Beyond the Classroom
Sara McNamara '16
Getting Dirty in Barbados
I have never shied away from getting dirty, which has made me an expert in removing stains. After coming to Syracuse, I have had the opportunity to perfect my stain fighting skills over three summers researching in Barbados, where I joined the archaeological excavation of Trents Plantation under the supervision Professor Doug Armstrong. Trents plantation is one of the earliest plantation sites in Barbados with artifacts dating back to the pre-sugar period of the early 17th century. The field team has excavated an outbuilding of the plantation house and multiple living quarters of enslaved laborers.
Archaeological fieldwork is more than playing in the dirt; it is a unique intersection of manual labor and intellectual stimulation that is physically and mentally challenging yet also extremely satisfying. We entered the field at 7 AM and worked steadily until noon when the Caribbean sun became too intense for more digging. In the afternoon, we would process the artifacts uncovered that morning. Every day brought exciting finds from iron keys to chamber pots to bone buttons.
My research in Barbados provides the basis for my senior honors thesis on the coarse earthenware found at the site. These artifacts are common at Trents, but that doesn’t make them any less exciting. In fact, my favorite artifact we found is part of the base of an earthenware pot that still has the imprints of the maker’s fingers.
During my months in Barbados, I was also able to explore the beauty of the island and experience its unique culture, from soca concerts on the beach to public lectures at the museum. Spending my summers in Barbados was something I never expected when I came to Syracuse University, but it has proven to be one of the most valuable aspects of my education.