Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hello! My name is Jeanette Koczwara, I am a graduate of Elizabethtown College from the class of 2014. For two months I interned as an archaeologist with the Virgin Islands National Park. My time on St. John was a wonderful learning experience that helped me develop as an archaeologist. It was also a great way to skip the worst of winter back home!

During my time working with Ken Wild and the amazing people of the NPS I was able to do a wide variety of archaeological and curatorial tasks. Among these was the mapping of a unit dug by the Beloit Archaeological Field School, the analysis and cataloging of artifacts from past digs, surface survey of a prehistoric site, and the design and creation of event displays.

In the first half of January we received news of a site on the east end of the island that was threatened by nearby construction. To protect the site we went out into the field with Trimble unit, camera, flagging tape, notebook, and field flags. On the first day Ken brought along the entire Beloit field school as well as Sarah (the volunteer coordinator) and Anne (a preservation specialist intern). Our goal in the field was to identify and document any artifacts we found in the area around the construction.

The site was identified as being mostly prehistoric; specifically it was an ideal area for lithic tool making. As such we first needed to establish what we were looking for and how to differentiate true worked stone from something that broke naturally. Because of the nature of the stone native to St. John this was a little tricky. Once everyone had a better understanding of what to look for everyone spread out in a line and began a pedestrian survey. Each artifact was marked with a flag which the GPS operator and camera crew used to find it. The entire area was documented in this manner with each artifact plotted on the GPS and photographs recorded in a log. There were also several stone features that appeared to be walls or fences, although no historic artifacts were found in association with them.

About two days into the survey, which all told took about two weeks to complete, Ken informed us of a historic site a short distance from the main survey area. There we found yellow bricks, sherds of historic ceramic, a fragment of a metal pot. One of the ceramic fragments was part of a stoneware chamber pot which was dated to the mid-16th Century. This time period indicates that this historic site likely belonged to a very early settler, a merchant, or even a pirate!

During my last week with the wonderful people at the Virgin Islands National Park I was given the opportunity to design exhibits for the annual St. John Historical Society gathering. With the help of Austin Beger and Allan Wolfrum, my fellow interns, we put together three spectacular exhibits of historic artifacts from all over St. John. Our purpose at the event was to show our appreciation to the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, who fund the intern program, and also to remind everyone that the greatest benefit of archaeology is the knowledge we gain and share. My time on St. John was an incredibly rewarding experience full of opportunities and amazing people.

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