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!