Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My name is Austin Beger and I am an archeology intern with the VINP. I graduated from Beloit College in December of 2015 and soon after arrived in the Virgin Islands to prepare for the arrival of the Beloit College Public Archeology Field School. A previous iteration of the class in 2014 brought me down here for the first time where I had the chance to work with Matt Schlicksup, a Beloit College alum who was working here as an archeology intern at the time. Seeing the valuable experience and skills that Matt was developing during his time here as an intern was a large part of the reason that I wanted to be here in the same capacity with the next field school group.


Five Beloit College students arrived here in early January for a two week field experience co-supervised by Dr. Shannon Fie of Beloit College and park archeologist Ken Wild. There were a number of projects awaiting us including an excavation for a new outdoor sign near the Archeology Lab at Cinnamon Bay showing some of the cultural sites around the bay. During the course of the dig, students learned how to set up a unit, excavate, screen soils, map levels and analyze the artifacts found. The students also worked in the Cinnamon Bay Archeology Lab labeling and cataloging artifacts as well as interacting with the public regarding current research. Participants in the field experience practiced public archeology through interaction with the public regarding the methods and goals of archeology.


Excavation for the new sign at Cinnamon with Beloit students and volunteer coordinator Sarah Ford.


In the course of the dig, valuable information about the history and prehistory of Cinnamon Bay was uncovered. In the uppermost layers, a number of historic artifacts were found including ceramics, buttons, nails, glass and pipe stems dating to the colonial era. Approximately a foot underneath the surface of the ground in the northeastern portion of the site, the corner of a historic floor and foundation was uncovered with some of the original red mortar still preserved. The foundation and floor belong to a detached kitchen for the Cinnamon Bay plantation house which had been demolished in the mid-19th century. Beneath the kitchen floor, an abundance of decorated and prehistoric pottery, shell beads and stone tools were discovered, dating back to a thousand years or more in a series of levels which only ended at a final depth of 120 cm. The Cinnamon Bay sign dig contributes to a body of research from previous digs demonstrating that Cinnamon Bay has been an important site of human habitation from prehistoric to historic times.


The new cultural interpretive sign at Cinnamon Bay.


At the same time that the Cinnamon Bay sign dig was occurring, a number of Beloit students and myself were given the opportunity to survey a previously unmapped archaic stone tool production site on St. John. Students learned how to identify stone tools in the field as well as map them with a GPS unit. The site was discovered to extend much further than previously thought, and the work done by the Beloit College field crew will prove invaluable in ensuring that the site remains protected from development in the future.

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