Fall Field School 2023: Antigua

ECU DSO, Ryan Bradley, inspects the gudgeon from the suspected wreck of Lyon, ex. Beaumont.


The Program in Maritime Studies held its fall semester 2023 field school in English Harbour, Antigua. Working in partnership with the Antigua & Barbuda National Parks Authority (NPA) and a team of archaeologists from the University of the Antilles in Martinique (UA), the focus of the field school was assisting in the excavation of an 18th century shipwreck located in Nelson’s Dockyard National Park. Previous surveys by the NPA and UA identified the site in 2013, and subsequent test excavations linked the shipwreck to historical sources that note the presence of the French-built 900-ton ship Lyon, formerly the French East India Company ship Beaumont, wrecked in English Harbour. Lyon was captured by HMS Maidstone in 1778 off the coast of Virginia after transporting much needed supplies to American forces during the American War for Independence. Captain Gardner of HMS Maidstone brought Lyon to the Royal Navy dockyard in Antigua as a prize where the ship was scuttled.

Dr. Jen McKinnon discusses the ship construction of the wreck with Dr. Jean-Sebastian Guibert.

The ECU team, led by Dr. Lynn Harris and Dr. Jen McKinnon, along with staff and students participated in the excavation of Lyon. The overall project was led by Dr. Jean-Sebastian Guibert, an associate professor at UA, and Dr. Christopher Waters of the NPA. Dr. Guibert, Dr. Waters, and their team discovered the wreck in 2013 and additional archaeologists from France and Martinique collaborated with the ECU field school to excavate two units and a test trench on the site.

ECU graduate students snorkel around Fort Berkeley, Antigua.

Dockyard Documentation

Additional focus for the ECU team was placed on documenting historic structures within the Naval Dockyard. These sites included the imposing Fort Berkeley, the stone quay, capstan house, and heave down blocks that were used as part of the careenage. Additional fortification sites were also documented around the dockyard to assess the structures for historic preservation purposes. In concert with the field school activities, the ECU team also led UNESCO training workshops for local divers to instruct them on foundational archaeological practices and methodologies. These workshops aided in growing local capacity for the self-management of submerged archaeological sites.

This project produced a collection of 3D recordings from the Naval Dockyard that are available online.

Several news outlets also reported on the field school:

Work underway to protect 200-year-old Antiguan shipwreck