In 1975, in a remote corner of Haiti, Dr. William Hodges, a medical missionary and founder of the Hôpital le Bon Samaritain in Haiti, stumbled almost unexpectedly upon the ruins of the long-lost and nearly forgotten Spanish city of Puerto Real.
The city had existed on the northern coast of what is today Haiti between 1503 and 1578, as an outpost of the Spanish empire inhabited by Spaniards, American Indians and Africans. Abandoned for more than four centuries, Puerto Real is today covered by agricultural and grazing fields near the town of Limonade, an invisible but archaeologically tangible remnant of a very early chapter in European-American history – the rise and decline of the Spanish empire in the Caribbean.
Hodges, a medical missionary and lifelong avocational scholar of the Spanish presence in Haiti, discovered Puerto Real while searching for an even earlier remnant of the Spanish empire – the lost fort of La Navidad. La Navidad had been established by Christopher Columbus in 1492 when his flagship, the Santa Maria wrecked off the coast near Puerto Real. Dr. Hodges and his family carried out preliminary tests at Puerto Real to determine whether or not it might be the site of La Navidad, but soon realized they had discovered the remains of Puerto Real. When they had documented the magnitude of the find, Dr. Hodges contacted Dr. Charles Fairbanks of the University of Florida, who accepted the invitation to join forces with him in the study of the Spanish town.
Ultimately, through the concerted efforts of the Haitian Institute de Sauvegarde du Patrimoine Nacional, the Organization of American States, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Musee de Guahaba in Limbé, Haiti, and the University of Florida, a seven-year-long interdisciplinary study of Puerto Real was launched. The work has been conducted by many archaeologists, historians, zooarchaeologists and architects. Their work is summarized below, and is reported in more detail in Puerto Real: The Archaeology of a Sixteenth Century Spanish Town in Hispaniola (1995, edited by Kathleen Deagan, University Press of Florida).
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Deagan, Kathleen (editor)
- 1995 Puerto Real: The Archaeology of a Sixteenth Century Spanish Town in Hispaniola. University Press of Florida, Gainesville. (Including chapters by, Kathleen Deagan, Jennifer Hamilton; William Hodges; Rochelle Marrinan; Bonnie McEwan; Elizabeth Reitz, and Raymond Willis).
- 1987 From Spaniard to Creole: the archaeology of Hispanic American cultural formation at Puerto Real, Haiti. Ph.D dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida.
- 1988 The short, unhappy life of a maverick Caribbean colony. Archaeology 41(4):41-46.
- 1990 Spanish colonial adaptation to the New World: Current research at Puerto Real, Haiti. Proceedings of the 11th Congress of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. San Juan, Puerto Rico. pp. 448-52.
- 1992 From Spaniard to Creole: The archaeology of culture formation at Puerto Real. Haiti. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Fairbanks, Charles and Rochelle Marrinan
- 1981 The Puerto Real project, Haiti. Proceedings of the 10th International Congress for the Study of Precolumbian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles. SantoDomingo, Museo del Hombre Dominicano.
- 1984 Museé de Guahabá: research and development of a private museum in the third world. MA thesis, University of Florida. (Center for Latin American Studies).
- 1980 Puerto Real sources. Typescript. Museé de Guahabá, Limbé, Haiti.
- 1979 How we found Puerto Real. Typescript. Museé de Guahabá, Limbé, Haiti.
- 1983 Spanish colonial adaptation on Hispaniola: The Archeology of Area 35, Puerto Real, Haiti. MA thesis (Anthropology) University of Florida, Gainesville.
- 1986 Domestic adaptations at Puerto Real, Haiti. Historical Archaeology 20 (1):44-49
- 1988 An archaeological perspective on sixteenth century Spanish life in the Old World and the Americas. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville.
- 1986 Vertebrate fauna from locus 39, Puerto Real, Haiti. Journal of Field Archaeology. 13(3):317-328.
- 1990 Early Spanish subsistence at Puerto Real, Hispaniola. Proceedings of the Eleventh Congress of the International Association for on Caribbean Archeology. San Juan, Puerto Rico pp: 442-47
- 1983 A soil resistivity survey at 16th century Puerto Real, Haiti. Journal of Field Archeology 11:101-110.
- 1986 A study of colono ware and non-European ceramics from sixteenth-century Puerto Real, Haiti. MA thesis (Anbthropology), University of Florida, Gainesville.
- 1986 Sub-surface patterning at 16th century Spanish Puerto Real, Haiti. Journal of Field Archaeology 13(3):283 -296
- 1990 Sub-surface patterning at sixteenth century Puerto Real, Haiti. Proceedings of the Eleventh Congress of the International Association for on Caribbean Archaeology. San Juan, Puerto Rico pp: 388-92
- 1984 Empire and architecture at 16th century Puerto Real, Hispaniola. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation University of Florida, Gainesville. (Anthropology).