Pirate trading port found at Woodford Hill

Archaeological work at the site in Woodford Hill. Photo: Dr. Lennox Honychurch

A team of archaeologists has found what appears to be an early pirate trading port in a bay in the northeast corner of Dominica.

The site was revealed by erosion which took place along the beach at Woodford Hill during Hurricane Maria last year.

A few days after the storm, Dominican anthropologist, Dr. Lennox Honychurch, who lives near the site, was inspecting the area and found a mixture of indigenous Kalinago pottery along with European china, glass, tobacco pipes and gun parts exposed along the beach.

He already knew that this was a Kalinago settlement but the other material had not been seen before.

He contacted a US colleague, Professor Mark Hauser of Northwestern University, Illinois, who in turn alerted Dr. Doug Armstrong of Syracuse University, New York, and they came to Dominica to do a preliminary assessment.

The team has been excavating the site over the past two weeks with the assistance of two other Dominicans, Mitchel Laville and Anil Sango.

They have found a lot of material which points to the location here of a small pirate base to attack shipping coming into the channel from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was also a post for trading tobacco with the Kalinago people who were in control of the district at the time. The dates are estimated at about 1580s to 1630s, over a century before Dominica was officially colonized.

Dr. Honychurch, who is a council member of the UWI Open Campus, provided documentation to match the archaeological material being found. This is mainly Dutch ware, glass, tobacco pipes and lead shot.

The bay is the first protected harbor with a safe anchorage when coming in from the Atlantic. It has a river which provided water and a wide beach for landing. There are much shellfish and crabs for food.

It was known to the Kalinagos as Sáua, the name of an important tree (Genipa Americana) that provided blue-black dye and gum. The French settlers translated the Kalinago ‘Sáua’ as La Soie in their language and so it is named today.

When the British took over the island they built a fort on La Soie Point and a jetty for shipping cargo and produce.

After presenting a preliminary report and application for a foundation grant in the US, the team hopes to be able to do a more extensive dig next year.

The material stays in Dominica and it is hoped that it can be displayed in a visitor centre and small museum near the site for educational and tourism interest.

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29 Comments

  1. Big Man Ting
    October 5, 2019

    What’s going on with this site now??

    ADMIN: What do you mean?

  2. AA in DA
    July 27, 2018

    This is great I always told my husband there was gold and other objects yet to be found on your mysterious island! As a African American married to a Dominican I have always been interested in learning more about our common ancestry as it appears there is a huge cultural divide between AA and my carribean born husband and friends. I have conducted DNA ancestry tests and have confirmed benin-togo ancestry I would not be surprised if I shared ancestry with many of my friends here on island. Keep up the great work Dr. I have read your published works in the past you are a value to this island.

  3. RastarMarn
    July 26, 2018

    Mista have new book coming out man,,,

    Garcon that beach too rough to set up nothing,,, The sea there is calm every Blue Moon,,,

    Don’t you think the inhabitants at Dominica already knew that what’s now Portsmouth would make the most appropriate trading Post/port???

    HonyChurch, is fellows like you that distorted the legacy of the True Nobles of this realm to make the Albinos look like the more advanced inhabitants on this Planet,,,

    After allyou His-tory we now know about the Olmecs of Mexico, and the great Pyramids of what is now Called Central America,,,

    Stop the madness and go back and research and come back with plausible findings!!!

    Marn have one test for you HoneyCurch: Why don’t you fellows and Scholarly Colleague rebuild those Ships Nina, Pinta, and Jesus Spirit, to name a few, as all you claim they were designed, and try travel the Triangle of Trade like allyou claim they did; Sailing from Europe to Africa, to the Caribbean and Back up to Europe,,,

  4. Pillage and Plunder
    July 26, 2018

    So who is the Curator of the material that MUST stay in our Dominica???
    What are the contractual arrangements being put in place to ensure that the relics and artefacts do in fact remain in Dominica ( where??) and don’t end up at Smithsonian or some other institution, like so much else has over the years…pillaged and plundered one more time!!!

  5. Jean Bruin
    July 26, 2018

    Now, what about the gold and gems hurricane David uncovered? If Maria did this, then certainly, David gave up treasures too.

    For Dominica’s sake, securing a little bit of our historical wealth is better than none. I guess we are a little more enlightened and should not make the mistakes of the past .

    Thanks Dr. Honeychurch. You are a son of the soil that is highly appreciate.

  6. Lennox Honychurch
    July 25, 2018

    Charlie Rose, thanks for the comment, but this is a news report, not an academic paper or a book. I have dealt with your issues in other publications. Maybe you and others should research and publish your own views on the matter.

    The fact is that Kalinagos traded for tobacco in exchange for iron axes, cutlasses, knives and iron pots because it made their lives easier instead of sitting down for two weeks grinding a stone to make an axe or finding clay to make pots. In the same way that you buy imported consumer goods such as stoves and fridges for your home from the “exploiters” instead of making your own coal pot and cooking on the coal you could make from the forest. That is how people get sucked into the world economy and so-called exploitation and robbery… then and now.

    • Charlie Rose
      July 26, 2018

      Not to take away from the archeological find at all, but interesting how the words “exploiters.., so-called exploitation and robbery” conveniently found themselves in this short response. I certainly hope this isn’t the real Lennox Honychurch.

    • browneyesgirl
      July 27, 2018

      Absolutely Dr. Honey church enough said.

  7. UDOHREADYET
    July 25, 2018

    Thats a great idea… they should definitely build a museum if possible… this history should be told.

  8. Charlie Rose
    July 25, 2018

    It’s all good to make such find. I can’t help but notice how historians ‘always’ portray even pirates as simply protecting a beach… “small pirate base to attack shipping coming into the channel from the Atlantic Ocean”, ohh nice guys just trading with the Kalinago. Just like historians claimed that Europeans were sailing calmly down the coast of Africa when the Africans came offering other Africans for sale. Sounds like a fishing expedition. Already the pirates intruded and took Kalinago property by force, very nasty people. Lennox BE BRAVE say it like it is, after all, it’s the 21st century, we know better. Don’t be like past historians that even claim the Kalinago ate these nasty people when they had as you stated shellfish, crabs, and i must add manicou, wild pigs, cassava in abundance. Makes one wonder who ate who, we know. Thanks for helping make the name Kalinago stick, but be brave, be the first to stand out and say it like it is. We’re listening!

    • Treadstone
      July 25, 2018

      Dude, take a chill pill and calm down. The focus of the article is not on the pirates. The focus is on the archaeological find and it’s implications for the revision and refinement of Dominica’s history. Maybe you should write your own history book in which you will have the opportunity to detail the plundering and thievery of the pirates that you seem so educated about. I promise you I will buy a copy once your book is published.

      • Charlie Rose
        July 26, 2018

        You totally missed the point.

      • Coincidence
        July 28, 2018

        @Treadstone, Charlie is spot on. He is not the one that brought up pirates, dude did. They were not there protecting no beach and trading with Danes nor Dutch for stuff and tobacco, they were there to take Kalinago property particularly gold and land for their queen/king. Although pirates are mentioned only as protectors these artifacts are most likely their loot.

  9. Francisco Etienne-Dods Telemaque
    July 25, 2018

    I can tell you all right now that is a hokes!

    If it is in the area of the Bridge, that area was commonly called Works.

    Even in the Folly & Bans days there were a series of buildings along the bay, and they date back to the 1950’s unless these so called archeologist can recover some artifacts dating back to the 13th, and 14th century, that can be considered a hocks  

     Mind you the Woodford Hill Bay was once a Port-Of-Call; the old ships once call there transporting cargo to Europe, On the rocks in one area, old manual mechanical winches lingered there, the as a place in Wesley called Walkers Rest Bay.

    The same were at the bay at Marigot, I know for a fact where the Fisheries is now located! In the 1950’s Steam Ships still used the port in Marigot.

    Question, what were the Pirates trading, and with who?

    The indigenous Caribs of Dominica?

    • Grumpus
      July 25, 2018

      Francisco, please stop your senseless mumbling and go back to sleep. We will wake you up when it’s time to take your dementia meds.

    • U Dumas
      July 25, 2018

      This is the dumbest comment I have ever had the misfortune to read.

  10. Paulo
    July 25, 2018

    Finally, some news that we can all read with fascination and enjoy.

  11. Zandoli
    July 25, 2018

    This trading on the northeast coast continues to this day. If they want to find out how the pirates traded, all they need to do is talk to the people of the area – no digging required. :)

  12. LifeandDeath
    July 25, 2018

    I enjoyed this Article. indeed Dr. Honychurch is a great human asset for Dominica.

    More than that I particularly like the idea of setting up a small visitor centre close to the site rather than having everything transferred to the Dominica Museum in Roseau. This is a step towards developing the economic attractiveness of many Rural communities in Dominica.

    • Just Asking
      July 25, 2018

      Sorry I meant to press the like button. Thumbs up for this comment! Sentiment shared!

  13. Dominican Brit
    July 25, 2018

    WOW! I do really love this! Great to hear that more of Dominican’s past is being uncovered, particularly our Kalinago history. I wonder how much more of these ‘treasures’ are buried deep elsewhere on our fascinating island?

    • LawieBawie
      July 25, 2018

      I love it too. The problem however is that very often the excavated artifacts are shipped off to some American university for further processing and never ever make it back to Wai’tukubuli.

  14. Sams
    July 25, 2018

    Good news rather to read that than the B’s of skerrit keep digging good job

  15. pssh
    July 25, 2018

    What about all d gold. They doing like they doh get.

    • LifeandDeath
      July 25, 2018

      :lol: :lol: :lol: …lol..best comment yet. You may be right too

    • Nature girl
      July 25, 2018

      Agree, I always say our island have gold around the bay areas, including bayfront in Town, some precious stones

  16. marie-claire R Skerrit
    July 25, 2018

    Great job..keep us posted on developments

  17. Love 'em
    July 25, 2018

    Splendid! Thanks Maria!

  18. Focused
    July 25, 2018

    very interesting..can we have some photos

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