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stepping stones of maritime history


Port Royal
Port Royal was originally a Spanish harbor called Caguaya, the name given by the first visitors the Taino Indians. Spain maintained control over the island for 146 years, until the English invasion of 1655.At that time the city was renamed Port Royal. Several fortresses were built and the town became the capital of Jamaica until 1692.
Because the new government lacked the defenses

to protect the city against the Spanish, they invited

privateers and pirates to help.Port Royal soon

becamea focal point of raidingagainst the Spanish

empirein the West.At the same time the city quickly

grew into abig commercial harbor.

On7 June 1692 the city was hit by an earthquake.

Liquefaction caused two third of the cityto sink into

the harbor. This was aproximately 21 ha. together

with2000 dwellings.

After the 1692 disaster, Port Royal's commercial
role was steadily taken over by Kingston.

The Port Royal Harbour shoreline


The first excavation of the site was in

the yearsbetween 1965-1967.

In 1981 several campaigns were

executed by the TAMU field school.
With this research, it is now possible

to reconstruct the everyday life in the

English colonial city in great detail.


Location of the shipwreck Ranger, sunk in 1722, within the Port Royal site

Location of the shipwreck Ranger, sunk in 1722, within the Port Royal site



There are plans for Port Royal to redevelop the smallfishing town into a tourist destination with thearchaeological findings of the site at the heart of theattractions.

UNESCO capacity building programme

In November 2012 UNESCOused the siteas a training areafor the Caribbeans first Underwater Cultural Heritage trainingworkshop.



Port Royal was a city in southeastern Jamaica. It was once known as"the wickedest city in the world". In 1692 it was destroyed by an earthquake and is nowoneof the largest submergedarchaelogical sites in the Caribbean.

Port Royal before 1692


The Port Royal site is well preserved. It is considered as the most important archaeological site in the western hemisphere.

The site is within a protected area regulated by the Institute of Jamaica(1879), Jamaica National Trust Commission Act (1958) and the Jamaica National HeritageTrustAct (1985)

Excavation area old Port Royal


References on line
- Port Royal and its potentials (pdf)
- Managementplan for the Ranger shipwreck site (pdf)
- Pirate shipwrecks of Port Royal (blog of graduate student Chad Gulseth and his team from the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University, June 2012)

East Indiaman

Roman structures