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Wrought Iron Hand Tools in Port Royal, Jamaica: A Study Based Upon a Collection of the Tools recovered from Archaeological Excavations and on Tools Listed in the Probate Inventories of Colonial Port Royal, c. 1692

Marianne Franklin
Thesis: May 1992
Chair: Hamilton
Nautical Archaeology Program


This study is based upon the collection of wrought iron hand tools recovered from five archaeological excavations of the city of Port Royal, Jamaica (c. 1692). The excavations took place between 1966 and 1990. Only the tools that are presently housed in the headquarters of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in Port Royal, Jamaica or are currently being treated in the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas are included in the collection.

The tool collection from Port Royal is unique for several reasons: a) since they were deposited by a catastrophic event there is a complete array of 17th century tools, b) many of the tools are in excellent condition, and c) even the tools that are completely corroded have their detail incredibly well preserved in molds inside calcareous encrustations that were formed due to their deposition in a marine environment. Epoxy cast replicas of tool molds show fine detail and may answer questions about the tool's use.

Over 100 tools have been recovered so far from the archaeological excavations of Port Royal. The collection's diversity spans a range from the finely shaped pincer of the shoemaker to the most crudely fashioned chisel. This study documents the tool collection, and examines the collection with the added interpretation of transcribed probate inventories from the parish of Port Royal between 1686-1694 (Volume III) in order to better understand everyday life in a flourishing 17th-century Caribbean mercantile trade center. This study combines the analysis of the archaeological record and the probate inventories to answer questions about the variety of different types of tools available and in common use by the 17th century craftsman in the Caribbean. Though the excavation of the submerged city of Port Royal is by no means complete, it is hoped that this work will provide a significant data base for forthcoming comparative studies on tools of the late 17th century.


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