Friday, August 05, 2011

Hey all,
I'm Megan. I'm from Wisconsin, and going to be getting my masters in Anthropology/Archaeology at UW Milwaukee. I just finished an internship here at VI Natl. Park, which lasted the month of June and was pretty much amazing. June was mosquito season on St. John (or do they swarm year-round? I'm skeptical that you could ever be mosquito free on the island), but despite that, I got to take part in some pretty interesting and unique projects, a summary of which follows:
Cinnamon Bay Reinternment
This project (for those who have not scrolled down further) is to reinter remains of those individuals that were enslaved here and have washed ashore. Since the topsoil on St. John is so rocky, most of these burials occurred on the beaches. Hurricanes and erosion, however, have played a large part in the unearthing some of these gravesites. The end result of this is that the park service has at least 30 individuals that have been eroded out.
The community members of St. John decided that the current site on Cinnamon Bay (right behind the lab) would be the best place to reinter these remains. There is, however, a lot of archaeology already in the spot; this is where the archaeology interns come in. Because the project has been ongoing, we started excavation 70 cm below ground surface. In one 10 cm level, we found numerous pot sherds, lithics, and marine shells dating to the Taino culture on the island roughly 1000 BP.
Hassel Island:
Hassel Island is on the south side of St. Thomas and home to a number of historic ruins. The ones I got to see were the old army barracks at the top of the main hill, and Creque Marine Railway; Creque Marine is the site of the longest running steam powered marine railway in the world.
The park service is putting a trail in on Hassel, and our job was to find the barracks that would be by the trail. We bushwhacked our way through cactus, thorny vines, Christmas bush (a relative of poison ivy) and wild pineapple (also thorny) to enter in the GPS coordinates of the ruins. Once that was accomplished, we set out to enter in more coordinates of the path. Later, heavy machinery would use the coordinates we entered to clear the path and take out the vegetation that proved to be more than a match for our machetes.

There are a number of plantation ruins on St. John, and the park service needs to map them. This is so it knows what condition they are in and what types of buildings they consist of. This was probably the most fun project because we got to hike through the woods and find the ruins we needed to map that day. Mapping the site would take a few hours, even with the handy laser measurer; there were just so many components. At one site, there were at least 10 structures: an animal mill (to mill sugarcane), the sugar factory, a retaining wall, an ox pen, a bake oven, a kitchen, a main house, and a few quarters for those enslaved here - plus all the unidentified structures that were mostly rubble.

All in all, it was a productive internship. I am so glad I got to experience what it's like to work on St. John, and I am especially grateful to the Friends of the Park, who made it possible for me to be there, and to Ken and Kourtney for letting me work with them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

VIIS Cultural Resource Project Updates -- 5/10/2011. The following projects were made possible either in part or whole through funding provided by the Friends of the Park.

Heritage education station and archaeology laboratory -- The work to restore and prepare the Cinnamon Bay warehouse/great house for the new heritage education station and archaeology laboratory began April 26. The archaeology lab has moved out of the historic structure and into a freight container at Cinnamon Bay. The public may still find folks out there a few days a week working out of the container as the park continues to excavate and analyze and catalog artifacts.
Work to be completed before the exhibit cases are installed is extensive. The concrete floor will be taken out and all electrical wiring will be installed in a new lime floor for the museum cases and lab tables. The windows and doors will be replaced with 18th century period construction techniques using hardwood and hand forged hardware. The walls will be lime plastered where needed and lime washed. A new security system will be installed along with phone lines and internet for research. The contract also includes the construction of discovery drawers for education purposes and a 60 inch indoor / outdoor tv screen for educational presentations. Accessibility will be provided everyone as a concrete sidewalk and a ramp into the building will also be built.

Accessibility Trail -- Investigations and monitoring of the accessibility trail at the Cinnamon Bay factory area is complete. In the process the investigations documented several surface remains and features that have helped the park define the village for those that were enslaved at this plantation. Friend’s archaeology funds were used to remove the plywood over the doors and windows of one of the historic structures along the walk. Using the archaeological information derived from the work done for the trail and using the guidelines for historic restoration, the shutters, doors and hand forged hardware were restored as defined for 18th century construction.

Cinnamon Bay Reburial -- This year the completion of the excavation unit at Cinnamon Bay for the reburial of the human remains is a high priority. In the last 10 centimeters excavated, eye inlays for wooden zemi statues were recovered along with beads used to make a chiefdoms belt and a three pointed zemi stone. The park is also intent on analyzing and cataloging many of the prehistoric items from this site. So far this year we are averaging approximately a thousand objects a month.

Artifact Research -- Speaking of prehistoric stone artifacts last month her Majesty’s Master and Commander and one of our favourite Danish interns Casper Toftgaard joined us again with new discoveries from the Danish National Museum. Casper is researching stone axes in the Danish collections that were excavated from St. John and taken to Copenhagen. In so doing he has found a complete stone ball belt from here (the implications of which are very significant) and has also provided the park with excellent photographs of the ball court stones from St. Croix’s Salt River Bay site and many other artifacts from here and across the region.

We also hoisted another Caribbean lithic researcher, Professor Sebastiaan Knippenberg of Leiden University, Netherlands who is the leading expert studying island stone sources to determine where stone tools originate from within the Caribbean. Sebastiaan completed his field research here in November. His report will help us sort our stone tools and determine what island they came from.

From Left to Right -- Intern Savanna, Leiden University Researcher Sebastiaan, park archaeologist Kourtney, Danish History student coordinator in Denmark and former Danish intern Jonas, and Kourtney's sister Carol

Historic Structures Preservation Projects -- The project to stabilize historic ruins at Catherineberg and the factory area at Cinnamon Bay has begun. The work is being completed by a local mason contractor and monitored by cultural resource staff. The mortar used in these types of preservation / stabilization efforts is key to long term preservation efforts. Therefore, mortar sample analysis was completed for this project. Bedding mortar and wall capping will be completed with Type S lime mortar with white cement and sand. All visible work and work around soft historic brick will consist of Virginia Lime Works Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) 3.5 and sand in the ratio determined by the mortar analysis. Most of the work to be completed consists of pointing and wall capping. However, in consultation with the VI Historic Preservation Office it was decided that the factory at Catherineberg should be restored as the photographic record depicts. At Cinnamon Bay the graves and the one fallen stone entrance column will be restored. Work is currently underway at the Catherineberg factory.

Historic Sites Research through the International Internship Program -- Currently two Danish history students from the University of Copenhagen, Lasse Rodewald and Aske Stick are here to help the park locate historic 18th century sites along the coast of Reef Bay. The students have spent several months researching in the archives in Denmark. After their month stay here they will return to spend several more months researching and writing up what they have found in the field. So far they have located what they believe is Rift Parret’s house. Rift had a wife, five children and three enslaved workers when he died in 1739. We were hoping to involve the community in this project more but unfortunately the areas we have had to survey are very steep, covered in Christmas bush, wild pineapple and catch and keep. Therefore we have been somewhat reluctant to invite the public.

Left to Right - Danish intern Aske, Beloit College intern Dave, Danish intern Lasse and Museum studies intern Christel at the Rift Parret ruins.

Maritime Research Projects -- Two underwater survey projects continue as time and resources allow. One project aims to complete the park’s efforts to install moorings for large boats. To complete this installation requires 106 compliance that insures that no significant resources will be damaged as a result of this action. The first half of this project; a magnetometer survey of the proposed site areas has been completed. Currently, the anomalies are being mapped so that ground truthing can be undertaken.

The other project is being completed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The goal of this project is to locate cultural resources and abandoned and illegal traps in the Coral Reef National Monument. The project started with the use of Navy self guiding side scan sonar torpedo shaped devices that located and scanned possible targets. Since the majority of the survey area was completed in over 100 to 130 feet of water it was determined to be too time consuming to dive on the large number of targets identified. As a result NOAA’s research vessel the Nancy Foster was brought down in March and we used an ROV to basically fly to and video record each target. Two possible wreck sites were identified for further ground truthing investigations, as were illegal fish traps in the park and the documentation of several lion fish at 110 feet.

Hassel Island -- Work continues on Hassel Island. This last month we completed surface data recovery for a portion of the new trail to the Officers Quarters. Our work will continue as we map out the route from the Officers Quarters to Cowell Battery and complete data recovery as required to complete 106 compliance.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello all! My name is Crystal and for the past 3 months I have been interning at the Archaeology Lab/Museum at Cinnamon Bay. Unlike most of the other individuals who come down to work at Cinnamon, however, I was not an Archaeology intern but a Museum Studies intern. This meant that my days were spent in the lab cataloging and analyzing artifacts, although I was allowed to help with the excavation occurring behind the lab a few times, which was very educational. It was interesting to see how methodical all of the archaeology interns had to be while digging and mapping the unit, as well as to see all the artifacts that I later washed and cataloged in situ or in context with each other. While I have a BA in Anthropology and have taken a few archaeology classes, I never attended a field school so it was fun to see this aspect of the work. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of my time was spent cataloging and doing preliminary analysis of artifacts within the lab’s collections, the majority of which were from an excavation at Cinnamon Bay that took place from 1998-2000, at a site that is believed to have been a Taino ceremonial center. While this was technically my main responsibility, I also spent a good deal of time talking to everyone that came into the lab, explaining what we were doing and answering questions about the history and prehistory of St. John. The most interesting project I was given, however, was when I was asked to design mobile displays for the St. John’s Arts Festival, which took place at the end of February. Not only did this allow me to tap into my artsy/designer side, it meant that I got to handle our more impressive artifacts that are often kept in storage, as they are usually too delicate to be put on display, such as the Taino offering of closed bivalves that was removed in one piece from the 1998-2000 excavation at Cinnamon Bay, and the multiple miniscule shell beads that would be in danger of being lost if left on the display cases currently in the lab. Being able to work with these artifacts, especially the ceramics, also meant that I learned quite a bit about the chronology of the cultures that inhabited the island. It is one thing to read about how the effigies that adorned the offering vessels changed over the centuries from being very anthropomorphic, or human-like, in appearance, to having bat noses and headdresses. It is quite another to see it all in a case in front of you, and to have the effigies matched up with other ceramics from the time period. It was very sad day when I had to put all of the artifacts back into storage and return to simply describing them to the museum’s visitors. It is also very depressing that I had to leave before the renovations on the lab finished, but all internships must eventually come to an end. With any luck I will return to St. John in the near future and be able to see these artifacts on permanent display, telling the long, long story of the history of St. John.

Hello my name is Rachel Applefield and I am a Cultural Anthropology major from the University of North Carolina Asheville and the newest intern. In the fall of 2011 I will be attending grad school to pursue Marine Archaeology with an emphasis on the historic period of the Caribbean and technologies associated with submergence archaeology. Given my interests, the opportunity to be able to come down to the Virgin Islands and intern with the National Park Service seemed fitting, not to mention exciting.

During my first week I, along with NPS archaeologists Ken Wild, Kourtney Donohue and magnetometer specialist Tim Smith from Denver, traversed seven of the bays around St. John pulling and learning about the ways of a magnetometer which reads magnetic fields. NPS wants to put in moorings that can accommodate larger vessels; the magnetometer will help us locate anomalies that could be shipwrecks before putting the moorings in place. Now that the readings have been taken and the data compiled, Ken and Kourtney can dive and discover the nature and composition of these anomalies.

On January 21st I was able to accompany Ken as he led a group of volunteers on a petroglyph hunt after a mysterious black and white photo of a previously unknown petroglyph in the Reef Bay area was brought to Ken’s attention. Armed with a copy of the photo the group searched around the petroglyph pool ; it was finally discovered by a couple of archaeology enthusiasts, Sue and Darrell Borger from Racine, WI. After studying the rock fissures in the photograph, Sue Borger was able to recognize and locate the rock face with the ancient glyph. The geometric glyph which has been found in other parts of the Lesser Antilles but not within the Virgin Islands is thought to predate the classic Taino period and could serve as evidence to an earlier pre-Taino culture’s existence on the island.
*The picture below is the original and had been chalked. In order to help preserve them, petroglyphs should never be chalked.

Joining me down here are recent grads Steve Jankiewicz from University of Illinois, Dave Simpson from Beloit College and Crystal Williams of Wake Forest. These interns are coming in with anthropology backgrounds and experience in CRM work and museum studies.
Dave and Steve are working on doing historic analysis of artifacts removed when an accessibility trail to the Cinnamon Bay factory and great house was put in. Crystal along with local intern Chela Thomas are busy in the archaeology lab doing museum curation and cataloging. As for me, I will be compiling a list of the plantation ruins on NPS land that are accessible to the public and putting together a brief history pamphlet that will be made available to visitors of the lab.
In addition to this Dave, Steve, Kourtney and I have been busy excavating the unit behind the lab for the burial of human remains from a historic period cemetery that had washed out because of beach erosion. We have also begun to look for and document new sub-sites at the L’Esperance plantation ruins.
Check back for more later!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

As a part of our internship last semester, we had the wonderful opportunity to go to St. John. Out area of interest was the East End of the island, an area that we began to focus on in the archives in Copenhagen prior to our departure. The moist and hot air that “welcomed” us on our arrival the 21 of March would take some time to get used to, but we were soon acclimatized and heading into the jungle searching for potsherds and ruins. We made several trips out from our camp in Cinnamon Bay to the East End, accompanied by NPS Archaeologist Ken Wild, and at times other interns from the US Mainland. One of our earlier trips was to the ruins of Halover, an estate that had drawn our attention in the archives. According to the material found in the archives, this was one of the larger estates in the area which had up till 40 enslaved workers in the early nineteenth century. This, however, did not fit with the archeological findings at the site, which indicated that the site had most likely been abandoned in the 1790s. Later on, back in the archives, we found evidence, which combined with the archeological studies, suggested that the estate had moved to Turners Point, probably in the 1790s. This new piece of information would not have been possible to put together without the combination of archeological field work and archival studies. The trips out into the wilderness of the East End, the hours spend working with the American interns, as well as enjoying the free time with them, and the beautiful island itself, are just some of the fond memories that we have from our time on St. John.
- Signe Haubroe Flygare & Stig S√łndergaard Rasmussen.