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The Probate Inventories of Port Royal, Jamaica

Diana Thornton
Thesis: December 1992
Chair: Hamilton
Nautical Archaeology Program


Through archaeology, significant details of past cultures can be recovered. However, lack of preservation, salvaging, and intangible items create gaps in the archaeological data and restrict the scope of study.

Any analytical focus in historical archaeology should, therefore, include supplemental sources such as documentary evidence, oral history, and pictorial evidence. This approach allows the historical archaeologist to examine a site on a much deeper level and from different perspectives. The documentary evidence associated with a site provides information unattainable from the archaeological record--names, dates, possessions, rooms, houses, events, financial and social links--in short, the history behind the artifacts. It would be foolish not to take full advantage of this resource. Historical archaeology, then, is the study of all remains, not just those that come from the ground, and the intertwining of archaeological data with the relevant written record.

Through the analysis of the probate inventories, this thesis augments our knowledge and understanding of the material culture and social history of seventeenth-century Port Royal. It also demonstrates the importance of a multi-faceted approach to archaeology beyond the material environment. Secondarily, it acts as a guide to the content and worth of the Jamaica probate inventories for future studies and correlation with the archaeological data.

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