Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Chapters from Jamaican history

Published:Friday | August 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Bell from the slave ship 'African Queen'.
Tortoise Shell combs

Our journey continues as we highlight another set of artefacts from the chapters of the island's history, which tell the story of Jamaica being a thriving hub of commerce and trade.


Bell from the slave ship 'African Queen'


This bell belonged to the ship African Queen, a British slaver that traded in commodities such as arms, oil, hardwood, ivory and iron along the Guinea Coast. This ship plied the triangle trade for decades and changed owners several times. The African Queen was recorded to have arrived in Jamaica in 1792 in distress, according to one report, having lost 114 of its 225 African cargo during the middle passage. As a result, the ship's owner, Bristol merchant James Rogers, went bankrupt.


Did you know?


Naming a sea vessel is an important tradition before the inaugural launch of the ship. The majority of vessels are named after important female figures, either historical or personal, with the names often including important women in the captain's life. There is an extensive, precise ceremony that most captains follow to ward off any bad luck. The name is chosen, painted on the ship, and the ship then cast off on its maiden voyage following the blessing.


Tortoiseshell combs


By the late 1600s, Jamaican tortoiseshell art became one of few indigenous arts patronised by the wealthy. Shell from green and hawksbill turtles was readily available in Port Royal and these were used to make turtle shell wig, comb sets, fashionable hair combs and cosmetic cases by local craftsmen in Port Royal. The combs were often two-sided; one being of medium-sized teeth, the other side had fine teeth for removing hair lice and nits (egg sacs). The patterns engraved into the tortoiseshell included cocoa, annatto, cashew, ananas (pineapple), cactus, and coconut, with 'Jamaica', the year and the island's coat of arms.

Between 1671 and 1692, Paul Bennett and Matthew Comberford, believed to be responsible for Port Royal's tortoiseshell industry, were commissioned to make several pieces by persons like Lady Vere Lynch, the governor's wife, and Lieutenant Governor Henry Morgan.


Did you know?


Humans have been using combs as a tool for a long time, at least for 5,000 years. Combs are used by humans to separate tangled hairs, to keep their hair clean and to style their hair. Combs are also used as a decoration for hair.