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Archaeological Survey of Colonial Dominica

The Archaeological Survey of Colonial Dominica (ASCD) is run through the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University. This project, which has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation, is an international collaboration to locate, identify and analyze some of Dominica’s earliest plantation settlements. As one of the last formally colonized islands in the Caribbean, Dominica has a unique historical and cultural trajectory consolidating imperial power in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Americas. As such, it provides an unprecedented chance to excavate the contexts of colonial encounters between European settlers, indigenous Kalinago, and enslaved Africans.


This project will focus on two regions in Dominica: Portsmouth and Soufriere.

Michelle Rolph Trouillot described Dominica as a ‘patchwork of enclaves’ where up, until recently, different communities in the northern, southern and eastern parishes were relatively isolated from each other, each producing separate cultural trajectories. Focused around coastal villages, including Portsmouth and Soufriere, that acted as ports for inter-coastal trade, people inhabiting these enclaves developed economic and social ties, for which it was more expedient to travel to ports in nearby Martinique or Guadeloupe than the political capital of Roseau. Importantly, these enclaves are close to inter-coastal trade ports of various sizes that connect settlements within the enclaves to international and regional trade networks including Portsmouth and Roseau.

Portsmouth enclave

Portsmouth is the second largest city in Dominica and is located on the northern leeward coast.  There are accounts in both historical and oral records that indicate early settlers in this region.  As one of the two cities mentioned in the Freeports Act, dependencies of this enclave proved to be situated in a unique way to engage in larger economic networks.  We focus on the Plantation called Sugar Loaf estate.

Soufriere enclave

Located on the southern tip of Dominica, this enclave is almost exclusively within the Parish of St. Marks.  It is associated with some of the earliest established French plantations on the island and contains a high density of coffee estates that continued to operate well into the nineteenth century.  We will focus on the Bois Cotlette Estate.