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ANALYSIS OF THE WEIGHT ASSEMBLAGE OF PORT ROYAL, JAMAICA

C. Wayne Smith
Dissertation: May 1995



The assemblage of weights recovered from excavations at Port Royal, Jamaica, is the largest collection of 17th-century weights recovered from a single colonial site. On June 7, 1692, just shortly before noon, an earthquake shook the community of Port Royal, and in a matter of minutes, due to a process known as liquefaction, approximately 32 acres of the colonial port community sank below the waters of Kingston Harbor. To date, 90 weights have been recovered from nautical and terrestrial excavations at the site. Many of these bear the stamps and ciphers of English trade guilds, as well as owners' marks and regal stamps of authority. Several weights in the collection also bear a mark in the shape of a dagger, or sword, which is associated with the City of London.

Bronze and lead weights bearing cipher stamps offer a unique opportunity for archaeological and historical investigation. Combining data from archaeological excavations with information from wills, probate inventories, and data from a comparative assemblage known as the Streeter Collection, will result in a multidisciplinary analysis of local and long-distance trade and commercial patterns in colonial Jamaica. From a microperspective, this analysis will contribute to the broader understanding of life and economic activities within the excavated area of the colonial port community. From a macroperspective, analysis of the weights should corroborate reforms in English law regarding the economic necessity for standardization of weights. Analysis of weight iconography suggests differences in mind-set that may have contributed in placing England apart from other European countries, in an advantageous position to become a leading economic force in the 17th century.

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