The Barracks at Trianon represent a rare and unique opportunity to investigate the daily life-ways of indentured labourers. But how best to go about such a venture, given that the labourers would not have been recording aspects of their own lives, nor would their daily existence fall within the purview of contemporaneous writers in any great detail? This is precisely where archaeological works can provide valuable insight, adding dimensions to the historical accounts that would otherwise remain underground and unreported.
Archaeological works commenced in 2009 with our team undertaking photogrammetry, magnetometer and field walking survey on the area around the Standing Barracks.
Two rapid phases of works were undertaken in 2010 to complement the 2009 research: the first of these (taking place in May) was aimed at harmonising with the results of the magnetometry. Using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), Branko Musič and his team from our partner institution in Slovenia (the University of Ljubljana), provided clear indications of subsoil anomalies. This was followed by a two-week season of excavation revealing the foundations of a large and potentially multi-level building, along with a series of post-holes tentatively suggesting that a wooden canopy surrounded part of the structure. A second trench indicated a drainage system that appeared contemporaneous with this newly discovered building.
Less monumental, but no less significant, the discovery of a small quarter rupee coin links this ancestral community directly with their nation of origin, and pays testimony to everyday facets of life. The coin typifies the practice of paying indentured labourers with Indian currency to facilitate the process of returning money ‘home’. Though hardly rare in Mauritius, finding such an artefact associated with the barracks, and now this new structure, highlights the relevance and potential of this site.