Wednesday, February 01, 2006

In Search of Prehistoric Caves

January 16, 2006-January 20, 2006

This was an eventful and exciting week for the archeology interns. The new intern, Andrew Connor, arrived on Monday from Massachusetts. I'm sure the weather change was more than welcome. His first day was spent getting familiarized with the Cinnamon Bay lab and getting to know everyone.

James Trombetti and I gave our first St. John archeology talk to tourists at the lab. Andrew listened to get a taste of some of the island's Taino and plantation history. The talk was a success, with eighteen people attending. Everyone gave us good reviews and several people came back later to thank us.

The most exciting event of the week, though, came on Wednesday. Ever since I started working, I have heard of a purported prehistoric cave on the North Shore. Apparently two archeologists surveyed St. John in the 1950s and briefly wrote about the cave in their subsequent report. Rumors about the cave abound around the island. Lots of people have heard of it and seemingly everyone knows someone who knows where it is. Frustratingly, no one has told us where it is.

James and I have already hiked up the point twice looking for it but to no avail. We actually have a method for looking for it. Using the GIS program on the computer, we look at an aerial photograph of St. John and find points on Mary's Point that look like they would have terrain suited for a cave. We then enter these points into the GPS. The GPS aims us in the direction of the points and shows us where we've been so we don't survey the same area multiple times.

For our third trip, we headed for a huge rock that sticks out above the trees. The jungle was thick with thorns but we eventually made it to the rock. The entire area was covered with huge boulders. The first one we examined had a narrow hole that was just big enough for a person to crawl through. The hole opened into a small room that was big enough for maybe two people to stand in. I crawled in but didn't see any artifacts or petroglyphs. There was a layer of soil in the bottom of the cave so we may have to excavate in search of a human presence. We found several other rocky overhangs that could possibly be considered caves. We only explored about half of the boulders, so more exploration will be necessary to determine if other caves exist.

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