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.