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The Underwater City of Port Royal

Date of Submission: 02/03/2009
Criteria: (iv)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Jamaica National Heritage Trust
State, Province or Region:
Middlesex Country, Kingston and St. Andrew Parish, Port Royal District
Ref.: 5430

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Port Royal, Jamaica, commonly referred to as "the wickedest city on earth" conjures images of marauding pirates, daring naval conquests, looting, riches, destruction and devastation. It boats an intriguing and turbulent history as it rapidly grew to become the most important trading post in the New World. At the height of its glittering wealth, on June 7, 1692, Port Royal was consumed by an earthquake and two thirds of the town sank into the sea. A series of fires and hurricanes followed and the town was never restored to its former glory. Port Royal lived out its days as a British naval station and remains as a small fishing village today.

Port Royal falls into the category of "catastrophic sites," places that are devastated by some natural disaster and in the act of destruction, preserved in situ. The universal significance of Port Royal stems from the fact that it is distinctly different from most archaeological locations. Generally archaeological excavations represent a long period of time where buildings were constructed, renovated, added, fell into disrepair, were abandoned, collapsed and perhaps built over. In contrast, after just 37 years of existence, the bustling city of Port Royal literall sank into the harbour in a matter of minutes, remaining perfectly preserved as it was on the day of the earthquake.

The following is a historical description of the events that led to the growth, destruction and rebuilding of Port Royal. While, this submission focuses mainly on the underwater city, it is also necessary to mention the development of Port Royal, post-earthquake to the present day and to maintain context. The historical background is followed by a physical description of the underwater city and some of the important terrestrial remains found on the modern-day site. 

Historical description and context

The Port Royal Cay

Port Royal is situated on the end of an 18-mile long sand spit known as the Palisadoes, 15 miles from the centre of Kingston, capital of Jamaica. Currently, the peninsula is one continuous strip although at various times throughout its history, the tip on which Port Royal stands was a cay completely surrounded by water. 

Evidence of Taino activity on this cay was revealed by underwater excavations in the 1960s. The excavation team found shards of Taino pottery, dated sometime after 1000 AD, and part of a stone metate, used to grind corn. It is not known whether the Taino established a permanent settlement here and more likely, they used the sand spit simply as a fishing camp.

Pre 1692

When the Spanish arrived in Jamaica in the 1500's, they discovered that the cay was an ideal spot for careening, that is, a place to clean and refit boats and scrape the hulls clean. They named the area Cayo de Carena but built nothing more than a few timber warehouses at the site.

Regular occupation at the site began when Britain captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The English immediately recognized the cay's strategic importance in defending the island from the threat of recapture by the Spanish or the possibility of French invasion. They set about fortifying the place and completed Fort Cromwell (later enamed Fort Charles) in less than two years. Construction continued over the next two decades until six well-armed forts surrounded the little cay. Thus Port Royal, during its period of prosperity, was better defended than any of its contemporary Spanish cities, such as Cartagena, Havana, Vera Cruz or Porto Bello.

Within this fortified area the town grew rapidly. Due to its safe and protected location, its flat topography and deep water close to shore, large ships could easily glide in to be serviced, loaded and unloaded. Along with the ships, sailors and merchants alike established themselves to benefit from the many trading and outfitting opportunities there. Between 1655 and 1692, Port Royal grew faster than any town founded by the English in the New World. In 1662 Port Royal recorded 740 inhabitants. At its' height in 1692, population estimates vary from 6500 to 10,000. With approximately 2000 buildings densely packed into 51 acres, a realistic estimate would be between 6500 and 7000 inhabitants of whom perhaps 2500 were slaves.

Centred on the slave trade as well as export of sugar and raw materials, Port Royal became the mercantile hub of the Caribbean and the most economically important English port in the Americas. The city boasted merchants, artisans, tradesmen, captains, slaves, and notorious pirates who all participated in an expansive business network. It had a governor's house, king's house (court of chancery), four churches and a cathedral. Many of the buildings were made of brick, indicating a certain amount of wealth not found at other contemporaneous settlements. Inventories of Port Royal's citizens reveal much prosperity and the observation that, unlike the other English colonies, Jamaica used coins for currency instead of commodity exchange.

During the early days'of Port Royal's development, officially sanctioned privateering was also a common practice. Privateers or Buccaneers were awarded official contracts from England to raid Spanish, Dutch and French ships in the Caribbean. Part of the booty was reserved for the Crown and the rest flowed into the coffers of Port Royal's bawdy citizens. While, this practice was officially ended by the 1670 Treaty of Madrid, privateering and/or piracy, continued well into the 18th century. In 1689, nearly half of the population was involved in this trade.

This then, was Port Royal at its zenith, a vibrant city centre with expensive goods flowing through the harbour day in and day out. See Captain John Taylor, writing in 1688, described Port Royal as "a formidable City: well built, strongly fortified, and Populated by a valiant Inhabitant." He counted some 600 brick houses and an equal number built of timber. According to Taylor they were mainly four storeys high with cellars, tiled roofs and sash windows and had large shops and store houses attached.

Francis Hanson, writing in 1682 gave a detailed account of the wealth of the average Port Royal citizen.

'The Town of Port Royal, being as it were the Store House or Treasury of the West Indies, is always like a continual art or Fair where all sorts of choice Merchandizes are daily imported, not only to furnish the Island, but vast quantities are thence again transported to supply the Spaniards, Indians and other nations, who in exchange return us bars and cakes of Gold, wedges and pigs of Silver, Pistoles, Pieces of Eight and several other Coyns of both Mettles, with store of wrought Plate, Jewels, rich Pearl Necklaces and of Pearl unsorted or undrill'd several Bushels;

... Almost every House hath a rich Cupboard of Plate which they carelessly expose, scarce shutting their doors in the night, being in no apprehension of Thieves for want of receivers.

... And whereas most other Plantations ever did and now do keep their accounts in Sugar, or the proper Commodities of the place, for want of Money, it is otherwise in Jamaica, for in Port-Royal there is more plenty of running cash (proportionally to the number of its inhabitants) than in London.' 

Earthquake and Post 1692

In the midst of this decadence, Port Royal was struck by a severe earthquake at 20 minutes to noon, June 7, 1692. Three violent shocks, each stronger than the previous ripped the earth followed by a giant tidal wave. Within minutes, two-thirds of the entire town disappeared under water. Nearest to the water's edge, the streets filled with warehouses were the first to go. The cemetery sank while the church tower crumbled to the ground. One by one, the Forts disappeared under the rising waves.

One survivor, Rev. Dr. Heath, rector of Port Royal recalled, "we heard the Church and Tower fall, upon which we ran to save ourselves; I...made towards Morgan's Fort, because being a wide open place I thought to be there securest from the falling houses; but as I made towards it, I saw the earth open and swallow a multitude of people; and the sea mounting in upon us over the fortification."

Of the original 51 acres, 20 sank to a depth of 10 feet and 13 slid to a depth of 35 feet. Two thousand people died immediately and a further 3000 died of injuries and disease shortly after.

While, most survivors fled to the mainland, some did remain. Officials like the secretary, receiver general and port officers were soon ordered back to work. Trade and privateering was also revived and Spanish treasure was soon filling the coffers once more.

But disaster struck again when a great fire broke out in a warehouse on January 9, 1703. The fire spread quickly, aided by large quantities of gunpowder and other flammable material stored in the various areas of town. The narrow streets and the close proximity of buildings made salvaging almost impossible. By midnight the entire town was reduced to ashes. As noted tersely in the log of one the boat masters, "Port Royal burnt, all but the Castle."

Following the fire, a contentious Bill was proposed that would shift all commerce to the growing centre of Kingston. Merchants were in favour of relocating as they claimed Kingston was healthier and safer than Port Royal. Seamen and sailors countered that Kingston was too difficult for their ships to access. Afier much argument, the Bill was rescinded and both cities were left to develop side by side. However, Port Royal was never to recover as an important commercial core. A series of humcanes in 1712, 1722, 1726 and 1744 damaged the town to such an extent that it never recovered its former significance as a merchant epicentre. For the rest of the century Port Royal's role and importance shifted as it became the main British naval centre in the Caribbean.

Port Royal - 18th century to the present

Port Royal's role as a British Naval Station extends from 1713 to 1905. During this time, the Station grew in size and tactical efficiency and Port Royal began to shelter fleets for offensive operations.

From 1715 to 1763, a dockyard was founded and consistently expanded in order to facilitate large navy ships. By 1770 it was properly equipped to handle trans-Atlantic voyages. Between 1763 and 1815, the dockyard was efficiently administrated and a new careening wharf was built south of the existing one. Naval operations officially ceased in 1905. Today, Port Royal is a small fishing village with a population of about 2000.

As the focus of this submission is the sunken city of Port Royal, on the surface, there is little to immediately suggest the town's turbulent past. Most of Port Royal's secrets lay deep under the water and considerable work has been conducted on the section that remains submerged.

Physical description

Early excavations by Edwin Link uncovered two small areas near the King's Warehouse and Fort James in 1956 and 1959. In 1960, Norman Scott excavated around Fort Carlisle. In 1966 and 1968, Robert Mam excavated remains of the fish and meat markets, two taverns, and three ships located along the western edge of the city. In the seventies, Antony Priddy conducted land excavations on of a block of lower-class houses and recovered thousands of artifacts and architectural features."

The most extensive research was carried out from 1981 to 1990 by the Nautical Archaeology Program of Texas University, in cooperation with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT). This excavation concentrated on the submerged remains on Lime Street, near its intersection with Queen and High Streets in the commercial center of the town. At present, eight buildings have been investigated resulting in detailed data and an unrivalled collection of in situ artifacts.

The construction features five of the investigated buildings exemplify the variety of architectural styles found in the city center. Some were well-built, multi-storied brick structures, while others were simple, earth-bound, hastily erected frame buildings." The following is a brief description of some of the findings of the five investigated buildings.

Building 1 is a well-built brick building, measuring 53 ft. wide and 47 ft. deep. It consists of six ground-floor rooms divided into three, two-room units, each of which appear to have housed a distinct business or activity. The volume of fallen bricks on the floors and the remains of stairwell components showed that there was also at least one upper storey, which probably held living quarters.

The front rooms are aligned with the south side of Lime Street. They are connected, respectively, by an interior wooden doorway to three back rooms, which were added later. Plastered, whitewashed walls and heningbone patterned brick floors comprise the three front rooms. The bricks of the back-room floors were laid out end-to-end.

From the large assortment of leather scraps, shoe soles, a wooden lathe, and some planks, it appears that this unit housed a combination cobbler/wood turner's shop. Large quantities of cut animal bones and sea turtle shells suggest also that butchering and/or food preparation occurred in the unit's back area. Also, a large number of recovered artifacts associated with the selling and consumption of alcohol suggest that this unit appears to have been used as a tavern. At least 60 dark-coloured glass liquor bottles, as well as jugs, tankards and kegs, were recovered from this area.

Building 2 is a poorly preserved frame building, with few walls excavated. There is no evidence of brick flooring, but there is a fragment of a plaster floor and wood planking for a floor. Building 2 faced Lime Street, but its poor condition allows for neither its size nor function to be determined at present.

Building 3 is timber-framed, about 38 ft. wide and about 27 ft. deep. It has raised sills on a mortar foundation, with intempted floor sills at the corners and major intersections. The large post size suggests that Building 3 had two stories. The stairs were possibly located at the rear.

Two front rooms face onto Lime Street and two back rooms are possibly extensions of the yard. The remains of an exterior kitchen, or 'cook room,' was also revealed. A large number of unused white clay tobacco pipes, corked and monogrammed wine bottles and various measuring scales and weights suggest that the building was possibly used as a storage area for the various activities in the adjacent buildings and for the nearby outdoor market.

Building 4/5 is a large and rambling complex consisting of at least six rooms and three back yards. The complex is approximately 65 ft. wide and over 40 ft. long and represents at least two, possibly three, houses or combination houses/shops.

The architectural layout of Building 4 was disrupted by the earthquake, which badly affected several areas of the building, including remains of doorways. Horizontal displacements have also skewed the floor and walls several feet. Interpretation of the building is further complicated by the 70 ft. long remains of a ship that washed over from the harbour in the tidal wave that followed the earthquake. It ploughed through Building 4's front wall, and came to rest in the middle of the rooms. The assemblage of domestic/food preparation artifacts in Building 4 suggests it was some kind of residence-accommodation perhaps for the servants/slaves, who worked in Building 5.

Building 5 has a separate entrance, plastered floor, and collection of pewter plates which may suggest it was used for entertaining or serving food to patrons. Stacks of about 25 pewter plates found in a cupboard under the remains of the staircase and an assortment of unused white clay smoking pipes and uncorked glass bottles located near the door indicate the possibility that this area also functioned as a storage space.

One room contained artifacts associated with food preparation, such as cast-iron and brass cooking pots, as well as a large brass strainer and a silver spice grater. Remains of a hearth, oven and several measuring weights in the old English wheat system were also found in this area indicating the presence of kitchen with bread production.

On land, the major areas of the town remain surrounded by perimeter walls and separated into several distinct quarters. Within each of these sections there are some visible structures that span the entire range of Port Royal's history. They are described briefly below.

The Naval Hospital

The Naval Hospital was rebuilt in 181 8 replacing an earlier structure destroyed by fire in 1815. Construction was carried out largely by African slaves supervised by the royal engineers of the British Army. It is a rare example of a building that used pre-fabricated cast iron units imported from England. These iron columns are attached on a base beneath the structure in a "raft-foundation." This gives added stability and strength to resist hurricanes and earthquakes. Currently, the building houses the National Museum of Archaeology as well as storage, lab and oflice space.

The Naval Dockyard

Several structures in the dockyard remain today including ruins of the coaling wharf and the naval storehouse, as well as the Admiralty Houses built in the late 1800s to accommodate senior naval personnel. The foundations of St. Paul's church (1682) have also been found about seven inches below current ground level. Future excavation at this site could reveal streets and houses of the pre-earthquake Port Royal.

The Village of Port Royal

Today, only two historic buildings remain in the modem town. These are the gaol-house, built in 1710 from large cut stone and timber with brick door and window cornices, and McFarlane's Bar, constructed in the 19th century. The bar has a street-level gallery, sash windows and louvers on the upper floor.

The Playing Field and Chocolata Hole

The current playing field is identified as the former site of Lime Street, one of the most important streets in the pre-earthquake city. Lime Street is in fact continued underwater and is well preserved, with major significance as an archaeological site. Chocolata Hole was a bay in front of Fort Charles until it was filled in sometime after the earthquake. On the east side of Chocolata Hole is St. Peter's church (1725) and the former Military Hospital Laboratory.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

At its height, Port Royal represented the global centre of the British merchant trade in the 17Ih century. Typical of an English colonial port town, yet unique in its unprecedented consumer wealth, carousing buccaneers, and thriving middle class, Port Royal was unparalleled anywhere in the world. In 1692, without warning, the dazzling city fell to a great earthquake which engulfed the town in a matter of minutes leaving behind nothing but a detailed and permanent record buried under the sea.

As the only sunken city in the Western Hemisphere, the assemblage of buildings both on land and underwater illustrate a vivid picture of life during the era of colonial expansion in the new world. The Outstanding Universal Value of this site can be justified through the use of criteria (iv), (v) and (vi) as discussed below.

Criteria (iv): be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history

During its short-lived glory days, Port Royal was at once a typical 17th century port city, a major center for urban trades, and a stronghold for pirates and privateers.

The underwater assemblage of excavated buildings in the sunken city is an excellent example of an architectural ensemble representing everyday life in a colonial port town. Combining the cache of historical documents with the underwater excavations has allowed a detailed reconstruction of this significant stage in human history to emerge. Study of the buildings and landscape has contributed significantly to understanding 17th century town-planning, architecture, diet, cooking activities, and other aspects of daily life.

For example, from the documentary and archaeological evidence much can be gleaned about Port Royal's habits of dress, eating, and recreation. Inhabitants dressed in a manner that closely followed the fashion trends in London. In 1687, John Taylor wrote that Port Royal's merchants were living, "to the height of splendour, in full ease and plenty, being sumptuously arrayed." The men, as were in vogue during the reign of Charles II, wore Turkish garments and fashionable jewellery. Merchants' wives wore long tucked-up skirts with pointed waists and large lace collars. According to historical inventories, many different materials were sold in town including; plain silk, flowered silk, Persian silk, plain and coloured calico, fine women's hose, ribbons and cotton gloves.

Clothing for slaves was much less elaborate. White indentured servants dressed in plain canvas drawers, costing two shillings a pair. A shirt could be purchased for four shillings, a jacket for one shilling, six pence. They may also have owned inexpensive stockings, shoes and a neck cloth. Slaves wore coarse and cheap clothing cut from brown Ozenbrigge, a type of inexpensive German linen. Female slaves were probably also clad in cast-off clothing from their mistresses.

By all accounts, the people of Port Royal ate and drank well and copiously. Wine and beer was abundant. One resident wrote, "our drink is chiefly Madeira wine, lemmonadoes, punch, and brandy...cacao-drink, sugar-drink and rap made of molasses." The food was varied, some produced locally and much arriving with the ships from overseas. Three separate markets were supervised by special town officials. A central market on High Street sold herbs, fruit and fowl. At the west end of High Street was a market for meat including beef, mutton, veal, lamb and local turtle. Neat to the wharf, a third market sold fresh fish.

With its soldiers, sailors, slaves, pirates and prostitutes, it is little wonder that Port Royal had a reputation for bawdiness and amusement. Attending church was a social diversion as much as a spiritual activity. Other forms of recreation included playing dominoes or strolling down the Palisadoes in the evenings. In town, dne could frequent any of the numerous inns and taverns. Some establishments held cock-fighting or bull and bear baiting and several had billiards rooms. The census of 1680 also mentions a brothel establishment belonging to a John Stan; containing 21 white women and two black women.

Another significant aspect of Port Royal during this time is the role it played as the hub for pirates in the West Indies. This brief but dynamic era in human history resulted from illegitimate but lucrative opportunities for common seamen to attack European merchant ships and seize their valuable cargo. Piracy was sometimes given "legal" status by colonial powers, especially England and the Netherlands. Known as "privateering," contracts or letters of marque were awarded to ship captains who were then permitted to raid enemy strongholds in the name of the Crown. The term "Buccaneers" was also used to describes those privateers localized to the Caribbean who attacked the Spanish, French and Dutch ships.

In the 1660s, privateering was becoming so attractive to colonists that merchant-ships and plantations were suffering from a shortage of labour. Buccaneer ships returning to town were welcomed by a gun salute which also became a signal to stop working and to head for the docks to view the loot. The moment the prize anchored, officials would board the ship to confiscate a fifth of the booty for the King, a tenth for the Admiralty and a twelfth for the Governor.

Some of the famous buccaneers based at Port Royal included Henry Morgan, Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach and 'Calico Jack' Rackham. Many first-hand accounts survive describing the antics of the seamen carousing in the streets of Port Royal bearing plundered trinkets from all over the world.

Consequently, Port Royal became the premier location for goods and slave trade in the new world. The rapid expansion of trade in the 17th century caused European merchants to quickly establish themselves either personally or through their representatives and merchant marine activity grew rapidly. Imported products included; flour, wine, spirits, salt, beef, fish, various fruits and vegetables. A wide variety of English goods such as cloth, iron work and naval stores were also imported.

The re-export trade dealt with goods manufactured in England, Europe and the North American colonies. A section of this re-export trading included illicit arrangements with Spanish American colonies, but there was also legal trading with the various English, French and Dutch possessions in the Caribbean during times of peace and war.

Port Royal was also the auction centre for the slave trade in the Caribbean. A gun was fired to give notice of the sale and business was conducted on board the ships or on the wharfs. While, no personal account from an African slave is to be found, there is one from the white indentured servant, John Coad. He describes how he was taken aboard a ship in England with 100 other convicts. They were shut "under deck in a very small room where we could not lay ourselves down without lying upon one another." When they reached Port Royal it was discovered that 22 convicts had died on the journey.

Thus the archaeological assemblage of Port Royal, as evidenced through both documentary and physical materials, provides a clear and detailed picture of life in the 17th century, a window into the pirate life, and a clear notion of goods that were being traded internationally.

Criteria (v): be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or seause which is representative of a culture or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change

The underwater city of Port Royal is one of the world's best representations of a people and way of life that was lost due to the impact of irreversible environmental change. Known as the 'city that sank' a great earthquake swallowed the majority of town into the ocean one fatehl June morning in 1692. The earthquake claimed many lives but also preserved many aspects of the inhabitants' daily existence at that moment in time.

Because of this, Port Royal is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Caribbean and a unique site worldwide. In contrast to many other archaeological digs, investigation of Port Royal has yielded much more than simply trash and discarded items. Since, the town only existed 37 years before destruction by the earthquake, it is one of the few catastrophic sites where cultural features and material are found more or less undisturbed. An unusually large amount of perishable, organic artifacts have been recovered, preserved in the oxygen-depleted underwater environment, including some human remains.

Notably, this history is intricately linked with the topography and geography of the area. Port Royal is located at the vulnerable end of the Palisadoes spit which is formed as loose sand and gravel from rivers in the Blue Mountains is deposited into the Caribbean Sea. From here, winds and a strong westerly current cany the sediment towards the cays off Kingston. These cays, which are the surface projections of an extensive underwater shelf, slow down the current and the river water is deposited around and in between them.

Breaking waves also add to the sedimentary material. The waves encourage precipitation of lime carbonate which creates a type of cement loosely binding all the other materials together. Thus, the Palisadoes peninsula was initially a series of these small cays which were connected over the last 400 years into a continuous strip by deposition of muddy sand, silt and gravel.'8 Predictably, land formed in this manner from unconsolidated material is highly unstable especially given the very steep slope at the water's edge. So, it was during the earthquake of 1692 that this fluidized layer contributed to the landslide wherein the northern section of the cay slipped down and outwards horizontally instead of toppling over vertically. This outward movement preserved much of the city remarkably intact as it sank. Presently, it is estimated that 13 acres lie buried and only a small percentage of this land has been fully excavated.

Since 1692, there has been very little coastal movement on the north side of the spit, probably because the harbour has inhibited the passage of the gravel-laden waters. To the south and west however, much growth has occurred with each decade adding its contribution of layers and continuing to change the shape of Port Royal. Currently the Palisadoes rest about 2 to 6 feet above sea level. The south side of the spit is sand and shale beaches supporting cacti and shrubs, while the northern side bears a mangrove coastline.

The great earthquake was not the only environmental disaster to affect Port Royal. From 1597-1994 the city has been hit by at least 47 hurricanes and major storms, nine earthquakes of major or moderate intensity and two major fires. It is a testament to the tenacity and courage of the residents of Port Royal that they continue to live there even to the present day.

As a city battered by natural disasters, yet continuing to stand, Port Royal epitomizes a human settlement interacting with an environment inflicting irreversible and constant change.

Criteria (vi) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance 

Seventeenth-century Port Royal can be directly and tangibly associated with the origin of two of the most significant events in human history, the wnsumer revolution and the industrial revolution.

The consumer revolution refers to the period from the late 16th to 19th century in which there was a marked increase in consumption of goods and products by individuals from different economic and social backgrounds. It allowed a diverse group of people to purchase similar items that previously may have only been available to those the upper middle classes. This revolution allowed individuals who were not necessarily wealthy to indulge, and for the first time consume, products that were luxury as well as necessity. The consumer revolution was manifested mainly in Europe and its colonies, and may also be seen as a driving force for the subsequent Industrial Revolution.

This Industrial Revolution was a period roughly defined from the 17th to 19th century when major changes in agriculture, manufacturing and transportation had a profound effect on the socio-economic conditions in Britain.

The onset of the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in human society; almost every aspect of daily life was eventually influenced in some way. It was characterized by transition from an economy largely based on manual labour to machine-based manufacturing. This process eventually spread throughout Europe, North America and the world, continuing today as industrialization.

Each of these significant events represented a massive cultural shift from previous norms and helped shape current concepts of consumerism and global trade. Port Royal was one of the first places to display indicators of the burgeoning consumer revolution, and it was the main export hub for supplies and raw materials that were required to set the wheels of the industrial revolution in motion. In this way it is directly and tangibly related to these events of outstanding universal value.

As evidenced by the various probate inventories and material artifacts recovered from the underwater city, the citizens were consuming a large number of items for luxury and not simply necessity. Materials such as secular books, silver plate, spices, porcelain and fine cloth could all be found in Port Royal. Furthermore, the prevalence and consumption of these luxury items here was not matched by comparable groups in England or North America for another 20 to 40 years. This suggests that unique social and historical circumstances at Port Royal facilitated the early adoption of consumerist behaviour which was later transferred widely throughout the English-colonial world.

Indicators of this consumerist behaviour include social climbing and the display of wealth, both prevalent attributes in Port Royal. A variety of reasons are suggested for this behaviour. The relatively short lifespan and young median age of Port Royal's citizens may have induced a high risk/fast reward mentality. As well, since Port Royal was a boomtown, built in a very short time-span, it lacked the established family hierarchies and traditional social tiers that defined other English cities.

According to historians and archaeologists, people of low to middle income and social standing should not have been purchasing small trinkets and items of luxury in the 1680s-90s. The consensus among scholars, who have studied consumer behaviour in England and the colonies, is that widespread middle class consumption of nonutilitarian consumer goods did not begin until sometime between 1720 and 1740. But in Port Royal, even those of modest means such as a small-time merchant, inn-keeper or carpenter had and displayed these times freely.

On a larger scale, this increasing consumer demand eventually contributed to the impetus for mass-produced, machine-manufactured items that defined the industrial revolution. In order to facilitate this large-scale production, raw materials in the forms of metals, goods and capital was needed and all of it passed through Port Royal on its way to Britain.

Recall that Port Royal was first and foremost a trading city and the 17th century was a time of enormous change and expansion in the realm of international trade. As knowledge of the globe increased, so too did the opportunity for increased economic transactions. With that came an increased need for wealth. As European mercantile companies sent out more vessels on voyages, cash was required to cover expenses. This means that cash flow was weighted towards purchase of commodities and ship outfitting expenses, which culminated in Port Royal's harbour.

Records indicate that between 1686 and 1691, 240 vessels arrived from England and Africa and 363 came in from North American colonies. The vessels carried a total tonnage of almost three times that of vesselsfrom North American colonies. And these statistics do not include the many unrecorded vessels which catered to privateers and smugglers. Various Navigation Acts were implemented to funnel all proceeds from trade, directly or indirectly, into the coffers of the mother country. This put Jamaica directly in the middle of a very lucrative trade system and thus it began to provide the materials, capital and man-power that were required for the early stages of the industrial revolution.

Finally, it is worth noting that Port Royal may have been the most multi-cultural English city of its time in terms of the nationalities and religions of its citizen. It was seen by many as the logical rendezvous point for all manner of people and occupations. This became increasingly true as a result of the growing mercantile endeavours of the city's English and European population.

English and Anglicans were the dominant majority, while West African slaves constituted the largest minority. Port Royal also contained a significant population of Jewish merchants, who travelled from places such as Suriname, Brazil and London. English and Scottish Quakers were present as well as people of Asian and North African descent. The buccaneers were of Irish, Spanish, Dutch and French origin. Indigenous peoples from both South and North America were also present, often as crewmen on pirate ships. Considering that the 17th century environment was not particularly tolerant of religious and cultural differences, in Port Royal this melding of people from all comers of the globe carries significant universal value.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


Port Royal is the only authentic sunken city in the Western Hemisphere. Combined with its wealth of archives and documentary material, the value attributed to its heritage is credible and genuine in every way. Reliable records can be found from the 17th through to the 19th century. These information sources include diaries, store and warehouse inventories, itemized merchant's lists, captain's logs and probate lists which describe in infinite detail the nature, and historical context of the cultural heritage of Port Royal's citizens.

Many of the materials found in the underwater city of Port Royal, are perfect expressions of authenticity, found just exactly as they were originally being used or where they were stored. Cast-iron skillets and pots were still in the hearth with charred wood from the fire concreted to their surfaces. Stacks of pewter plates were found as they fell from their storage space under the stairs in what is surmised to be the serving area of one building. The remains of children were found among the broken walls of their home. Also, uncovered were the remains of barrels containing the trash of the day, including the trimmings of a man's beard and hair in a yard area. Many ceramics were found intact or broken where they fell.

In terms of authenticity in location, several maps from the 16th and 17th century alternately show Port Royal as a cay or connected to the main peninsula. Similarly, the progressive filling-in of Chocolata Hole expresses an authentic change in the landscape over time.

In 1996 the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT) designated Port Royal as Protected National Heritage, meaning that the town as a homogenous whole is important to identity and legacy of the Jamaican people. This designation dictates that whatever development takes place within the township is sensitive to the area's historical significance and respects authentic architecture, culture and spirit of the town.


Today Port Royal is a living community of over 2000 members. The wholeness and intactness of the continued cultural heritage here is illustrated by several factors.

First, the global significance of the property can be measured quantifiably by the abundant historical records and the accessibility of a detailed and immaculately preserved archaeological site in the underwater city. Furthermore, the area serves as an interactive research centre, with the old Naval Hospital housing the National Museum of Historical Archaeolo-gv. and the Centre for Archaeological and Conservation Research. The Centre comprises some 50 individuals who engage in diverse areas of research, analysis, support services, and public relations. In the future, the intention is to provide additional facilities and staff to maximize research and public education programs.

The property also meets the conditions of integrity in being of adequate size to ensure a complete representation of the features which convey its significance as a colonial and trading center in the 17th century.

The terrestrial portion of Port Royal contains several visible structures from post-earthquake Port Royal. In addition, as seen by the subterranean discovery and excavation of St. Paul's Church, there may be more of the original Port Royal ruins underground which may have been buried as the earth shifted and changed with the various earthquakes and hurricanes. These could provide a rich potential source for further research.

Port Royal does suffer from some threats to its integrity. Notably, because of its peculiar location on the end of the Palisadoes peninsula, Port Royal is extremely vulnerable to damage caused by natural disasters. Thus, active steps are being taken to ensure that all recovered artifacts are properly documented, restored and preserved to ensure that the history and cultural heritage will be available for future generations to enjoy.

Tourism development, poor local infrastructure and a non-regulated fishing industry also present threats to the integrity of this property. The JNHT is currently working with local stakeholders, government, and the Port Royal community to address these issues and ensure proper management and sustainable solutions. Working towards conservation and World Heritage Status for Port Royal is a desirable mechanism for building community participation, and will serve to initiate awareness of cultural preservation among the local, regional and global populations.

Comparison with other similar properties


There is no national or regional comparison for Port Royal as it is the only authentic sunken city in the Western Hemisphere. In terms of geography, the Caribbean is under-represented on the World Heritage List. Jamaica currently has only one site on its tentative list and no sites with World Heritage Status. The addition of Port Royal to the Tentative List would be beneficial for the country and the region and could serve as a centre of exploration for archaeologists and nautical researchers around the world.

International and Inscribed sites

On an international scale there are very few sites that may be compared to Port Royal. There are three catastrophic sites as well as several shipwreck sites that may hold similarities. These are described briefly below.

Pompei and Herculaneum, Italy: Arguably, one of the most famous catastrophic sites is Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy. During the eruption of the Mount Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD, these two ancient Roman cities were covered in ash and lava. Several of the villas in the area as well as the commercial town centers were completely engulfed, immediately preserving many aspects of daily life in situ. Archaeological excavation here is ongoing and the area has been open to the public since the mid-18th century. Pompei and Herculaneum are World Heritage Sites nominated under the cultural criteria (iii) (iv) and (v). While, they are excellent examples of preserved in situ sites, they are not contemporaneous with Port Royal and the two are incomparable in terms of history, culture, geography etc..

Ozette, USA: Around 1700, a mudslide completely engulfed a Makah Native Indian village near Lake Ozette in Washington D.C. The mudslide preserved several houses and their contents which remained buried until 1970, when tidal erosion revealed the front edge of a wooden long house. Subsequent excavation lasted 11 years and produced over 55,000 artifacts, spanning a period of occupation around 2000 years. The dig represents the most complete recovery of items illustrating life in an ancient Northwest coastal Indian village. The recovered artifacts shed light on the daily activities of the Makah people from whaling, fishing and seal hunting, to toys, games and tools. Ozette is not a World Heritage Site and does not appear on the tentative list for the USA.

Kekova, Turkey: The partly sunken ruins of an ancient town and dockyard destroyed by an earthquake can be found on the northern side of the Turkish island of Kekova. The earthquake occurred sometime during the 2nd century and the partially sunken city reflects the Byzantine Empire which rebuilt it. While, both Port Royal cay and Kekova island suffered damage from a major earthquake, resulting in a sunken city, the differences between the two sites outweigh the similarities. Kekova is on the World Heritage Tentative List for Turkey.

Red Bay, Canada: Red Bay comprises the largest known 16th century Basque whaling station in North America. The assemblage of submerged and terrestrial archaeological sites represents an early example of economic exploitation of North American natural resources by European commercial interests. Submerged cultural resources found in the harbour include well-preserved remains of a number of vessels that illustrate northern Iberian ship and boat-building technology and whaling activity of the 16th century. The remains of about a dozen shore stations comprising workshops, dwellings and wharves, represent the industrial processes of whaling to produce whale oil prized by the European market. A cemetery, other burial sites, and lookouts are also present. Red Bay is listed on the Tentative List for Canada.

While all these sites have some similar elements, none may be directly comparable to Port Royal which is unique among global cultural heritage sites.