GIS - 23 June, 2017: The historical importance of the Moulin à Poudre Cultural Landscape as well as the archaeological survey results were discussed during a seminar held yesterday in Pamplemousses, following a research project carried out on site.
The findings of this project, undertaken at the initiative of the Mauritius Research Council under its Unsolicited Research and Innovation Grant Scheme, highlight the necessity of preserving the exceptional cultural heritage of Mauritius. The research team comprised Dr (Mrs) V Teelock, Associate Professor, at the Centre for Research on Slavery and Indenture, University of Mauritius (UoM); and Mrs J. Mungur-Medhi, National Heritage Fund and collaborator at the Centre for Research on Slavery and Indenture, UoM.
The archaeological survey and excavations were carried out in 2016-2017 in three separate field seasons. Results bring out previously unknown structures and features on an earlier history, that of the Forges de Mon Désir (pre-1774). Findings also shed light on later structures such as a Buddhist temple built for Kandyan prisoners held there (1830s), and the remains of the later prison including quarters for female prisoners (1830s) and cells for solitary confinement.
The research adopted a multidisciplinary approach combining archival research, archaeological survey, architectural documentation and topographical surveying techniques, along with student participation.
The Moulin à Poudre Cultural Landscape Project aims at studying and adding value to this historical and distinctive site not only in Mauritius but across Southwest Indian Ocean. In fact, 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, given that its operation depended on highly skilled and trained Government-owned slaves under military supervision.
Gunpowder was manufactured in Mauritius during the French period for use in the slave trade, on board of ships and during French wars. Mauritius was the only French colony to produce gunpowder and this is what makes the site of the Moulin à Poudre unique.
The Pamplemousses Moulin à Poudre started operating in 1775 and was closed down when the British took over the island in 1810. It produced enough gunpowder to supply the island and passing ships and was also put on sale on the local market.