Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Shovel Tests in Paradise
For the past two weeks Mick Wigal and myself (Andrew Connor) have been conducting shovel tests at Turtle Point in Caneel Bay. Our hope is that this example of mitigative archeology will help us gain a better understanding of the layout of the pre-Taino village and any historical structures that existed in the area, while exploring for areas of the site that have been disturbed. We know a prehistoric site exists in the area due to the abundance of potsherds on the surface and artifacts that have been found there in the past.
Our first few days at the site were spent working with the laser transit. The transit allows us to create a survey map of the shoreline, trees, parking lot, shovel test units, and any other features on the site. Once we've "shot" these features into the transit we can transfer the data to a program on the computer that will allow us to create a map of the site.
After grappling with the transit for several days we created a grid on the site that would allow us to easily locate our shovel test units. Ken chose to dig four .5 X .5 meter units. These units were spread across the grid. They allowed us to determine the extent of damage due to machinery, examine artifacts in an area threatened by erosion, and explore a squared mound of soil.
It took us two weeks to complete all four shovel tests but we found some interesting artifacts. All four holes contained numerous prehistoric potsherds and ecofacts consisting of cittarium pica shells (a large snail), conch shells, parrotfish vertebrae and beaks, and other small snail shells. These are examples of food remains and the conch could also be used as a tool.
One unit was filled with stone flakes that are created by scraping pieces off a stone core. This suggests that there may have been a prehistoric stone tool factory in this area. We only found one example of historic pottery. Our most exciting find came on January 1. While excavating I came across a stone axe or scraper that had obviously been chipped down to a very sharp edge.