A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Off the Grid
Volume 63 Number 1, January/February 2010
You probably know the eastern Caribbean is a great place for scuba diving, but it also has a number of historical sites worth visiting. If you're ever in the Lesser Antilles, Northwestern University archaeologist Mark Hauser suggests you see the ruins of Bois Cotlette, a seldom-visited plantation site on the small island of Dominica, between Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The Site: A coffee estate that also processed sugar and cocoa during its almost 300-year history, Bois Cotlette dates to the early days of French settlement, perhaps the 1750s. After the British colonized the island in 1763, the French owners continued to live on the estate. Today, it includes the ruins of a windmill, the owner's house, and stables, as well as a reconstructed coffee-pulping mill. Excavations have yielded ceramics from Martinique and even southeastern France that suggest slaves participated in an informal economy that extended beyond the island.
Getting There: Bois Cotlette is in Dominica's Soufriere Valley, a 45-minute drive from Roseau, the island's capital. To get there, you will need to hire a taxi or rent a 4x4 (the last leg of the journey is up a rocky road). Once you find the plantation, you are free to wander the grounds. There is no admission fee and Michael Didier, the current owner, will be happy to give you an informal tour.
While on Dominica: Stop by the Dominica Museum on the Roseau waterfront. Housed on the second floor of an 18th-century building that was once a post office, the museum features pre-Columbian pottery and shell tools, as well as historical exhibits that will give you a context for understanding Bois Cotlette. Lennox Honychurch, a cultural anthropologist and curator of the museum, can tell you stories about the island's history (his website is www.lennoxhonychurch.com).Share