Saturday, May 25, 2013

An apparent C17 - 18 gun platform on Gun Hill, Montserrat -- what can be done?

In current local news, there is an announcement of the discovery of an apparent artillery platform on Gun Hill Montserrat, beyond the Government Headquarters site and just back of the cliff face on the bluff above Carr's Bay on the north west coast of Montserrat.

A site map, under fair use showing the about 20 ft/ 6 metres across site:

The Gun Hill Artillery platform. Note evident erosion of some of the structure with cliff face recession
inland. Also observe the circular wall. ( SOURCE, per fair use: Archaeology on Montserrat)

 A picture of the pavement, with Gov't HQ in the background and with Centre Hills visible in the distance; under fair use:

The pavement, note cliff face to the right, so this is looking from about 120 degrees to the right, relative to the map's general orientation. (SOURCE, per fair use: Archaeology on Montserrat)

A picture of remains of the wall of the emplacement; again as fair use:

The wall remnant. Notice, Gov't HQ in the background. The original caption indicates that the wall continues underground another metre, about 40 inches.  (SOURCE, per fair use: Archaeology on Montserrat)

In short, the ongoing SLAM archaeological investigations have identified a significant historic site, located just where the hill is proposed to be taken down in order to make room for the new Port to be built in Carr's Bay.


What can be done?

First, we must recognise the cultural value and associated potential significance of archeological sites. 

These are part of our past, which has a lot to do with our present. 

In this case, on high ground defending the last bay zone to the north with good beaches and access to the island on its W coast, we see an apparent artillery emplacement. It is sited in cross-fire with another on a similar high point. Down below on the beach is an apparently later structure where cannon have been put, and with an apparent magazine back a bit. Perhaps, sited to enfilade a landing.

All of this fits with the vicious inter-state rivalry over the islands of the Caribbean that shaped C17 and C18 history.

It is also by that fact, part of what makes Montserrat Montserrat.

Part of the unique cluster of people, places, events, artifacts and events that made us who we are.

Just as much so as Mrs Bass' tomb from the 1700's in the nearby graveyard on the coast. A huge marble slab erected by a grieving husband. But obviously a grave of one of the Master class. What of the slaves?

Then there are remains on Potato Hill (soon to become an upper class residential villa complex according to the Tourism development plans), and there  are remains of plantations, windmills, machinery and more. Thankfully, a small museum is sited in the emerging town.

All of these and more are part of our cultural heritage, and could be stations on a national culture heritage trail. Which intersects with nature heritage sites and trails. (I mourn the expected loss of beach, small -- micro -- estuary, mangroves and even toxic manchineal trees.)

All of these and more help make Montserrat unique.

And, unique is good.

It cannot be effectively imitated.

Which in our time confers value, not least to tourism product.

Let's note what a Brown University report says on the wider survey of Montserrat:

Professor of Archaeology, Anthropology and Classics John Cherry and his team completed year three of the Survey and Landscape Archaeology on Montserrat (SLAM) project this summer.

The people of the small island of Montserrat in the West Indies have shared a home with an active volcano since 1995, when the Soufriere Hills volcano came out of dormancy and began erupting, causing a mass evacuation of the southern half of the island and burying the capital city of Plymouth under 40 feet of ash. The volcanic activity and relocation of people and infrastructure to the north of the island have threatened the island’s archaeological sites, many of which are undocumented.

The aim of the SLAM project is to find and catalogue these sites and decide how much risk is posed to each site by the mass relocation of people and  the continually erupting volcano, Cherry said.

The team spent the summer trekking around the accessible half of the island cataloguing and exploring sites. Thus far, the team has found and explored about 45 sites and several hundred cultural landscape features, finding pieces like a 17th century Dutch pipe stem. An exciting discovery made by the team, Cherry said, included a site with artifacts dated from 2000-800 BC, making Montserrat one of only five islands in the Eastern Caribbean on which artifacts from this period have been found.

Prior to SLAM, the island had seen few archaeological projects and had no basic inventory of historical and prehistorical sites and cultural resources. To that end, the team also set up a temporary archaeological exhibit of artifacts in the island museum, taught archaeology in grade schools and represented archaeology at the island’s career fair.

So, instead of simply carting off the stones elsewhere or ignoring them and taking them down with the cliff, why not consider moving back the platform maybe 100 ft or whatever, leaving room for port and for some preservation? (And making time to do enough investigation to pick up artifacts such as pottery, buttons, musket balls, or whatever.)

After all, when they built the Aswan dam in Egypt in the 1960's they found it important to move things back away from where the dam would flood.

 Then, we could make a nice little duly signed and notified site with interpretation centre, just a hike away from Gov't HQ.

That's just my suggestion as one possibility.

For sure, we need as much as possible to move away from building a bland, generic tourist trap of a new town, with no character, no rootedness in the past and heritage of the country.

Tourists can smell a tourist trap from a mile off.

If that idea is not the best solution, what other ones are there? Why would they be better?

Let's think together, on what we can best do together to build our common future. END