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.