The Gardener’s Cottage lies on the Southampton Fairmont property and dates back to the 1690s. The house is being reassembled as an historic exhibit by archaeologists. *Photo supplied
The Gardener’s Cottage lies on the Southampton Fairmont property and dates back to the 1690s. The house is being reassembled as an historic exhibit by archaeologists. *Photo supplied
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An archaeological study of one of Bermuda’s oldest homes will provide a unique insight into the lives of the island’s earliest slaves.

The Gardener’s Cottage, which lies on the Southampton Fairmont property, dates back to the 1690’s.

The old timber-framed house was recently saved from the wrecking ball by conservationists, who meticulously took the structure apart, so it can be reassembled as an historic exhibit.

During the process experts also conducted a major archeological survey of the cellar area of the cottage and discovered ceramics dating back to the 17th century.

Archaeologist Brent Fortenberry from Boston University and architectural historian Edward Chappell led the project to excavate the cellar.

Mr Fortenberry told the Bermuda Sun: “We uncovered material-evidence associated with the household’s enslaved Bermudians — historic documents indicate that slaves often lived in house cellars during the 17th century.”

He added: “Two occupation phases were identified using ceramic dates.

“The first phase began sometime in the 1690s and ended around 1710. There was then a gap in cellar occupation from 1710 until the 1760s.

“The second phase continued until the 1830s, likely coinciding with Emancipation. “Each of these phases of occupations will tell us about the different aspects of the lives of enslaved members of the household, what they ate, what kinds of ceramics they used.”

During the dig, which took place in March, the archeologists found an uncovered oven cut into the bedrock and an ash pit cut into the bedrock floor.

They also discovered a small writing slate, a late 17th-century chamber pot and possible etchings on the north wall.

Staff and volunteers from the National Museum washed the artifacts and stored the archaeological material prior to export.

The archaeological material is currently under analysis in the United States by archaeologists from the College of William and Mary and Boston University.

Mr Fortenberry said: “The findings from this work will greatly enrich our understanding of the lives of enslaved Bermudians during the 17th and 18th centuries and provide a heretofore unknown perspective on the island’s past. 

“Bermuda is indeed very fortunate to have such prominent archaeologists and historians working so closely with our on-island team to understand Bermuda’s rich cultural history.

“We are very grateful to the generous benefactors who made this work possible.”