Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello!  My name is Kate, and I am the most recent of the NPS intern s.  I have been here since the beginning of November, and I love it so far.
Working as an intern for the National Park Service is an education like no other.  I loved my time at university, and I learned a great deal under some of the top professors, but this internship provides a solid, practical counterpoint to university classes and multitudes of textbooks. For example, a class on North American archaeology covered prehistoric and historic ceramics briefly, providing a theoretical basis for identifying and studying ceramics, while this internship gives me the chance to sit down and go through hundreds of ceramic sherds as I identify them and record their characteristics.  Being able to see 40 or 50 different pieces of pearlware or whiteware allows me to gain an understanding of the variation that occurs within this ceramic type and become better at identifying and differentiating ceramics.  It allows me to feel the difference between lead and tin glazes and see up close how the glazes chip off in different ways.  Both are features that are difficult to understand through textbooks and Powerpoint slides.
In addition to learning the useful archaeological skills, I also have the opportunity to learn skills that would enhance my career as an archaeologist.  So far, I have had the chance to learn a bit about working with local contractors on restoration projects, handling a boat and maritime navigation, vegetation control and care of archaeological ruins, and the importance of volunteers, no matter how untrained they are.  Volunteers for the Park Service and the Friends of the Park provide the much needed manpower to help keep the plantation ruins and hiking trails clear of vegetation and provide us with enthusiastic tour guides at many of the larger plantation sites.
I have also realized that while research is an important aspect of archaeology, interaction with the public is just as important, if not more.   It feels almost as if the importance of archaeology and history is lessened if what is being discovered isn’t being taught to others.  As an intern, I work in the museum in Cinnamon Bay, where I give short talks to tourists and locals who come in to explore the museums, answer questions about the island’s history and explain the importance of the work the Park’s archaeologists undertake.  We also work with school groups of all ages, giving lectures about the island’s history, teaching skills used in excavation and analysis and giving students a starting point for becoming future archaeologists.  One of the best parts of my job is when someone comes in to the museum with questions or with no knowledge of the island’s history and leaves with a new interest or the excitement of discovery and a desire to see more of the island’s heritage.
My work here is so very different from the CRM jobs I’ve held.  Ken and Kourtney involve their interns in almost every aspect of their work.  We can be involved in report writing, analysis, and excavation and cataloguing, as well as talking to museum-goers and school groups.  Working for a CRM firm meant that I had a very defined and limited role.  I was there to walk surveys and dig the shovel tests and test pits, nothing more.  The work was necessary, but it was frustrating to work in such a limited capability and not be involved beyond excavation.  Working as an intern is such a satisfying and rewarding job.
                                         My Tent located at Cinnamon Bay.

Local High School Class at the Lab.

Friday, June 15, 2012

It has been a “wild” and crazy ride. I am pleased to report the reburial site is completed! It is finished with a capital, Ugh. The next step is for the ossuary to be built and the bones to be returned. My name is Ashley Marquardt and my time here was shared with Savannah, Beloit College, Casey, Adam, Jen, and University of Maine. I encourage you to read their blogs; I will try to not repeat material. I arrived on St. John in the beginning of November. Since arriving I have had the opportunity to work in the lab analyzing artifacts, continuing work at Hassel Island, digging at trunk, bushwhacking with tourists on the trails, acting as topside safety nut during dives, and helping field students learn the ropes.
Finishing the Reburial Site with Beloit Students

The mooring compliance dives in Lameshur provided a great deal of fun. Savannah and I came along to run safety. She was monitoring boat operations and I was acting as topside safety for the divers. As soon as Ken and Kourtney entered the water, I snorkeled above them watching their bubbles rise and noticing stingrays and other fish dart out of their way long before they crossed paths. They continued swimming along with the metal detector hoping to hear a ping of an anomaly below, but none were found. During one of their dives, I followed a school of fish around until they parted revealing a toothy wide open mouth barracuda. I immediately jumped out of the water like flipper. One of the park’s divers explained, my actions were similar to a rival predator and the cuda was simply trying to intimidate me into retreating. It worked! When the field school was here, we had a volunteer group clear the Annaberg slave quarters of vegetation. The slave quarters was cleared of tan-tan, an invasive tree damaging the structures, by 6 ladies from University of Wisconsin-Madison with the assistance of volunteer Aleta, a plant expert and seasonal employee of Acadia National Park, Intern Casey, and Volunteer Charles. These young ladies were upbeat and motivated; it was a true pleasure to work with them. The UW-Madison ladies contributed to a blog found at, in testimonials and blog. The field school from Beloit had the opportunity to work on a beach erosion site, reinternment, and Constantine. The beach site came about because prior to the students’ arrival, swells stripped away sand from the beach front exposing a soil change in the bank. The students were able to dig, and wouldn’t you know it, according to true archeology luck, the site revealed large Taino pottery sherds, on the last day. They also had a chance to work at Constantine plantation near the Annaberg plantation by Leinster Bay. This involved traipsing through the thorny bush, locating and clearing the ruins, getting GPS points, and surface collecting. When Beloit left work continued on the reinternment site and the beach erosion site. The beach erosion site is an interesting site to excavate. It is unusual and fun to be able to water screen in the ocean and trowel barefoot. The beach erosion site has revealed Taino pottery, shell, beads, and charcoal. The back portion of the unit had a dark and charcoal area, most likely a hearth or fire pit. We took a group mapping the park’s ruins to The British Officer’s quarters on Hassel Island and Beverhoudtsberg plantation. The British structures on Hassel Island were built during the threat of Napoleon in a matter of months and were only occupied for several months before being returned to the Danish. This happened twice. The Beverhoudts berg plantation is relatively new property to the park and one of the larger plantations that existed. The Plantation is near a stream and waterfall with wild boar running around the property. It hasn’t been studied before and is untouched with artifacts in plain sight. The University of Maine and West Virginia Weslyn College visited during March. The goal of University of Maine was to survey and create a photo 3D model of Cinnamon Museum (the oldest structure on island), Hassel Island British Officer’s Quarters, Beverhoudtsberg, and the plantation structures of L’Esperance. West Virginia was a volunteer group helping clear these structures for study. The work of the Maine students created a great opportunity for everyone to observe and learn. L’Esperance is one of the original plantations from the Danish colonization. It is the spot of the first Moravian church and one of the oldest gravse with a tombstone. Finally, I prepared the metal conservation sodium carbonate solution in preparation for cannon that will be on display in the museum. It is the maritime archeology that holds my fascination. St. John had a long maritime history including regular trading, piracy, and prehistoric sites along the beach front. During my internship I had plenty of opportunity to interact with the public. The lab serves as a museum; our sites are often near public areas, and the addition of the ruins volunteer clearing days, meant being informed and friendly. The result of working a public archeology dig is having an answer to the question, “Did you find any gold?” “I’m not looking for gold; I’m looking for god(s).” It gives a great opportunity to explain zemis and the Taino belief system.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hi all, my name is Savanna and this is my second year in St. John as an archaeology intern. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of all the projects that were finished in the year I was away. The biggest surprise was the museum at Cinnamon Bay. It’s been completely renovated since last year, and it’s looking really great. It is so inviting for visitors- beautiful display cases, new work tables and a slideshow that plays on a new TV. Another exciting change was the re-discovery of the lost petroglyph at Reef Bay. It’s hard to spot, but when pointed out it’s very interesting. The design is so different from the Taino petroglyphs on the other side of the pool.
Hassel Island is another place that changed so much over the past year. Last December, the trail system was at the very beginning stages of construction. I think we had gone up the day they put in the first trail with the bobcat. This year there are a number of different trails, with signs to inform visitors where to go and what they are looking at. The park is restoring various historic shop machines from the marine railway and the blacksmith shop that will eventually be part of an interpretive display, thanks to funding by Friends of the Park. While on the trails, we did some surface collections for VIIS 308, mostly in front of the leprosarium and the marine railway. We mostly found glass bottles and ceramics.
Ashley, the other intern, and I spent some time this year fixing up the campsite out here at Cinnamon. In addition to visiting Reef Bay and Hassel Island, we did a number of smaller projects. Trunk Bay won the prestigious Blue Flag award, and we went in to excavate the postholes for the sign, VIIS 309. The location is not far from the Taino burial site at Trunk Bay, so we did not know what to expect. In addition to some Taino polishing stones and pot sherds, we found a human tooth with the root attached. There were no other signs of human remains there however.
Ashley and I also did some trail maintenance with the “voluntourists” who meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We worked at Leinster Bay and on the Johnny Horn trail, and visited the old Murphy estate. It is believed that Mr. Murphy was an active Mason and held meetings in his great house, so the ruins could possibly be the site of the oldest Masonic temple on U.S soil.
Ashley and I accompanied Ken and Kourtney with mooring compliance over at Lameshur Bay. They dove and used a metal detector to look for anomalies around the moorings. Ashley was in charge of dive safety and I was in charge of maintaining boat operations. Ashley also had her first encounter with a barracuda- possibly the least friendly looking fish down here! Although Ken and Kourtney did not find any anomalies, Kourtney had one of the best dives of her life in front of White Cliffs.
I’m very grateful to both Ken and the Friends of the Park for having me down here for another 6-week archaeology internship. Although my internship is up, I will be on St. John until June and hope to volunteer and accompany the interns from time to time.