Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Found: An 18th century plantation!

Found: An 18th century plantation!
We, the Virgin Islands Cultural Resources Management Team, have exciting news. Just last Friday, Ken Wild and I (Amber Davis) found a plantation that we have been searching for, for some time. The plantation is recorded on the Oxholm map of 1780 and it was discovered by Barbara Johnson in 1981, but the Park Service has never assessed this great site. Well, after one grueling day on Thursday chopping catch-and-keep and cutting down cacti (with no plantation in site), Ken and I re-grouped and set off with new target coordinates on Friday. And lo and behold, we found it! The plantation consists of three structures—the main residence, the enslaved quarters, and the warehouse (picture #1).
These structures would have had wooden walls and roofs; however, all that remains now are the low-lying stone and mortar walls that braced the wooden upper half. The stone walls are sloped outward to prevent rain from pouring into the structure (picture #2).
Ken and I picked up and GPS’ed to within 20 centimeters some ceramic fragments that can date the occupation of the plantation, notably black lead-glazed course earthenware (1700-1770), white salt-glazed stoneware (1720-1770), English slipware (1675-1770), and delftware (1630-1790) (clockwise from bottom left in picture #3). Given the absence of pearlware, which is found everywhere by 1780, Ken conjectures that the plantation was abandoned by the time Oxholm drew his map. All in all, it was a great day, and Ken and I treated ourselves to a cheeseburger at Skinny Legs afterwards:)

Earlier on in the week, students from the Good Hope private school on St. Croix paid the Cinnamon Bay lab a visit. Ken gave a lecture on the extensive history of St. John and the Virgin Islands, and then the students were shown several steps of the archaeological data recovery process. First, ideally the excavator leaves artifacts that he or she finds in the ground, or “in situ,” so that the artifact’s location can be recorded and its context is retained. If the artifacts are not carefully excavated, then they are found in the next step, where dirt is screened twice with differently sized mesh screens (picture #4).

The artifacts are then washed, identified and analyzed, and catalogued. The students asked Ken some questions about the Taino and seemed interested in the demonstration about archaeological excavation. I think they learned more about archaeology and the Virgin Islands than they had previously known.
Later on this week, Ken and I will be searching for another plantation so stay tuned. I hope everyone’s Easter was happy, and thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Where is the plantation you found?
Cliff Borbas

L. Nations said...

What a great job you interns do of reporting the work done to preserve the heritage of the area within USVI National Park. Thank you! (Linda N., Sierra Club volunteer, Cinnamon Bay, Dec 2006)