The Council organised a seminar on the 22nd June 2017 for the above project, which was completed under the Unsolicited Research and Innovation Grant Scheme. Importantly, in order to enable participants to fully appreciate and experience the extent and complexity of the historical and archaeological findings, the seminar was conducted on the site of the Moulin à Poudre at Pamplemousses.
The Moulin à Poudre Cultural Landscape Project aims at studying and valorizing this historical site, unique not only to Mauritius but to the entire South-West Indian Ocean. No other 18th century colonial gunpowder factory was established in France’s colonial empire. Both the concept and design of the mill were entirely Mauritian, not least because its operation depended on highly skilled and trained Government owned slaves under military supervision.
A multidisciplinary approach was adopted combining archival research, archaeological survey, architectural documentation and topographical surveying techniques, all with student participation. The archaeological survey and excavations, carried out during 2016 – 2017 in three separate field seasons, revealed previously unknown structures and features as well as shedding light on an earlier history, that of the Forges de Mon Desir (pre-1774), and later structures such as a Buddhist temple built for Khandian prisoners held there (1830s), and the remains of the later prison including quarters for female prisoners (1830s) and cells for solitary confinement.
A total of 150 participants attended the event, which also received good coverage in the media. In addition to detailed presentations on the work undertaken, participants were taken on guided visits of the archaeological site. Organisers and participants agreed that the findings of this project highlighted the importance of preserving the special cultural heritage which Mauritius holds.