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Unearthing the history of Bermuda’s old capital

May 23, 2023
Two students on opposite sides of the room looking through surveying equipment.University of Rochester students, Tara Broadmeadow ’24 and Skylar DiBlasi ’25 undertake archaeological fieldwork in Bermuda, including measuring, excavating, and cataloguing their finds in the cellar rooms of the historic Globe Hotel on St. George’s Island. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jarvis)

Each spring, Rochester undergraduates work to unearth and preserve Bermuda’s rich history.

Cover of the book Isle of Devils, Isle of Saints by Michael Jarvis.
In a new book, Rochester historian Michael Jarvis argues that Bermuda belongs at the center, not the periphery, of the American colonial story.

Eighteen University of Rochester students traveled during the spring semester with history professor Michael Jarvis, the director of the Smith’s Island Archaeology Project, to St. George’s, the old capital of Bermuda. They were digging for clues under the flagstones of the historic Globe Hotel, built in 1699, to determine how this then-ambitiously large building on St. George’s was constructed and had evolved. The team was also hoping to find undisturbed floor layers that could be used to study the enslaved Black household members who lived and worked at the Globe from 1700 to 1834.

Excavations in four rooms revealed that an earlier renovation around 1909 had unfortunately destroyed the 18th-century floor layers within the cellar, says Jarvis. Yet they were surprised to discover that the building’s walls rest on dirt rather than the usual bedrock and found a very early post hole “going back to the dawn of settlement.”

Together with the Bermuda National Trust, the Rochester team has been working on combined research projects, trying to better understand and document the island’s rich history, including slavery and its role in the English colonization of America.

Large group of students pose for a photo outside the Globe Hotel.

University of Rochester students spent spring break on archeological fieldwork in Bermuda, excavating some of the cellar rooms of the historic Globe Hotel on Bermuda’s St. George’s Island. (Photo: Charlotte Andrews, Bermuda National Trust)

Two students digging in a square hole in a corner of a whitewashed structure.

History majors Nora Culver ’25 (left) and Paola Almendarez ’26 are excavating the foundation in the Porch Chamber of the historic Globe Hotel on Bermuda’s St. George’s Island. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jarvis)

A student and a professor kneel over a square hole in a structure, scraping the surface with archeological tools.

Historian Michael Jarvis and Skylar DiBlasi ’25, an archaeology, technology, and historical structures major, found black charring on the packed floors under the cellar’s flagstones of the historic Globe Hotel on St. George’s Island, pointing to fire damage. The source, according to Jarvis, could be the 1909 hotel fire, or a fire in 1972 that destroyed a predecessor of the Globe’s next-door neighbor, the Paradise Gift Shop. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jarvis)

During the dig, more than 250 Bermudian school children visited the site. To Jarvis, the team’s work has a dual function: to unearth and preserve Bermuda’s rich history on one hand, and to help “plant the seeds of historical curiosity” on the other.

Large group of school children listen as a college student speaks and makes gestures with this hands.

Andrew Levin ’23, an archaeology, technology, and historical structures major, gives local school children a tour of the latest excavations inside the cellars of the Globe Hotel in St. George’s, Bermuda. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jarvis)

A college student holds a box full of pottery shards out for a group of school children to look at.

Megan Perucca ’25, an archaeology, technology, and historical structures major, shows archaeological finds, including pottery shards, to local school children at the historic Globe Hotel in St. George’s, Bermuda. (Photo courtesy of Michael Jarvis)

“Bermuda needs more hometown archaeologists to keep up with all the development and new building that’s going on,” says Jarvis, who hopes that some of the local visitors will grow up to join the archeological efforts on the island.

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Category: In Photos