April and May brought new challenges to the VIIS archaeology team as we worked to find a way to stay productive and safe during the park closure and COVID-based territorial shutdowns. We are thrilled that we were able to complete projects and adapt to the unexpected situation.
For the first portion of the lockdown I was able to stay very busy by editing reports about various St. John plantations that were written by Danish students as part of a year long research project conducted on St. John. These Danish students work for about a year conducting research in the archives in Denmark before coming to St. John for an on-site investigation. The findings of their intensive research are laid out in the resulting report. Since English is the second or sometimes third language of these students, many of the reports need some reworking before they can be made available to the public. These reports are also formatted to be accessible to the visually impaired.
In addition to my editing, I was also able to begin coming over to St. John where we were focusing our work at the Durloe plantation, which was intended to be the focus of this year’s Danish project. We were assisted by Friends of VI Park trail crew, led by Mark and Taylor. Not only did we clear the existing ruins, we also were able to identify many new structures. These included unidentified structures that are suspected to be servants’ quarters and a kitchen, as well as the previously undiscovered slave village. We previously had thought that the enslaved village associated with the Caneel Bay plantation was at a different location, but upon further investigation we were able to locate an entirely new village that had never before been recorded.
Ken has also been busy coordinating with the Park Service hurricane recovery teams to make improvements to existing structures damaged by the 2017 storms, and to build a new museum, collection, archaeology lab, and archival space that will be open to the public.
We also conducted a survey of an area at Mary’s Point that resulted in the discovery of a new enslaved housing site, as well as a scattering of artifacts, such as pottery and shell, that confirmed the use of the site. We also were able to complete this phase of archaeological investigation at Cinnamon Bay and have begun the process of backfilling with sandbags to prevent beach erosion.
Olivella Shell Bead from the Taino