Archaeology at the Suspected Site of the Synagogue
- At the request of the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society, Michelle Terrell (Ph.D., Boston University) and Eva Hill (M.A., University of Minnesota) began an archaeological investigation in 1993 at the location held to be the site of the synagogue of Nevis' 17th- and 18th-century Jewish community upon which stands a small stone ruin. A preliminary archaeological examination of the property, which is located behind the Nevis Administration Building, in the spring of that year concluded that the site warranted further investigation. Additional archaeological reconnaissance surveys of the property carried out during the 1993 and 1994 summer field seasons determined that the small building on the site was a cistern of what was once a much larger structure. Further excavation in 1996 revealed extensive structural remains associated with 18th-and 19th-century deposits.
- In 1997 a grant from The Commonwealth Jewish Council and generous contributions from private donors facilitated the first large scale investigation of the site. Unlike the limited testing of previous seasons, the investigation of the site on this scale allowed for the collection of a large amount of cultural material from across the site that, once analyzed, resulted in the development of a more complete and exact picture of the history of the site. Through the cataloging and analysis of the 11,265 artifacts recovered from the twelve test units excavated, we were able to determine that although occasional examples of late-seventeenth and early eighteenth-century materials appeared on the site, the first structure on the site was built during the last quarter of the eighteenth century - one hundred years after the synagogue of the island was constructed. Furthermore, the artifacts recovered were purely domestic in nature and testify to the site having been occupied by a series of families through 1929 when the last occupants sold the structure to the government. Therefore the archaeological excavation proved that the synagogue was NOT located on the property behind the Nevis Administration Building.