Intern Log : Alessia Isolani : October 2019

Happy Archaeology Month! 

October has been another busy month here on St. John. We have been continuing our monitoring work at Annaberg Sugar Factory, and it has been great to see how well the project is coming along. I have also been doing a lot of mapping work at Trunk Bay. We have been using a Trimble GPS unit to map the beach and amenity areas at Trunk along with any sensitive archaeological areas. This mapping project has given me a lot of practice using the Trimble technology, and I’ve been able to learn a lot more about mapping archaeological sites. The mapping project at Trunk Bay was done in part because of the new construction work that will be conducted in order to prepare the beach and visitor amenities for the busy season. Construction and archaeology often go hand-in-hand but also usually includes some conflict as the easiest plan for construction may be incompatible with the surrounding archaeology. At Trunk Bay we are working towards a resolution that allows the construction to be completed without interfering with any of the archaeologically sensitive areas. I have also been working on writing the work reports for all of the projects being done at Annaberg, Cinnamon, and Trunk Bay which has been a great process to work on, and has given me more practice with making sure all fieldwork is properly documented and interpreted. 

For this month, our main event was the Archaeology Day that we hosted in the Visitors Center on Friday October 18. For this event we wanted to give the public a good sample of the collection of artifacts that the park preserves. This involved looking through our collection and pulling out artifacts that could represent the many chapters of both prehistoric and historic occupation of St. John. The event was attended by people of all ages, but it was especially great that students were able to come with their teachers and classes to learn about the archaeology work that the Park does. There were four separate stations, each telling a different portion of St. John’s history. The displays included information on prehistory, archaeological method, colonial era, and maritime archaeology. This month I also have been working on re-assembling and stabilizing the shell ceremonial offering that was displayed at the Archaeology day event. Although at first glance this artifact may seem to be no more than just a pile of shells, it is actually one of the most important and unique discoveries that has been made by park archaeologists. This ceremonial offering is the only one of its kind that has been found in the Caribbean and offers insights into the spiritual lives of the Taino people who lived at Cinnamon Bay. The feature consists of unopened shells, one of the clues that this shell collection is an offering and not food waste, and was found within an area of the site that was identified as a ceremonial house. This offering is also being used as a component of a research project on how faunal remains (such as shell) can be identified as a part of ceremonial activity. The research is being done as a part of a dissertation from a PhD student at the University of Florida. 

Work has also continued on other Friends funded projects such as ruin repair and stabilization. A team from the Everglades National Park visited Annaberg Sugar Factory this week in order to begin the process of clearing ruins of any vegetation and debris that would get in the way of the restoration process. The first stage of the repairs involves a LiDAR scan of the ruins which requires the structures to be free of vegetation. This vegetation removal will also improve the visitor experience by allowing for better visibility of the factor structure, and removing the plants that had grown the village where the enslaved people lived. I appreciate all of the support from the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park organization, and from the National Parks Service. 

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