indicate that the building was used as a sick house for a relatively long period of time, spanning the period between 1790 and 1848. The 1798 inventory also mentions that the building containing the ‘sick house’ also contained a storage room and animal stable, suggesting a multi-functional building.

Brittany Higgs excavating the area under the porch

The hospital building is a two level structure and is subdivided by a central wall on the ground floor. Hospitals were commonly divided in order to separate male and female patients. There may be an oven or attached kitchen on the northwestern corner of the building, as evidenced by a chimney-like feature and intensely burnt fill in the vicinity. Unfortunately, recently constructed rubble piles of architectural debris in the area make it impossible to excavate and more clearly define the possible cooking feature. The building also has a porch or portico running along the eastern edge of the structure as evidenced by the presence of inset beam supports along the front of the building. Hospitals typically had a covered porch area and large windows on the second story to take advantage of cooling ocean breezes.

Students excavating along the structure

The hospital building at Cane Garden exhibits the spatial logics of how a hospital should be constructed in accordance with Danish colonial health legislation. It also fits with extant visual representation layouts of hospitals at other plantations, including the royal plantation of Estate North Star.

Initial archaeological excavations focused on the interior of the hospital building in hopes of discovering a floor surface or in situ artifact deposits associated with the use and occupation of the structure.

Interior excavation units

An east/west 6x1m trench was opened in the north room of the hospital building, but no floor surface was found before reaching bedrock and few artifacts were discovered within the interior of the building. As such, 10 1x1m test units were placed adjacent to the structure’s eastern wall, under what would have been the porch or patio area. A large sheet midden (refuse or trash) deposit was found along the wall to the south of the doorway or entrance to the building. This provided the majority of artifacts associated with the hospital (n=13,667). In addition to the excavations at the hospital, shovel test units (.50 x .50m) were placed in 10 meter intervals around the perimeter of the hospital building and across the east/west and north/south axes of the site. The purpose of the shovel tests was to look for the presence of additional artifact deposits near the hospital and to gauge changes in artifact frequencies within the area of the domestic quarters of the site. Artifact types and frequencies from the domestic area of the site were used as a comparative measure for the artifacts found at the hospital building.

Lauren Bagwell with a stoneware transferprint plate