3 Heritage Sites In Jamaica
You may have wondered where the soul-penetrating and revolutionary music genre Reggae, or its top artiste, Bob Marley, was birth. And may have wondered also about the country with the most “wickedest city on Earth”. Well, in case you have, the country is no other but Jamaica, a Caribbean nation, located within the Central American continent. The capital city is Kingston, and is home to the Bob Marley Museum, built and dedicated to the world acclaimed “king of Reggae Music”, Bob Marley. Such a beauty as seen in few museums possesses this interesting monument.
In Jamaica, is found the magical place, the Underwater City of Port Royal. Port Royal itself, being referred to as the “wickedest city on Earth”, because of the images of marauding pirates, ruthless and daring naval conquests, looting, riches, destruction and devastation it conjures in the mind of visitors. An earthquake consumed this city, at the height of its glittering wealth in the 17th century, and nearly all the cities sank into the sea. A series of fires and hurricanes which followed caused the city to remain underwater to this day. And this is what it is today; the Underwater City of Port Royal. The site is such a terrifyingly wonderful one to see, and found only in a few nations on Earth.
So many other important cultural and historical sites in this wonderful country include Blenheim (in Hannover), Roxborough (in Manchester), Moore Town (in Portland), 32 Market (in St. Ann), San Sharpe Square (in St. James), St. Peter’s Church (in Clarendon), and more.
Blue and John Crow Mountains
The cultural and natural heritage of the Blue and John Crow Mountains comprises 26,252 ha of tropical, montane rainforest within the larger Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountain ranges, located in the eastern part of Jamaica in the Caribbean. These two ranges cover approximately 20% of the island’s total landmass and are recognised for their biodiversity significance within the Caribbean Region. The property spans elevations from 850m to 2,256m asl and is surrounded by a buffer zone of some 28,494 ha. The high elevation, rugged landscape and the north and south-facing slopes of the mountains of the property have resulted in a wide variety of habitat types with nine ecological communities within the upper montane forest of the Blue Mountains (over 1,000m) and John Crow Mountains (over 600m). These include a unique Mor Ridge Forest characterised by a deep layer of acidic humus with bromeliads and endangered tree species. Above 1,800m, the vegetation of the Blue Mountains is more stunted with some species restricted to these altitudes. Above 2,000m the forest is known as Elfin Forest due to the stunted and gnarled appearance of the trees which are heavily coated with epiphytes including hanging mosses, ferns and tiny orchids.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains property lies within the Jamaican Moist Forests Global 200 priority eco-region, and is part of one of the 78 most irreplaceable protected areas for the conservation of the world’s amphibian, bird and mammal species. Furthermore it coincides with a Centre of Plant Diversity; an Endemic Bird Area and contains two of Jamaica’s five Alliance for Zero Extinction sites. There is an exceptionally high proportion of endemic plant and animal species found in the property, Jamaica having evolved separately from other landmasses. In addition, the property hosts a number of globally endangered species, including several frog and bird species.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains property offered refuge to Maroons (former enslaved peoples) and therefore preserves the tangible cultural heritage associated with the Maroon story. This includes settlements, trails, viewpoints, hiding places, etc. that form the Nanny Town Heritage Route. The forests and their rich natural resources provided everything the Maroons needed to survive, to fight for their freedom, and to nurture their culture. Maroon communities still hold strong spiritual associations with these mountains, expressed through exceptional intangible manifestations.
The Underwater City of Port Royal
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.
Seville Heritage Park
Seville Heritage Park is one of Jamaica’s most significant cultural heritage sites and the area is regarded as the genesis of modern Jamaica. The site has been occupied since prehistoric times, and includes the archaeological remains of the indigenous Amerindian (Taino) village of Maima, the 16th century Spanish settlement of Sevilla la Nueva, the post-1655 British sugar plantation known as New Seville, and the distinct landscape and flora that emerged as a result of these interventions.
The encounter, co-existence, and merging of Taino, Europeans and Africans at this site was the initiation of the racial and cultural diversity that characterizes the current Jamaican demography and gives credence to the National Mono, Out of Many, One People.
During the 16th to 19th centuries, sugar emerged as one the most lavish and successful industries in Jamaica, the Caribbean and the Americas. Notably, Seville was one of the first sites in the region to have received a steady flow of African slaves working the sugar plantations under the Spaniards. The trend further increased under the British occupation. At a time when sugar was regarded as the jewel in the British Crown, the scale and grandeur of the New World plantations like Seville, defined the social and economic opulence associated with the industry.
Seville Heritage Park is also illustrative of an environmental and societal evolution that is distinctly Caribbean, but owes its emergence to the African-European cultural coalescence. It epitomizes the shifting ideologies of Spain and Britain in their quest to develop the ideal sugar plantation plan, and illustrates how the characteristics of the local people and ecology significantly affected that ideal.
Seville represents all aspects of the process of colonization including the initial contact period, expansion of territory and the resulting goods and slave trade. These events are of great global significance, and ultimately contribute to one universal human heritage.