Jamaica’s Heritage Sites Must Be Preserved


Chris Patterson (Jamaica Information Service) writes on Jamaica’s numerous historical sites and efforts by technical director of Archaeology at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) Dorrick Gray to promote preservation of these tangible representations of aspects of the country’s diverse culture and history. He speaks about two examples of important heritage sites: the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann and the Underwater City of Port Royal. Here are excerpts:

[. . .] Two of the nation’s most notable spaces, known as heritage sites, are the Seville Heritage Park in St. Ann and the Underwater City of Port Royal.

These sites are located on the Tentative List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites. A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO as being of special cultural or physical significance. The Tentative List is an inventory of properties which each State Party  considers to be cultural and/or natural heritage of outstanding universal value and therefore suitable for inscription on the World Heritage List.

Technical Director of Archaeology, Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), Dorrick Gray, tells JIS News that the heritage sites are physical representation of the past and should be preserved and protected, as they “represent where our people slaved and worked to build this country.” Describing the Seville Heritage Park as the “genesis of the Jamaican people,” Mr. Gray notes that the archaeological evidence garnered from the site shows a diversity of cultures dating back to the island’s first settlers, the Tainos.

Located on the historic Seville Estate, Mr. Gray says the major attraction of the park is the collection of artefacts on display in the Great House, which depict various aspects of the life of the Tainos, Africans and Europeans (Spanish and English). On the park, which overlooks the beautiful Caribbean Sea, are the relic of a water wheel used to operate the old sugar mill, the Overseer’s House and a barbecue. “Of the main core of activities that took place at Seville Heritage Park, there is nowhere else in Jamaica that we have been able to find, through the archaeological investigation, this span of various cultures and this is why we say that (it is) for me, the genesis of the Jamaican people, because it is where our people began from the various cultures that came in,” he says.

In the meantime, he notes that Port Royal, dubbed as once the ‘wickedest city and richest city on earth’ was by the 1680s the most important English city in the Americas and was a fortified epicentre for trade and commerce, among other things, because of its geographical and strategic location.

During the 17th Century, it was the virtual capital of Jamaica, and also the headquarters for buccaneers and pirates who brought in much of the treasure they looted on the Spanish Main. Chief among the buccaneers was Henry Morgan, who was later knighted and made Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. He died at Port Royal in 1688.

Mr. Gray tells JIS News that all of the core activities which centred around trade and commerce in  Port Royal came to an end on June 7, 1692 after a major earthquake and tidal wave struck the city and destroyed ships and buildings, killed over 2,000 and injured over 3,000 persons. [. . .] He says the sunken city of Port Royal has been kept almost exactly as it would have looked in 1692 and this has fascinated people all over the world.

“We have conducted a number of investigations which has revealed to us the reason why this town is so important. We have been able to recover over 2,000 artefacts. We have also been able to uncover approximately five buildings underwater with their floors (storeys) and some of the wall intact and this is why up until now, a lot of the information that we have been getting, places Port Royal on the front page as being exactly one of the next application for the World Heritage Site,” Mr. Gray says.

Port Royal has become a quiet fishing village, but it is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in Jamaica, as for over 200 years, it was England’s biggest naval base in the Caribbean. [. . .]

For full article, see http://jis.gov.jm/heritage-sites-must-be-preserved/

Also see http://jis.gov.jm/jamaicans-urged-to-visit-heritage-sites/

Photo from http://www.earthporm.com/5-mind-blowing-underwater-cities/

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