Monday, May 24, 2010

Marlise’s Blog May
It’s hard for me to believe that I have already been working here for 5 months. I started as an archaeology intern here in mid-January after leaving the snow back home in Colorado. After a couple of months of living in the tents at Cinnamon, I finally got used to the cold showers and cooking on a gas burner. I would fall asleep to the sound of waves at night and wake up to lizards scurrying up the walls in the morning.
Moving here and working with Caribbean archaeology was very different than the south western archaeology I was familiar with. I had been working for an archaeology firm in western Colorado doing artifact drawings, graphic design and a variety of lab work. My first weeks down here were spent reading and learning about the history of the Virgin Islands.

Marlise in the excavation unit at Cinnamon

I have been impressed learning about the richness of the Taino culture. The artwork they created was rich in symbolic and religious meaning. The artifacts collected during archaeological excavations here on St. John include stone carvings and shell beads, ceramics adorned with human-like sculptures , as well as historic European artifacts People have been living on St. John for over 3000 years, with a history spanning from prehistoric peoples, European conquest and slave trade to cruise ships and tourism.¬¬
One of the things the interns have been doing here is giving archaeology talks at Maho resort. I watched the presentation a couple of times as the previous interns gave the talk and then gave the talk myself. People seem to really enjoy learning about the place they are visiting and the audience had lots of interesting questions. The most common question seems to be, however, “Why do they drive on the left-side of the road here?” No one really knows for sure, but the close proximity of the British Virgin Islands seems to be the origin. Talking with visitors about the work we are doing here is a big part of our job. Visitors come into the lab on the beach and look around or talk to us while we’re excavating and we’re able to answer people’s questions about the history of the island.
These last few months have been full of many different projects. We have mapped and took GPS points of plantation ruins on the steep hillsides of the island, continued working on the excavation behind the archaeology lab, and gone over to Hassel island for projects and talks. In April a new excavation at Cinnamon started and a crew was hired for the project. Matt, the other intern and I, were on the crew so we moved into housing with the crew chief. We also undertook the Danish International internship program during the month. We had three Danish students, Signe and Stig were our history students here to discover ruins they found in the archives. Casper was here to pursue his research on the prehistoric lithic (stone tools) of the island and how they compare to those in the collections in Denmark. I got to go out with the history students into the bush to help them locate three new plantations that are some of the first to be settled and abandoned on the island. As of this post I am working on developing the first interpretive signs for Hassel Island about the historic Creque Marine Railway.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Karson Winslow, 2010 Intern
A gentleman asked me the other day why I was interning with the National Park Service on St John. He thought that with the bad economy, that had to be the reason why I didn’t have a “real job.” Either that or I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I responded with the exact opposite. I know exactly what I want to do in my life and right now, this is it. I joined on as an intern and volunteer because I purely have a desire to be in the field of archaeology. In the field now for a little over five years, I have had the ability to work in some really great places and with very knowledgeable and amazing people. This destination has been no exception.
I went to school in California and attended UC Santa Cruz, receiving a BA in Anthropology (2005). I continued with my education and moved to South Australia to attend Flinders University for graduate studies focusing in Maritime Archaeology (2007). After University, working in a number of places including Tasmania, St. Augustine, Florida, Galveston, Texas and terrestrial work throughout California, I decided to focus on a region I believed would most apply to my studies and experiences.
Being an archaeologist, the system is similar and relatively universal in the different locations where one works, but each individual area brings its own cultural identity. For this reason I choose to explore the past as well as explore these unique entities most people might not even know exist.
For now, I will only be on St. John for a short while, though I intend to return and continue working and volunteering on island in the near future. With the Caribbean being such a “Colonial Melting Pot” if you will, with so many European powers utilizing these waters and these islands, there is a very important history here that belongs to all of these nations, including those who inhabited the islands before.
Days are spent at Cinnamon Bay working in the Archaeology Lab. Work out there consists of informing visitors about the history of the area and explaining the purpose and focus of the work we do. We are also working on cataloguing artifacts from the excavation at Cinnamon Bay that was completed at the Ceremonial grounds of the site, as well as washing and sorting artifacts from a current re-burial project the VINP is presently undertaking. If not in the lab, we are in the field recording the remains of known sites on and around the island or gathering historic data on field artifacts. Such as recording the exact measurements of the one surviving historic marine iron bollard at Creque Marine so that identical ones can be reproduced as part of a park funded project that is aimed at providing safe docking for visitors while maintaining the historic scene.
I would just like to say a quick thank you to the supporters and Friends of the National Parks, without whom it would not be possible for the interns and myself to be here. I very much appreciate the support and generous donations towards the park.
Karson Winslow

Ken giving an educational tour to a St Thomas school group at Creque Marine. While we interns recorded artifact data.

Marlise recording Bollard data for reproduction.