Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hello, everyone! I hope the new year has been treating you well. The Cultural Resources Team at Virgin Islands National Park has accomplished some very interesting things since the last blog. First, Ken and Susanna are now Rescue Diver certified (re-certified in Ken’s case). I opened up the Cinnamon Bay lab during their training and talked with the beach-goers while cataloguing artifacts. The following day (last Friday), Ken and I visited the Lameshur site with Sean Krigger, an architectural historian from the Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office, and RandyBrown, Director of the Virgin Islands Environmental Research Station (VIERS). Randy would like to restore some of the historic Lameshur plantation buildings for use as classrooms and exhibit space. The restoration as well as the regular maintenance needed when the buildings are in use will undoubtedly help to preserve them for future generations. However, the restoration must be done with historic accuracy in mind so that the buildings are preserved looking as close to what they originally looked like as possible. This requires buying period-accurate hinges for windows and doors as well as having the windows and doors be constructed in a suitable style and painted with a special paint in an appropriate color (see the painting of Lameshur dated to about 1840’s in the blog archive (May)). I learned that lime mortar and silicate paint are the preferred materials for repairing and painting historic walls because they are water permeable. Therefore, when historic bricks soak up ground water, the water will not be trapped within the wall and disintegrate the bricks but will diffuse through the mortar and paint and eventually evaporate. Sean advised Randy on the modifications that are and aren’t allowed and what types of restorations are preferred. Next, plans will be drawn up and work can ideally start within the year. Ken offered to help as much as he could when the actual construction started, he used to be a brick layer.
This Tuesday, I came in and the Team mapped a large portion of the excavation site at Cinnamon Bay. Susanna cleaned the kitchen surface and measured object dimensions (rocks, mortar, brick, shell, glass, and metal) and I drew the map on graph paper (see picture above). I gave a tour in the afternoon, but it wasn’t the best ever. I hope that with practice I’ll get more familiar with the subject material and be more comfortable speaking to an audience about it. A snorkel survey of the beach in the late afternoon recovered many remains and artifacts likely uncovered by the recent Northern swells (we’ll have to investigate it further after the mapping is finished). The old tree we often used as a reference point finally fell over with this last swell. Well, until next time everyone and feel free to post comments and/or questions. We love to hear from our readers!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rave Reviews

Happy Belated Holidays, everyone! It is the year 2007 now and St. John is busy. Your friendly neighborhood Cultural Resources Management Team (a.k.a. Ken, Susanna, and I) is back in action. I have been furiously preparing to start giving tours at Cinnamon Bay, which I’m both excited and nervous for. I have reviewed the pre-Columbian and colonial history of the Cinnamon Bay site by re-reading the articles that are posted on the Friends website (if anyone is interested in details, look no further). The single, lonesome man on my inaugural tour today gave me rave reviews, haha.
The excavations of the kitchen floor ar3e complete at Cinnamon Bay plantation house and the site has been cleaned off in preparation for mapping, which we began today. Ken is teaching me a slightly older technique of mapping involving a level drawing board and compass in which the site is mapped in-field. Once the map is finished, the site will be back-filled and we will choose a different place to re-intern the enslaved human remains.
In the office, Ken has just completed a part of a paper dealing with the early history of the United States Virgin Islands—Tainos, pirates, including Captain Kidd, European refugees, enslaved Africans, and all. The other contributing author is a Syracuse University Ph.D canidate and she is focusing on the 1733 Slave Revolt along with the conflict that arise from multiple cultures coming into contact within the Caribbean . The two pottery fragments pictured, along with the unusual bone tool, date to 1650 to 1670 the period privateers and pirates flourished here. Once the paper is finalized, we'll make it available and you can learn more!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Zemis and Coins

Rudy and Irene, the owners of R & I Patton Jewerly, are two people to whom the interns owe a great deal of thanks. This is because R & I Patton donates to the Friends archeology program 100% of the sales of gold and silver zemis sold in their store. They also provide bronze and silver zemis to the Friends to sell in our boutique or on the web at

Irene Patton, under the guidance of Ken Wild, archeologist with the National Park Service Caribbean Archeology program, made replicas of ceramic artifacts (zemis) found at the Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay sites. The terra cotta zemis were made by the Taino Indians who lived on St. John before Columbus. They represented spirits of ancestors, animals, birds and reptiles that served to convey special messages to the present and other world. They were attached to bowl rims and were broken after ceremonial use.

Rudy and Irene are also invaluable for their knowledge of coins and have provided some information regarding the 1822 Curacao coin featured in the previous blog. Rudy reports that"

"The coin is from (no surprise) Curacao Netherlands Antilles. The minting date is not so certain (surprise!)
This coin is a 1 Stuiver which is on the reverse side with a star in thelower field. The obverse has Curacao in the upper field, the date, 1822 inthe middle field and a star in the lower field below a line. The coin wasminted in the Netherlands (as Denmark minted coinage for use in the DanishWest Indies) in 1822 and then the dies were used again when it was alsostruck in 1840-1841. So even though it carries the date 1822, it may havebeen minted in 1840-41. It circulated at that later date as a 2 Centpiece. The star was the mint privy mark for the either the Enkhuizen mintor the Hoorn mint in West Friesland, The Netherlands.
This was shortly after the second British occupation of Curacao during theNapoleonic Wars (1800-1803 and 1807-1816.)
--1994 Standard Catalog of World Coins, 21st Edition by Chester L. Krauseand Clifford Mishler (covering coinage 1801 to 1994) Newer editions areavailable from Amazon.
BTW it is probably worth less than $100 on the World Coin market. Thecondition would be "Fine." This is the lowest condition assigned. Of course it is invaluable as a part of the excavation in Cinnamon Bay."
Ed Rothfuss adds that "It took 48 of these little silver coins to equal 8 reaals (schellings) or one peso, the equivalent of our 19th century silver dollar."
Many thanks to R&I Patton for providing this information and for their great jewerly! Please visit their website at to learn more.