Thursday, February 15, 2007

Traces of the Past

(1780 Oxholm Map, partial, with Jochumsdahl)

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, everyone! Here in Love City the holiday certainly did not pass unnoticed—restaurants were flooded, street corner stands were selling packages with teddy bears and chocolates, and the color red could be seen everywhere. Now business is back to usual, and the cultural resources team is using the morning hours to update you all on our latest projects.
The most exciting discovery we made last week was locating the “lost” plantation, Jochumsdahl. An ever-useful map of St. John created by Oxholm in 1780-1800 indicates that a plantation existed north of the Catherineburg Plantation. Because there has been such little rain recently and hence minimal underbrush, last week was an ideal time to explore the area in hopes of locating Jochumsdahl. So Ken, Susanna, and I headed into the woods with the GPS, the camera, and sticks in hand to swipe away spider webs. We first found what looked like an old trash site from the early 20th century. Old pulleys, hand carts, and other UID rusty metal objects were strewn about in a stand of bamboo as well as a plethora of gin bottles. Ken dug into the earth a bit with his trowel and found a layer of charcoal just beneath the surface, indicating that this site was used to produce charcoal after emancipation. Workers would clear an area of foliage and hollow out a depression to burn it in, producing charcoal. Because the fire problably needed to be monitored, the workers must have relaxed with a drink of gin while the fire burned down. This charcoal production site is not related to Jochumsdahl, but it is very interesting nevertheless because it tells of another period in St. John history—slightly more recent but no less important. Photographs were taken of the trash and the charcoal, and a GPS point was taken so that the National Park can return to this site later for further research. (evidence of charcoal making)

After identifying the charcoal site, Ken, Susanna, and I spread out to cover more ground and soon enough we discovered a brick that Ken believes is related to Jochumsdahl. He postulates that it is a remnant of the enslaved village located south of the plantation because the debris scatter we saw is indicative of the ephemeral wattle-and-daub huts. A few more bricks were found as well as a black lead-glazed course earthenware fragment. This pottery fragment is dated to 1700-1770 and is the one diagnostic artifact we found for Jochumsdahl. So, at the end of the day we re-discovered a portion of the site of the “lost” plantation. Most likely, the actual building materials of the main plantation structures were scavenged for use in later plantations, which means we won’t find intact ruins forgotten in the woods. But archaeological excavations can undoubtedly provide more information on the history of the elusive Jochumsdahl. (the last remaining traces of Jochumsdahl)

Also last week, the cultural resources team enjoyed a historic lecture at the site of Rustenberg given by Chuck Pishko. Elderhostel volunteers worked on completing architectural drawings of certain structures of the site and Chuck came to explain the purpose of each structure in the sugar-making process. He also told us about the history of the plantation, which includes a visit from the Crowned Prince of Denmark in the early 19th century. (Chuck Pishko and Elderhostel at Rustenberg)

The last bit of news I have to offer is that the excavation at Cinnamon Bay of the plantation cookhouse floor is complete. The area was cleaned, photographed, and reburied. Digging will commence soon at a different location so that we can re-intern the human remains found at Cinnamon. Well, this has been a long post and I hope you made it through. The cultural resources team at Virgin Islands National Park will keep on chugging and we hope that you’ll keep reading. Thanks, guys! Until next time.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


As usual, the cultural resource team has been very busy. This morning, Ken and Susanna went to VIERS to welcome a group of Sierra Club members. This group has adopted the Yawzi Point Ruins and Lameshur Ruins and we are so thankful for their work to keep the ruins clear of vegetation. While on the south shore of St. John, the team also investigated an archaic(4oo b.c.) site with many ecofacts, or ecological remains such as conch, and whelk(citeriumPica) shell that would have been a food source for these early St. John inhabitants. In addition, there were shell edged pearlware fragments that my indicate a maroon site, or a place where escaped, captured Africans may have gone into hiding. It was a very interesting day, and aside from collecting data from the archaic site, the new gps was put into use. The terrain remains dry and hopefully, we will find time to do more exploring of little known sites such as Ramshead, pictured here, while the vegetation is a little less dense.

Yesterday, the team met with an Elderhostel group at Cinnamon which is adopting the Leinster Guardhouse ruins and also doing architectural drawings of the Rustenberg Ruins. Ken gave the group a brief talk about the history of the island and then they went on their way to cut vegetation. Like the Sierra Club, we are very thankful to have such dedicated volunteers. After the talk, Ken and Susanna pulled the two bottlenecks out of the Cinnamon Bay Kitchen site and put the final touches on the map and used the very big ladder to take some site photographs. They are waiting Amber's help later in the week to cover the site back up.
(Cinnamon Bay Excavation, Final Photo)
We are a couple weeks behind because Amber was off a week while her parents were visiting and the internet service has been inconsistent. During the previous weeks, Susanna did a lot of curating and Ken met with the Danish Professor, Niklas Thode Jensen from Copenhagen. Niklas and his students will be researching the Danish archives for us for the next few months, then the students will be making the journey to St. John to obtain first hand knowledge of the plantations, specifically, Lameshur. We are very excited to be working with Niklas and these students and eagerly await their arrival in May.
Niklas and Ken looking at Fort Willoby on Hassel Island