Northwestern University professor and anthropologist Mark Hauser, with colleague Douglas Armstrong of Syracuse University, uncovered a rare archaeological discovery on the beaches of the Caribbean island nation of Dominica after they were eroded by Hurricane Maria.
The partners determined that the discovery was part of the foundation of a tavern or warehouse that was used at the beginning of the 17th century, but was abandoned early in the 18th century.
The Caribbean islands, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, were at the center of a shift of global power and the economy.
“This significant new discovery provides an opportunity to examine the elusive record of early interactions and trade among the indigenous, African and European peoples of Dominica and the Caribbean,” Houser said in a statement.
The area of the discovery is known as Woodford Hill. This site is notable because it is associated with Sir Francis Drake and John Hawking, two prominent figures who were closely involved with the Transatlantic slave trade. The two were operating under license from the English crown to attack and loot Spanish ships going to and from the Caribbean carrying precious metals and other commodities.
“Drake and Hawkins were pirates. They’re not described as pirates in English history because they are celebrated, but they were,” said Professor Matthew Johnson, the head of Northwestern’s anthropology department, who works closely with Hauser.
Hauser works regularly in Dominica. When he was there, local anthropologist Lennox Honychurch reached out to him and asked him to document the artifacts that washed up on the beachfront after the hurricane.
“A discovery of this importance occurs in the Caribbean very rarely. It’s the most important find in Dominica for some time,” Johnson said.