Thursday, June 21, 2007

A New Prehistoric Lithic Site

Hello, readers! Amber Davis is back in the driver’s seat, a.k.a. I am writing the blog again and excited to be doing so. Whew! Things have slowed down a bit after the departure of the Danes on June 2nd—less field work, more office work. Ken has been preparing a field report and I have drawn two maps for Laura and Jonas to use in their 50-page paper for the University of Copenhagen. Good luck, both of you! The paper will be written in English and it will focus on the early history of Lameshur Bay on St. John. We will make it available to the general public, so stay tuned if you’re interested.

In other news, after completing a test excavation at the ruins of an early plantation, Ken, Susanna, and I hiked out to a point on the south shore and discovered a prehistoric lithic scatter. We got GPS points on two large lithics recovered that could either be tools or the by-product of tool manufacture. The archaic people that settled on St. John did not refine their everyday, utilitarian stone tools and so it can be difficult to distinguish between the tool and the refuse. We also discovered a manuport, which Ken explained to me was a stone found out of its original context that was used as a tool by humans. However, the stone was not modified by a human. Our manuport is a rounded rock that would have originally been found on a beach, but we found it atop the cliff where the archaic people likely brought it to prepare food with. Lastly, one beautiful lithic tool was also recovered that may be notched (see picture below, the small square stone). This lithic site may date to 400 B.C. because another archaic site, with similiar tools, at a nearby bay was carbon-dated to this early period.

Over the next few weeks, the team has a busy schedule. We will be surveying the spine of Hassel Island to assess the conditions of various archeological sites and structures. Catch-and-keep, be afraid:) Also, the purchase of chemicals and equipment for metal artifact conservation has been approved, so I will be monitoring the pH of our wet-storage vat and determining chloride concentration very soon (vat seen below with artifacts) .

Thanks for visiting the blog and see you soon.

P.S. I'm writing this post script a couple weeks later than the blog because it is just too interesting to wait for the next blog...We have rediscovered an RPG in our archives that we would love to know more about. FYI, an RPG is a rocket-propelled grenade, and this artifact shown below was found at a tent site at Cinnamon Bay campground. We have no expertise with military artifacts, and so we are asking if any readers do have valuable knowledge. Just reply to this post or you can email with tips. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Jonas and Laura

The Danish Interns from the University of Copenhagen...

We arrived at St. John the 5th of May and felt immediately welcomed by Ken Wild and the staff at NPS. We are writing this in our last week of our month here on St. John, and looking back we have already learned so much in these last three weeks.
Before arriving at the island, we had worked 3 months in the Danish National Archive. We decided, in cooperation with Ken Wild and Niklas Thode Jensen, our Danish supervisor that our research would concentrate on the Lameshure area which is situated on the south side of the island.

An Historic Document and Gothic Letters

Our timeframe focuses on the earliest historic period possible. We knew from the start that this would be a challenge, because the documentation for this area, in this early period, would be limited and written with gothic letters that took time to translate into modern Danish and English.

When we arrived on the island we had been doing so much research of the area that we could not wait to see the actually site and it was everything and more that we had been imagining. During the actually internship Ken has been teaching us the many different approaches to the archaeological fieldwork and the work concerning management and protection by the National Park Service of ruins and all sites and materials.

Jonas, Laura, and Amber in a ruin

A valley and hills in the Lameshur area

For us this has been very interesting and exciting. We have had the opportunity to explore so many different ways of looking at our field of historic research and the opening of ideas and opportunities that we may never had had the chance to undertake in Denmark. <>

Oxholm's 1780 map of St. John with area under study outlined.

We have taken part in so many different things, but the most challenging has been looking for new plantations. It sounds easy, but it is not! We have, from aerial photos and archival information, spotted places that could be old ruins, and then go in the wild to find them. Its all high tech as well as low tech since we use both GPS/GIS and computer overlaying of maps as well as machetes to get there.

Looking down on Yawzie Point. The adverse conditions going up and down looking for ruins this day (mosquitoes, christmas bush and cactus) made it a great challange and also rewarding.

We’ve also had the chance to help with archaeological diggings at Cinnamon Bay an excellent site to prepare us for proper excavation, recording and artifact identification before we began work at the plantation buildings we have researched, to match the information we’ve found in the archive. This really brings up some very interesting knowledge as well as a lot of new questions as academic work often does. At Cinnamon we uncovered an old Danish coin. Its from 1779, and has the Danish king Christian the 7th’s symbol on it. It was a 1 skilling, which was not much, but still very exiting for us to find. So was the finding of a Taino bead from the prehistorically period, of which we personally know very little, but find very interesting. The tiny red bead found was very much like the one found and posted on this blog a few weeks ago, yet still a very rare find only two so far. 1779 1 skilling Danish Coin

So far we have found a couple of, until now, unknown crypts and the scattered remains of an early (1720s to 40s) historic building. Our research period, so our work has been rewarding. Now we will begin to excavate at specific locations within each site to corrolate what we have found in the bush to the historic record so that maybe we can begin to identfy the early settlements and the owners that may have put these ruins here.

Jonas making a way through the bush, then the thrill of discovery and then comes the clearing of vegetation for documentation and eventually some archeological testing.
As a part of our internship we have had the pleasure of telling a lot of people what we have done in the archive. This has also resulted in us making public appearances, where we tried to present our research for a broader audience at the School of the Arts in Cruz Bay as well as one in VIERS. We also greatly enjoyed presenting in front of the NPS staff, where we tried to focus a bit more on how the staff could use our research in their teachings and tours. We have also at times taken care of the Lab at Cinnamon Bay, where we have had the pleasure of meeting the public and try to let them know just a little bit more of this islands gripping history.