With its initial occupation dating back to AD 400, Spring Bay is one of the first known settlements on Saba. It is one of the few places on the island where it was possible to land canoes. Spring Bay owes its name to the freshwater spring that flowed in the area until approximately 1950. This was one of the three potable springs of Saba.
Between 1987 and 1992, the site Spring Bay was studied by means of archaeological surveys and excavations by Leiden University. Three different sites were identified, Spring Bay 1, 2 and 3.
Spring Bay 1 was not continuously occupied since the initial settlement. The site has therefore been divided into three phases. Spring Bay 1A is a Saladoid occupation, dated between AD 400 and 600. Spring Bay 1B is a (Mamoran) Troumassoid occupation from the same time period as Spring Bay 2 and 3 and dated between AD 800 and 1200 and Spring Bay 1C is dated between AD 1300 and 1450. This means the site Spring Bay 1C was occupied at the same time as the nearby settlement Kelbey’s Ridge 2. This could explain why the Chicoid ceramics found at Spring Bay 1C are so similar to those found at Kelbey’s Ridge.
The site Spring Bay 2 is located near the spring. Likely, the site was used to collect fresh water and clean cooking utensils. The artefact assemblage for this site is different from that of Spring Bay 1 and 3. Most of the finds from Spring Bay 2 were pottery, whereas finds from Spring Bay 1 and 3 showed more variation in material remains. The finds from Spring Bay 1 and 3 include bone tools and ornaments, human remains, and threepointed objects or zemis for example.
Spring Bay 3 is dated between AD 800 and 1200. During this period, the population on Saba was at a peak, with an estimated 200 inhabitants. A zemi that was found on this site, shows that the occuopants of this settlement were trading with other islands at that time: the zemi is made of calcirudite, a type of limestone that can be found on St. Martin.
Zemi found at Spring Bay 3 (photo: Hofman & Hoogland 2016).
Photos top: Spring Bay (Hofman & Hoogland, 2016).
Text by Laura van de Pol, based on original published research (see further reading).
Espersen, R.E., 2017. “Better Than We”: Landscapes and Materialities of Race, Class, and Gender in Pre-Emancipation Colonial Saba, Dutch Caribbean [Doctoral Thesis, Leiden University]. Leiden University Scholarly Publications.
Hofman C.L., M.L.P. Hoogland & H.M. Van der Klift, 1987. An archaeological investigation of Spring Bay, Saba. Leiden: Faculty of Archaeology.
Hofman, C. L., & J.B. Haviser, 2015. Managing our past into the future. Archaeological heritage management in the Dutch Caribbean. Sidestone Press.
Hofman, C.L. & M.L.P. Hoogland, 2016. Saba’s first inhabitants; A story of 3300 years of Amerindian occupation prior to European contact (1800 BC- AD 1492). Sidestone Press, Leiden.
Mol, A.A.A., M.L.P. Hoogland & C.L. Hofman, 2015. Remotely Local: Ego-networks of Late Pre-colonial (AD 1000–1450) Saba, North-eastern Caribbean. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 22(1), 275–305.