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The Manor was established in 1651 as a provisioning plantation for the Sylvester brothers and their partners in a sugar cane operation in the West Indies on the island of Barbados. Andy Fiske, the last descendant to live in the Manor house full time, had always wanted to find site of the original 17th century Manor house. Between 1998 and 2005, after Andy had passed away, and at the invitation of Mrs. Alice Fiske, Dr. Stephen Mrozowski, Fiske Center for Archaeological Research, University of Massachusetts Boston, and a host of graduate and undergraduate students worked at Sylvester Manor to locate many archaeological deposits linked to the original 17th century Manor house and its operation.

All of the materials that you will see in the new exhibit were recovered as an outgrowth of those excavations or those carried out by Dr. Kat Hayes of the University of Minnesota who was one of the first crew chiefs on the original excavations. It is this previous work by Kat Hayes, that has brought a team back to Sylvester Manor this year. The original excavations uncovered the remains of several buildings that date to the early history of the Manor as well as a large pit that contained the remains of 13 large pigs, completely butchered, that were deposited sometime circa 1650-1670 and probably represent a large shipment of salted pork for either the Constant or Carmichael Plantations, the Sylvester Family plantations on Barbados.

The remains of several buildings were uncovered including one that may well be part of the original circa 1651 Manor House. Much of the original house seems to have been buried by the circa 1735 Manor House. A well-appointed, decorative cobbled surface was also unearthed that would have served as the center piece of what is believed to be a complex of buildings including the original house, barns and stables and work buildings.

From June 17-June 28, 2019, a new team from the University of Massachusetts Boston, led again by Dr. Stephen Mrozowski, returned to Sylvester Manor to conduct an archaeological dig in a section of the formal gardens area. The team discovered new treasures and uncovered artifacts that are valuable to our ongoing story of what life was like before our time at Sylvester Manor. Stay tuned for next year’s exhibition that will be sure to include some of these new found treasures!

Visitors were welcome and encouraged to observe the dig and share in the excitement of this next chapter of our history!

Text partially provided by:
Stephen A. Mrozowski
Fiske Center for Archaeological Research
University of Massachusetts Boston