Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Archaeology in the Virgin Islands National Park: Spring 2015

            My name is Grant Gittus and I worked as an archaeology intern with the Virgin Islands National Park for two months in the spring of 2015.  I graduated from Montana State University in 2014 with a degree in Anthropology.  I learned an incredible amount during my time working with the NPS.  From cataloging newly discovered prehistoric and historic artifacts to working with Danish graduate students to discover undocumented plantation ruins, it is truly impressive what I have been able to be a part of during my time in the Virgin Islands.  Looking back on my two months of work in St. John I can say with confidence that this has been the one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I have had since I began to study archaeology. 

Left to Right: Joe Bomberger, Louise Rasmussen,
Nanna Wienecke, Grant Gittus
            Not long after I began my internship, two Danish graduate students (Nanna Wienecke and Louise Rasmussen) from the University of Copenhagen arrived to begin their work on the island.  During their month stay on the island, there was no shortage of work while we assisted them in their research on the history of Leinster Bay and surrounding area.  Much of the work involved clearing ruins of vegetation which were rapidly degrading some of the buildings.  Luckily we had no shortage of volunteers as crews from R.E.I. Adventures and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota were available to assist in cutting through the walls of “catch-and-keep” and help prepare the ruins for better preservation.  I had my most memorable archaeological experience when we discovered undocumented ruins on the east side of the island. 

Following a lead from a map created in 1780 we spent an entire day hiking up and down hills and cutting through dense, thorny jungle looking for the remnants of a great house.  With our water starting to run low we decided that we would turn around after we finished climbing the hill. Not more than two meters from where we made that decision we found a tiny piece of porcelain which signified occupation.  Further up the hill we found more artifacts and remnants of a few buildings.  To the Danes, it meant their research had paid off.  I will never forget that feeling of excitement and relief when we found the ruins.

One of Trimble's UAVs used to 3D scan
Annaberg and Leinster Bay
During the second week of April, a crew from Cyark and Trimble flew down to the Virgin Islands to work on the Annaberg and Leinster Bay ruins.  Cyark is an organization dedicated to digitally preserving some of the world’s most significant cultural heritage sites so that future generations may access them.  Using an array of Trimble’s 3D scanning and GPS technology, ranging from UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) to complex 3D laser scanners, the crew from Cyark and Trimble scanned the Annaberg Estate ruins and the Leinster Bay ruins.  Once the models are completed later this year, we will have a unique view into the layout and architecture of the ruins which will allow us to further understand the history of the slave trade at Annaberg Estate and Leinster Bay.  It was a great experience to work with Cyark and Trimble as they used cutting-edge technology and equipment to digitally preserve some of the cultural heritage on St. John.

Currently we are working diligently in the lab to catalog both the historic artifacts we retrieved during our work in Leinster Bay and the prehistoric artifacts from the recently completed Cinnamon Bay excavation.  In only two months, I have learned an incredible amount about Caribbean Archaeology and how historic and prehistoric preservation is conducted within our National Parks.  Ken Wild, our supervisor and Park Archaeologist, has been an invaluable resource during my time here.  He has provided us (the interns) with experiences that are both educational and unique.  From sweating and bleeding as we cut through dense jungle to learning the intricacies of GPS as it relates to archaeology; from analyzing prehistoric pot sherds to assisting in three-dimensional scanning; my time on St. John with the NPS has been one that will prove to be irreplaceable as I continue my career in archaeology and the federal government. 

I would like to give special thanks to the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park for making this internship available through their fundraising.  Without their continued support of the NPS Archaeology Program it would be impossible to complete the incredible amount of heritage preservation which has occurred. 

Preview of the 3D model being created of Annaberg.
       Pictured here is the windmill.

Monday, April 27, 2015


            My name is Joseph Bomberger. I graduated in 2013 from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania with a Bachelors in Anthropology/Archaeology. The past four and a half months have led me to the realization that the NPS Archaeology Internship Program, funded by the Friends, is truly incredible. In the short time I have held this internship, I have participated in an array of activities that have been enriching personally, professionally, and intellectually. I am honored to have been given the chance to take part in this excellent program.

Cinnamon Bay Archaeology Lab and Education Center

            This winter we completed the final touches on the exhibits at Cinnamon Bay. The Heritage Education Center and Archaeology Laboratory has been a decade-long labor of love under the excellent vision of Ken Wild and the Friends. Dozens of interns have contributed to this monumental achievement and the level of excellence in their work shows in the displays. Starting with a simple computer model in 2005, it has stayed remarkably true to the original vision. The Education Center has grown into a rare treat for visitors to experience. It chronicles the entirety of human habitation in the U.S. Virgin Islands from the first native peoples 3,000 years ago to the purchase of the territory in 1917. Amazingly, the exhibits provide so much information and yet they are accessible to any generation. This makes the Education Center a valuable resource for schools in the Virgin Islands, allowing the children to experience the full history of their home.

            Celebrating the completion of this project, more than seventy-five individuals attended the grand opening ceremony on February twenty-fifth, including keynote speaker Dave Worthington, the Chief of Interpretation and Cultural Resources for the VI National Park; Senator Myron Jackson, U.S. Virgin Islands cultural affairs representative; Joe Kessler, president of the Friends; and Ken Wild, VI National Park archaeologist. Also on hand were Makeia, spokesperson of the Taíno people in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Sean Krigger, deputy chief of the State Historic Preservation Office.

            A good portion of our time this season has been spent cataloguing and analyzing artifacts from the Cinnamon Bay digs, which began in 1998 and continued through 2014. We have been attempting to piece together a plethora of prehistoric pottery sherds. The diversity of these sherds and the complexity of their decorations are astounding. We have reconstructed pots of every size and shape imaginable, some with beautiful geometric patterns and interesting adornments. Equally impressive are the historic artifacts, though our focus has primarily been prehistoric. The historic ceramics are so varied that identifying them becomes quite fun. The amount of sub-varieties and regional variants of ceramics is incredible. The glass bottles are also diverse. They come in a surprising number of sizes, shapes, and colors which always keeps analysis interesting.

              Ken, Adam and Mikey (in order furthest to closest) moving artifacts with 'lift-bags' at Creque Marine Railway

            While we do not have any ongoing archaeological digs on St. John, the Friends have funded several restoration projects on Hassel Island under Ken Wild’s supervision. Earlier in the season we supervised the restoration of a historic lime kiln. Architectural plans are being drawn up for the restoration of the machine shop, and there are plans to build a coffer dam, drain the slip-way at the Creque Marine Railway and restore the walls to historic condition. To preserve the artifacts in the slipway, we have conducted dives to move them to deeper water. I have also had the pleasure of accompanying the Ken on the archaeological boat tour, which was quite a success. The interns presented at the annual Folk-life Festival and had possibly over one hundred people visited our booth over the course of the two day event.

Interns Grant Gittus (front-right) and Nanna Wienecke (center) disembarking at Leinster Bay

            We were joined at the end of March we were joined by two Danish interns – Nanna Wienecke and Louise Rasmussen – who have been conducting research in the Danish archives on the history of the Leinster Bay area. They were able to apply their knowledge of the historical record to help us discover and interpret more of the archaeological record.

            We may not have any active digs, but the work of an archaeologist is never over. It is important to remember that as archaeologists we are focused on the preservation of cultural resources. When tides threaten sites sometimes bold action is required to ensure the sites survival. Recently the waves uncovered a site at Cinnamon Bay. We were lucky enough to find it in time to run salvage operations and recover an exquisitely crafted red pot, relatively intact. Without the funding and support from the Friends for the NPS Archaeology Program this would not have been possible and the site would have been lost to the ocean. Thank you to everyone who came to the grand opening or have donated time, talent, or resources to the wonderful projects currently or previously sponsored by the Friends. We hope those who were not able to attend will be able to visit when they get a chance.

Friday, May 02, 2014


My name is Matt Schlicksup and I worked as an intern with the Virgin Islands National Park archaeology program for four months during the Spring of 2014.  I have a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Beloit College and will soon begin a Master's in Anthropology and Museum Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  I first came to St. John two years ago as a student participating in the first Virgin Islands archaeological field school from Beloit College.  Having experienced the Park's impressive archaeology program first hand, I decided this would be an excellent place to revisit to gain some additional experience before continuing my education.

Shorty after I began in January, a group of nine undergraduate archaeology students from Beloit College arrived for a week-long archaeological field school similar to the one that brought me to St. John for the first time in 2012.  I worked with these students as they learned basic archaeological field techniques such as mapping, survey, and excavation at a newly discovered prehistoric site.  After the students left I helped process the artifacts they had collected and began working on a brand new museum display for the archaeology lab at Cinnamon Bay.  This unique display features the incredible variety of artifacts found here on St. John in one large case, and is designed to present them just as we find them buried beneath the ground.  Reconstructed layers of artifacts and an accompanying timeline serve as a prelude to more in-depth displays on each of the distinct time periods of St. John's rich history.

Although I spent the majority of my time in the lab working with park staff, volunteers, and the public as I helped bring the exhibits at Cinnamon Bay closer to completion, I had several opportunities to work on other projects and park events as well.  At the end of February I helped give a presentation on the history of St. John with park archaeologist, Ken Wild on a boat cruise along the island's north shore.  The other interns and I also represented the archaeology program with a booth at the 2014 Folklife Festival at Annaberg Sugar Plantation.  In April I also worked with students from the University of Copenhagen to investigate and map the ruins of a historic sugar plantation on the south side of the island and learned about artifact conservation by creating a sodium carbonate "bath" for a large metal artifact on display at Cinnamon Bay.

For someone pursuing a career in archaeology and museums, this has been a great opportunity to build on my archaeological background and gain hands-on experience building educational museum displays and working with the public.  My time as an intern at Virgin Islands National Park has taught me a lot about public, federal, and Caribbean archaeology as well as archaeological curation and exhibit design.  But while these skills and experiences have enriched me both as an individual and aspiring professional, I am most proud of my contribution to the park's efforts to make archaeology and the history of St. John accessible to the public.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

 In the following you will be presented the story of our internship on St. John in the spring of 2013. We are two Danish students from the SAXO-Institute of the University of Copenhagen; Josefine Damgaards Nielsen is studying European Ethnology and Lise Wulff Vissing Nielsen is studying History. In the present semester we are enrolled in an exciting internship initiated in collaboration between the SAXO-institute and the National Park Service on St. John. Since the beginning of the program in 2007, a changing number of Danish students each year have been enrolled in the program and we would like to share our experience with you.
The program was initiated due to a shared wish of researching the history of St. John during the period of Danish colonization of the U.S. Virgin Islands until the colony was sold to the United States in 1917. The majority of the records depicting the pre-1917 history of the islands are in the Danish National Archives in Copenhagen. This is the single most important reason why the NPS has an interest in the program. Through the program the NPS, and specifically the Cultural Resource Program, gain access to insights and knowledge from the records in the archives that otherwise would be out of reach due to the records being in old gothic Danish writing. The importance of the program in a Danish perspective is the possibility of increasing the knowledge of the important history of Danish involvement in the Caribbean, which is a history which for long has been neglected in Danish research.
The program consists of two parts beginning with two months of research in the Danish National Archives. The records in the archives are exceptionally comprehensive and therefore they represent a grand research potential which the program tries to use in the best possible manner. The comprehensiveness of the sources is due to the fact that the Danes were meticulous when documenting the life in the colony and furthermore taking an interest in preserving the records. Therefore the source materials at hand in the Danish National Archives are historical resources waiting to be used. This year's research is focused upon a specific area in the northern middle part of the island along the Centerline Road. This area consists of three plantation sites and an unidentified historic site. In the archives we gain knowledge of the history of the plantations and the owners in question by researching and transcribing tax records, probates, deeds and so forth which as mentioned are, for the most part, written in gothic Danish. This initial research allows us to know the location of the plantations and thus knowing where to focus our field work which is the second part of the program. The program being in two parts is of utmost significance. One month of field work allows the source material to meet the actual sites they are depicting thus opening up for a greater understanding and therefore enforces our ability to interpret the past in the most thoroughly manner. Combining the archaeological evidence with the historical research makes it possible to paint a fuller picture of the past than any of the disciplines could alone.
 We have just returned from our stay on St. John and have the rest of the semester to finish the final report which is the analysis that combines the historical records with the archaeological data collected. The stay at St. John have been a life changing experience for both of us and has helped us obtain a deeper understanding of the conditions on the island. The climate and topography is highly different from that of Denmark and by walking in the old plantation sites one gets an understanding of some of the troubles and hard ships the planters must have faced which could not fully be understood by researching historical records and descriptions alone. Archaeological fieldwork and historical archival research supplement each other well, allowing the historical records meet tangible evidence on the actual sites. The discipline of ethnology in Denmark has a long tradition for an interest in material culture and the relationship between a human world and the world of things thus making ethnology a helpful tool when interpreting the lived lives of people during colonial times and the things people chose to surround themselves with.
            During the period of our internship we lived in a campground at Cinnamon Bay. This has contributed positively to the experience of getting to know the island first hand which is of utmost importance when interpreting and understanding the historical period we research. Not only did we meet the local critters, but also the sounds, the smells and the surrounding darkness that sneaks up on the island surprisingly quick in the afternoons contributed to an overall understanding of how life is on the island. Even though we had an ice cooler we experienced how we were forced to throw out food because, if the ants or the donkeys did not get to it, the heat would, and everything went moldy in no time.
Nonetheless the experience was amazing and we are thankful that we were chosen to be part of this program, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the people who made a difference in regards to this internship. Throughout the internship the guidance of our supervisor in Copenhagen, Dr. Niklas Thode Jensen (SAXO-institute), and Cultural Resource Managers/Archaeologists on St. John, Kenneth Wild and Kourtney Donohue, cannot go unmentioned. Without their continuously help we would not be able to complete the program satisfactory, and the program would not be the same. As a closing remark we thank Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park who made the internship possible with their financial support.

Josefine Damgaards Nielsen

Lise Wulff Vissing Nielsen

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hi, my name is Amy Rieffer and I recently finished up my three month archaeology internship with the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park. It's nice to be back in Iowa, but I miss the great people I met on St. John. Working for the park was a great way to be able to experience many aspects of archaeology that I previously had no background in.

While I was working on St. John the interns ended up doing a variety of jobs, but our primary task was to run the archaeological museum on the Cinnamon Bay beach. We would greet the public and answer any questions they had while also working on some laboratory work. A few times we even had local school groups come in to learn about the history of the island and observe some of the things we have recovered. Our laboratory work mainly involved the analysis, cataloging, and labeling of archaeological materials from one of the past Cinnamon Bay digs. We also washed and analyzed new artifacts we brought back from the many small projects we did on the island.

When we weren't in the museum, we did many different types of field work. Every so often we went out to help the park volunteer groups with projects such as clearing vegetation from historic ruins or creating a rock wall to stop erosion along a gut. After we finished clearing the more obscure sites we would often return to map the area more accurately, take photographs and recover the visible archaeological materials. We also helped out with a special project done by a group from the University of Southern Florida. They were collecting photographic data using LIDAR and 3D scans of the petroglyphs off the Reef Bay Trail. From the information gathered through that project we may soon find many more petroglyphs that aren't easily visible to the naked eye. We even made a few trips out to Hassel Island, off of St. Thomas, to work on the newly cleared trails. Hassel Island is the most densely covered historic area that I have ever visited; there are literally artifacts everywhere you look.

Occasionally we did get to do a bit of excavation. We did a short salvage dig along Cinnamon Bay where an area of the beach embankment was eroding due to high tidal surges. This area of the beach had been excavated the previous year, but the increasing erosion started revealing even more prehistoric artifacts. We thoroughly mapped out the visible area and removed any archaeological materials which were visible. Additionally, we went to St. Thomas one day to help out with the preliminary excavation for the newly discovered site along the main street which will soon be completely excavated.

Volunteers are crucial to maintaining the park and helping promote the history of the island. In the past we have had numerous volunteers help with archaeological excavations, but when there aren't any excavations going on many people don't realize there are other volunteer opportunities at directly relate to that we archaeology interns work on. We do allow people to help with the washing and labeling of artifacts that we are constantly collecting on small projects. Additionally, this year Kent and Paula Savel have started a docent program at the Cinnamon Bay Archaeological Museum. The docents work for about three hours a day, once a week during the peak tourist season. Most of the time they talk to the people who are interested in the museum and answer questions. This allowed us to have some more time to concentrate on the laboratory work. Usually they worked in pairs and gave an hour presentation about the island which included a talk about the prehistoric peoples of St. John and a walking tour of the Cinnamon Bay Plantation ruins across from the campground.

I loved working on St. John. Hopefully, I will be able to visit St. John sometime in the future to see what's new in the museum and learn what else Ken and Kourtney have uncovered about the history of this unique island.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hello!  My name is Kate, and I am the most recent of the NPS intern s.  I have been here since the beginning of November, and I love it so far.
Working as an intern for the National Park Service is an education like no other.  I loved my time at university, and I learned a great deal under some of the top professors, but this internship provides a solid, practical counterpoint to university classes and multitudes of textbooks. For example, a class on North American archaeology covered prehistoric and historic ceramics briefly, providing a theoretical basis for identifying and studying ceramics, while this internship gives me the chance to sit down and go through hundreds of ceramic sherds as I identify them and record their characteristics.  Being able to see 40 or 50 different pieces of pearlware or whiteware allows me to gain an understanding of the variation that occurs within this ceramic type and become better at identifying and differentiating ceramics.  It allows me to feel the difference between lead and tin glazes and see up close how the glazes chip off in different ways.  Both are features that are difficult to understand through textbooks and Powerpoint slides.
In addition to learning the useful archaeological skills, I also have the opportunity to learn skills that would enhance my career as an archaeologist.  So far, I have had the chance to learn a bit about working with local contractors on restoration projects, handling a boat and maritime navigation, vegetation control and care of archaeological ruins, and the importance of volunteers, no matter how untrained they are.  Volunteers for the Park Service and the Friends of the Park provide the much needed manpower to help keep the plantation ruins and hiking trails clear of vegetation and provide us with enthusiastic tour guides at many of the larger plantation sites.
I have also realized that while research is an important aspect of archaeology, interaction with the public is just as important, if not more.   It feels almost as if the importance of archaeology and history is lessened if what is being discovered isn’t being taught to others.  As an intern, I work in the museum in Cinnamon Bay, where I give short talks to tourists and locals who come in to explore the museums, answer questions about the island’s history and explain the importance of the work the Park’s archaeologists undertake.  We also work with school groups of all ages, giving lectures about the island’s history, teaching skills used in excavation and analysis and giving students a starting point for becoming future archaeologists.  One of the best parts of my job is when someone comes in to the museum with questions or with no knowledge of the island’s history and leaves with a new interest or the excitement of discovery and a desire to see more of the island’s heritage.
My work here is so very different from the CRM jobs I’ve held.  Ken and Kourtney involve their interns in almost every aspect of their work.  We can be involved in report writing, analysis, and excavation and cataloguing, as well as talking to museum-goers and school groups.  Working for a CRM firm meant that I had a very defined and limited role.  I was there to walk surveys and dig the shovel tests and test pits, nothing more.  The work was necessary, but it was frustrating to work in such a limited capability and not be involved beyond excavation.  Working as an intern is such a satisfying and rewarding job.
                                         My Tent located at Cinnamon Bay.

Local High School Class at the Lab.

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 union.wisc.edu/wud/altbreaks-info.htm, 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.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hi all, my name is Savanna and this is my second year in St. John as an archaeology intern. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of all the projects that were finished in the year I was away. The biggest surprise was the museum at Cinnamon Bay. It’s been completely renovated since last year, and it’s looking really great. It is so inviting for visitors- beautiful display cases, new work tables and a slideshow that plays on a new TV. Another exciting change was the re-discovery of the lost petroglyph at Reef Bay. It’s hard to spot, but when pointed out it’s very interesting. The design is so different from the Taino petroglyphs on the other side of the pool.
Hassel Island is another place that changed so much over the past year. Last December, the trail system was at the very beginning stages of construction. I think we had gone up the day they put in the first trail with the bobcat. This year there are a number of different trails, with signs to inform visitors where to go and what they are looking at. The park is restoring various historic shop machines from the marine railway and the blacksmith shop that will eventually be part of an interpretive display, thanks to funding by Friends of the Park. While on the trails, we did some surface collections for VIIS 308, mostly in front of the leprosarium and the marine railway. We mostly found glass bottles and ceramics.
Ashley, the other intern, and I spent some time this year fixing up the campsite out here at Cinnamon. In addition to visiting Reef Bay and Hassel Island, we did a number of smaller projects. Trunk Bay won the prestigious Blue Flag award, and we went in to excavate the postholes for the sign, VIIS 309. The location is not far from the Taino burial site at Trunk Bay, so we did not know what to expect. In addition to some Taino polishing stones and pot sherds, we found a human tooth with the root attached. There were no other signs of human remains there however.
Ashley and I also did some trail maintenance with the “voluntourists” who meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We worked at Leinster Bay and on the Johnny Horn trail, and visited the old Murphy estate. It is believed that Mr. Murphy was an active Mason and held meetings in his great house, so the ruins could possibly be the site of the oldest Masonic temple on U.S soil.
Ashley and I accompanied Ken and Kourtney with mooring compliance over at Lameshur Bay. They dove and used a metal detector to look for anomalies around the moorings. Ashley was in charge of dive safety and I was in charge of maintaining boat operations. Ashley also had her first encounter with a barracuda- possibly the least friendly looking fish down here! Although Ken and Kourtney did not find any anomalies, Kourtney had one of the best dives of her life in front of White Cliffs.
I’m very grateful to both Ken and the Friends of the Park for having me down here for another 6-week archaeology internship. Although my internship is up, I will be on St. John until June and hope to volunteer and accompany the interns from time to time.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Hey all,
I'm Megan. I'm from Wisconsin, and going to be getting my masters in Anthropology/Archaeology at UW Milwaukee. I just finished an internship here at VI Natl. Park, which lasted the month of June and was pretty much amazing. June was mosquito season on St. John (or do they swarm year-round? I'm skeptical that you could ever be mosquito free on the island), but despite that, I got to take part in some pretty interesting and unique projects, a summary of which follows:
Cinnamon Bay Reinternment
This project (for those who have not scrolled down further) is to reinter remains of those individuals that were enslaved here and have washed ashore. Since the topsoil on St. John is so rocky, most of these burials occurred on the beaches. Hurricanes and erosion, however, have played a large part in the unearthing some of these gravesites. The end result of this is that the park service has at least 30 individuals that have been eroded out.
The community members of St. John decided that the current site on Cinnamon Bay (right behind the lab) would be the best place to reinter these remains. There is, however, a lot of archaeology already in the spot; this is where the archaeology interns come in. Because the project has been ongoing, we started excavation 70 cm below ground surface. In one 10 cm level, we found numerous pot sherds, lithics, and marine shells dating to the Taino culture on the island roughly 1000 BP.
Hassel Island:
Hassel Island is on the south side of St. Thomas and home to a number of historic ruins. The ones I got to see were the old army barracks at the top of the main hill, and Creque Marine Railway; Creque Marine is the site of the longest running steam powered marine railway in the world.
The park service is putting a trail in on Hassel, and our job was to find the barracks that would be by the trail. We bushwhacked our way through cactus, thorny vines, Christmas bush (a relative of poison ivy) and wild pineapple (also thorny) to enter in the GPS coordinates of the ruins. Once that was accomplished, we set out to enter in more coordinates of the path. Later, heavy machinery would use the coordinates we entered to clear the path and take out the vegetation that proved to be more than a match for our machetes.

There are a number of plantation ruins on St. John, and the park service needs to map them. This is so it knows what condition they are in and what types of buildings they consist of. This was probably the most fun project because we got to hike through the woods and find the ruins we needed to map that day. Mapping the site would take a few hours, even with the handy laser measurer; there were just so many components. At one site, there were at least 10 structures: an animal mill (to mill sugarcane), the sugar factory, a retaining wall, an ox pen, a bake oven, a kitchen, a main house, and a few quarters for those enslaved here - plus all the unidentified structures that were mostly rubble.

All in all, it was a productive internship. I am so glad I got to experience what it's like to work on St. John, and I am especially grateful to the Friends of the Park, who made it possible for me to be there, and to Ken and Kourtney for letting me work with them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

VIIS Cultural Resource Project Updates -- 5/10/2011. The following projects were made possible either in part or whole through funding provided by the Friends of the Park.

Heritage education station and archaeology laboratory -- The work to restore and prepare the Cinnamon Bay warehouse/great house for the new heritage education station and archaeology laboratory began April 26. The archaeology lab has moved out of the historic structure and into a freight container at Cinnamon Bay. The public may still find folks out there a few days a week working out of the container as the park continues to excavate and analyze and catalog artifacts.
Work to be completed before the exhibit cases are installed is extensive. The concrete floor will be taken out and all electrical wiring will be installed in a new lime floor for the museum cases and lab tables. The windows and doors will be replaced with 18th century period construction techniques using hardwood and hand forged hardware. The walls will be lime plastered where needed and lime washed. A new security system will be installed along with phone lines and internet for research. The contract also includes the construction of discovery drawers for education purposes and a 60 inch indoor / outdoor tv screen for educational presentations. Accessibility will be provided everyone as a concrete sidewalk and a ramp into the building will also be built.

Accessibility Trail -- Investigations and monitoring of the accessibility trail at the Cinnamon Bay factory area is complete. In the process the investigations documented several surface remains and features that have helped the park define the village for those that were enslaved at this plantation. Friend’s archaeology funds were used to remove the plywood over the doors and windows of one of the historic structures along the walk. Using the archaeological information derived from the work done for the trail and using the guidelines for historic restoration, the shutters, doors and hand forged hardware were restored as defined for 18th century construction.

Cinnamon Bay Reburial -- This year the completion of the excavation unit at Cinnamon Bay for the reburial of the human remains is a high priority. In the last 10 centimeters excavated, eye inlays for wooden zemi statues were recovered along with beads used to make a chiefdoms belt and a three pointed zemi stone. The park is also intent on analyzing and cataloging many of the prehistoric items from this site. So far this year we are averaging approximately a thousand objects a month.

Artifact Research -- Speaking of prehistoric stone artifacts last month her Majesty’s Master and Commander and one of our favourite Danish interns Casper Toftgaard joined us again with new discoveries from the Danish National Museum. Casper is researching stone axes in the Danish collections that were excavated from St. John and taken to Copenhagen. In so doing he has found a complete stone ball belt from here (the implications of which are very significant) and has also provided the park with excellent photographs of the ball court stones from St. Croix’s Salt River Bay site and many other artifacts from here and across the region.

We also hoisted another Caribbean lithic researcher, Professor Sebastiaan Knippenberg of Leiden University, Netherlands who is the leading expert studying island stone sources to determine where stone tools originate from within the Caribbean. Sebastiaan completed his field research here in November. His report will help us sort our stone tools and determine what island they came from.

From Left to Right -- Intern Savanna, Leiden University Researcher Sebastiaan, park archaeologist Kourtney, Danish History student coordinator in Denmark and former Danish intern Jonas, and Kourtney's sister Carol

Historic Structures Preservation Projects -- The project to stabilize historic ruins at Catherineberg and the factory area at Cinnamon Bay has begun. The work is being completed by a local mason contractor and monitored by cultural resource staff. The mortar used in these types of preservation / stabilization efforts is key to long term preservation efforts. Therefore, mortar sample analysis was completed for this project. Bedding mortar and wall capping will be completed with Type S lime mortar with white cement and sand. All visible work and work around soft historic brick will consist of Virginia Lime Works Natural Hydraulic Lime (NHL) 3.5 and sand in the ratio determined by the mortar analysis. Most of the work to be completed consists of pointing and wall capping. However, in consultation with the VI Historic Preservation Office it was decided that the factory at Catherineberg should be restored as the photographic record depicts. At Cinnamon Bay the graves and the one fallen stone entrance column will be restored. Work is currently underway at the Catherineberg factory.

Historic Sites Research through the International Internship Program -- Currently two Danish history students from the University of Copenhagen, Lasse Rodewald and Aske Stick are here to help the park locate historic 18th century sites along the coast of Reef Bay. The students have spent several months researching in the archives in Denmark. After their month stay here they will return to spend several more months researching and writing up what they have found in the field. So far they have located what they believe is Rift Parret’s house. Rift had a wife, five children and three enslaved workers when he died in 1739. We were hoping to involve the community in this project more but unfortunately the areas we have had to survey are very steep, covered in Christmas bush, wild pineapple and catch and keep. Therefore we have been somewhat reluctant to invite the public.

Left to Right - Danish intern Aske, Beloit College intern Dave, Danish intern Lasse and Museum studies intern Christel at the Rift Parret ruins.

Maritime Research Projects -- Two underwater survey projects continue as time and resources allow. One project aims to complete the park’s efforts to install moorings for large boats. To complete this installation requires 106 compliance that insures that no significant resources will be damaged as a result of this action. The first half of this project; a magnetometer survey of the proposed site areas has been completed. Currently, the anomalies are being mapped so that ground truthing can be undertaken.

The other project is being completed in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The goal of this project is to locate cultural resources and abandoned and illegal traps in the Coral Reef National Monument. The project started with the use of Navy self guiding side scan sonar torpedo shaped devices that located and scanned possible targets. Since the majority of the survey area was completed in over 100 to 130 feet of water it was determined to be too time consuming to dive on the large number of targets identified. As a result NOAA’s research vessel the Nancy Foster was brought down in March and we used an ROV to basically fly to and video record each target. Two possible wreck sites were identified for further ground truthing investigations, as were illegal fish traps in the park and the documentation of several lion fish at 110 feet.

Hassel Island -- Work continues on Hassel Island. This last month we completed surface data recovery for a portion of the new trail to the Officers Quarters. Our work will continue as we map out the route from the Officers Quarters to Cowell Battery and complete data recovery as required to complete 106 compliance.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello all! My name is Crystal and for the past 3 months I have been interning at the Archaeology Lab/Museum at Cinnamon Bay. Unlike most of the other individuals who come down to work at Cinnamon, however, I was not an Archaeology intern but a Museum Studies intern. This meant that my days were spent in the lab cataloging and analyzing artifacts, although I was allowed to help with the excavation occurring behind the lab a few times, which was very educational. It was interesting to see how methodical all of the archaeology interns had to be while digging and mapping the unit, as well as to see all the artifacts that I later washed and cataloged in situ or in context with each other. While I have a BA in Anthropology and have taken a few archaeology classes, I never attended a field school so it was fun to see this aspect of the work. As I mentioned earlier, the majority of my time was spent cataloging and doing preliminary analysis of artifacts within the lab’s collections, the majority of which were from an excavation at Cinnamon Bay that took place from 1998-2000, at a site that is believed to have been a Taino ceremonial center. While this was technically my main responsibility, I also spent a good deal of time talking to everyone that came into the lab, explaining what we were doing and answering questions about the history and prehistory of St. John. The most interesting project I was given, however, was when I was asked to design mobile displays for the St. John’s Arts Festival, which took place at the end of February. Not only did this allow me to tap into my artsy/designer side, it meant that I got to handle our more impressive artifacts that are often kept in storage, as they are usually too delicate to be put on display, such as the Taino offering of closed bivalves that was removed in one piece from the 1998-2000 excavation at Cinnamon Bay, and the multiple miniscule shell beads that would be in danger of being lost if left on the display cases currently in the lab. Being able to work with these artifacts, especially the ceramics, also meant that I learned quite a bit about the chronology of the cultures that inhabited the island. It is one thing to read about how the effigies that adorned the offering vessels changed over the centuries from being very anthropomorphic, or human-like, in appearance, to having bat noses and headdresses. It is quite another to see it all in a case in front of you, and to have the effigies matched up with other ceramics from the time period. It was very sad day when I had to put all of the artifacts back into storage and return to simply describing them to the museum’s visitors. It is also very depressing that I had to leave before the renovations on the lab finished, but all internships must eventually come to an end. With any luck I will return to St. John in the near future and be able to see these artifacts on permanent display, telling the long, long story of the history of St. John.

Hello my name is Rachel Applefield and I am a Cultural Anthropology major from the University of North Carolina Asheville and the newest intern. In the fall of 2011 I will be attending grad school to pursue Marine Archaeology with an emphasis on the historic period of the Caribbean and technologies associated with submergence archaeology. Given my interests, the opportunity to be able to come down to the Virgin Islands and intern with the National Park Service seemed fitting, not to mention exciting.

During my first week I, along with NPS archaeologists Ken Wild, Kourtney Donohue and magnetometer specialist Tim Smith from Denver, traversed seven of the bays around St. John pulling and learning about the ways of a magnetometer which reads magnetic fields. NPS wants to put in moorings that can accommodate larger vessels; the magnetometer will help us locate anomalies that could be shipwrecks before putting the moorings in place. Now that the readings have been taken and the data compiled, Ken and Kourtney can dive and discover the nature and composition of these anomalies.

On January 21st I was able to accompany Ken as he led a group of volunteers on a petroglyph hunt after a mysterious black and white photo of a previously unknown petroglyph in the Reef Bay area was brought to Ken’s attention. Armed with a copy of the photo the group searched around the petroglyph pool ; it was finally discovered by a couple of archaeology enthusiasts, Sue and Darrell Borger from Racine, WI. After studying the rock fissures in the photograph, Sue Borger was able to recognize and locate the rock face with the ancient glyph. The geometric glyph which has been found in other parts of the Lesser Antilles but not within the Virgin Islands is thought to predate the classic Taino period and could serve as evidence to an earlier pre-Taino culture’s existence on the island.
*The picture below is the original and had been chalked. In order to help preserve them, petroglyphs should never be chalked.

Joining me down here are recent grads Steve Jankiewicz from University of Illinois, Dave Simpson from Beloit College and Crystal Williams of Wake Forest. These interns are coming in with anthropology backgrounds and experience in CRM work and museum studies.
Dave and Steve are working on doing historic analysis of artifacts removed when an accessibility trail to the Cinnamon Bay factory and great house was put in. Crystal along with local intern Chela Thomas are busy in the archaeology lab doing museum curation and cataloging. As for me, I will be compiling a list of the plantation ruins on NPS land that are accessible to the public and putting together a brief history pamphlet that will be made available to visitors of the lab.
In addition to this Dave, Steve, Kourtney and I have been busy excavating the unit behind the lab for the burial of human remains from a historic period cemetery that had washed out because of beach erosion. We have also begun to look for and document new sub-sites at the L’Esperance plantation ruins.
Check back for more later!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

As a part of our internship last semester, we had the wonderful opportunity to go to St. John. Out area of interest was the East End of the island, an area that we began to focus on in the archives in Copenhagen prior to our departure. The moist and hot air that “welcomed” us on our arrival the 21 of March would take some time to get used to, but we were soon acclimatized and heading into the jungle searching for potsherds and ruins. We made several trips out from our camp in Cinnamon Bay to the East End, accompanied by NPS Archaeologist Ken Wild, and at times other interns from the US Mainland. One of our earlier trips was to the ruins of Halover, an estate that had drawn our attention in the archives. According to the material found in the archives, this was one of the larger estates in the area which had up till 40 enslaved workers in the early nineteenth century. This, however, did not fit with the archeological findings at the site, which indicated that the site had most likely been abandoned in the 1790s. Later on, back in the archives, we found evidence, which combined with the archeological studies, suggested that the estate had moved to Turners Point, probably in the 1790s. This new piece of information would not have been possible to put together without the combination of archeological field work and archival studies. The trips out into the wilderness of the East End, the hours spend working with the American interns, as well as enjoying the free time with them, and the beautiful island itself, are just some of the fond memories that we have from our time on St. John.
- Signe Haubroe Flygare & Stig Søndergaard Rasmussen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010-2011 Projects

Hi I’m Kourtney, I’ve been an archaeology intern with the park in the past and now I’m back, working through the Friends while awaiting my background check to clear so that I can become an official NPS archaeology employee…hoping any college loan defaults don’t affect my clearance :)

For interested interns that have not been to Cinnamon Bay below is a photo of the Lab at Cinnamon and we have attached a link to the Intern Survival Guide in the side bar.

I rushed back to the islands this September to assist in salvaging the resources threatened by the hurricanes this season. Our most crucial project involved addressing the beach erosion at Cinnamon Bay. Following Hurricane Earl, the erosion exposed a burial on the beach at Cinnamon. The skeleton was articulated and almost complete, excluding the cranium. Based on the elements present, the burial contained the remains of one young adult female. The burial was exhumed and will remain in a safe location until the forthcoming reinterment.

We are aware of the historic cemetery that has been inundated by the sea at Cinnamon Bay. However, this burial does not appear to be associated with that cemetery. Instead, the burial was located beneath a house structure, one that was most likely burnt down during the St. John Slave Revolt of 1733. We plan on mapping the area to confirm this but cannot do so until we first try to minimize the affects of the erosion. Our first plan of action involves applying matting and sandbags to the edge of the archaeological sites that are eroding. Following this, we are planning to reopen the Cinnamon Bay Prehistoric Site in order to salvage the archaeology in case of complete inundation.

We are now without our very valuable intern Chela :( who is gone until February. We are actively recruiting interns to help us with all the ongoing projects such as underwater surveys, excavation of units, site condition assessments, artifact analysis, and cataloging. Below is a more concise list of the current ongoing projects we are working on.


VIIS-352 - CINNAMON BAY ACCESSIBILITY TRAIL - Monitor construction of accessibility trail through the Cinnamon Bay Sugar Factory ruins. Complete archeological data recovery, analysis, cataloging and report.

FRIENDS - Install Historic Shutters and Doors - Contract and provide architectural info and oversee installation of replicated historic doors, blacksmith hardware and shutters on two historic structures at Mary Creek and a Cinnamon factory ruin

VIIS-351 - CINNAMON BAY EROSION STABILIZATION - Stabilize and salvage material from the coastal archaeological sites that are threatened at Cinnamon Bay following hurricane season.

VIIS-191- CINNAMON BAY PREHISTORIC SITE - Ongoing analysis and cataloging of artifacts from the excavations of the Pre-Columbian site at Cinnamon Bay.

SEC. 106 - CINNAMON BAY EMERGENCY EXCAVATION -Emergency salvage excavation of the Pre-Columbian ceremonial site at Cinnamon Bay, following its endangerment due to the 2010 hurricane season.

VIIS-339 - CINNAMON BAY REINTERMENT - Complete excavation of a unit at Cinnamon Bay that will later become the reburial plot for the assemblage of human skeletal remains that were disturbed from the historic cemetery on the beach.

PMIS/FRIENDS - CINNAMON BAY CONTACT STATION - Develop interpretive heritage exhibits at the Cinnamon Bay archaeology lab. Monitor the restoration of the structure and oversee the construction of the display exhibit cases.

SCA - HASSEL ISLAND INTERPRETATION TRAIL - Supervise Creque Cultural Landscape survey carried out by SCA. (STT Historical Trust)

FRIENDS/ Education - CREQUE SIGNS - Complete development of 5 Interpretive Signs for Creque Marine and have them installed

FMSS/PMIS - HASSEL ISLAND ROYAL MAIL STEAM PACKET STABILIZATION - Monitor the stabilization and construction of the ruins at the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company.

FMSS/PMIS - HASSEL ISLAND CREQUE MARINE DOCK - Monitor the construction of a safe dock and assure this is done as historically accurate as possible.

ASMIS/FMSS - RESEARCH HASSEL ISLAND BARRACKS STUDY - Review research by Charles Consolvo and enter data into site files, FMSS and ASMIS

FRIENDS/STT - HIST TRUST HASSEL ISLAND METAL CONSERVATION - Oversee conservation of the historic metal material recovered from surveys carried out at Hassel Island.

FRIENDS/Education - PREHISTORIC CERAMIC REPLICAS - Consult with pottery Gail Van der Bogart to replicate prehistoric ceramics for the Contact Station at Cinnamon Bay.

COST SHARE GRANT - VIRTUAL PRESERVATION OF CULTURAL RESOURCES - Oversee the University of Maine Engineer Students while digitally mapping the ruins at Cinnamon Bay in order to virtually preserve them.

SEC. 106 FRIENDS/FMSS - VEGETATION REMOVAL FROM HISTORIC SITES - Monitor volunteer coordinator Jeff Chabot and volunteers while undergoing clearing of historic sites in the park. Complete surface collection and measure ruins for FMSS

VIP/ASMIS - MAPPING HISTORIC RUINS: ANN HERSH - Assist in mapping ruins with volunteer architect at Turner site.

SEC. 110/ASMIS/FRIENDS - DANISH INTERN PROJECT: 2011 - Guide Danish interns from the University of Copenhagen through survey, data recovery, analysis in conjunction with their historic background research and report.

FRIENDS/Education - ARCHAEOLOGY INTERN PROJECT 2010 - Train archaeology students in the NPS CRM standards and procedures.

FRIENDS/Intern research - ST JOHN LITHIC STUDY 2010 - Assist in two projects led by a Danish and Dutch students researching prehistoric lithics for the park. (Casper and Sebastian) Data will result in required analysis for report purposes

FMSS/PMIS - MAHO PARKING LOT - Monitor construction of parking lot at Maho Bay.

SEC. 110 - NOAA/Navy UNDERWATER SURVEY - Survey with NOAA using self guiding UW sidescan vehicles to locate submerged resources and complete UW compliance.10/4-15. Underwater anomalies survey ongoing

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - PAQUERAU SALVAGE - Site is threatened and never recorded. Must clear vegetation, complete archaeological data recovery survey, map assess condition and complete analysis, cataloging and report.

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - HOPE SALVAGE Site - is threatened and never recorded. Must clear vegetation, complete archaeological data recovery survey, map, assess condition and complete analysis, cataloging and report.

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - VESSUP SALVAGE - Site is threatened and never recorded. Must clear vegetation, complete archaeological data recovery survey, map assess condition and complete analysis, cataloging and report.

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - BORDEAUX WEST - Site is threatened and never recorded. Must clear vegetation, complete archaeological data recovery survey, map, assess condition and complete analysis, cataloging and report.

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - Survey - 200+ acre donation never surveyed for Cultural Resources area has largest plantation on the island BEVERHOUDTSBERG This year complete phase 1 survey of area to include location of major structural remains and archaeological sites.

SEC. 110/SEC. 106 - Drier, Sullivan and Constantine Estate Surveys - Follow up on pedestrian survey. Map structures and test integrity of sites for ASMIS.

SEC. 106 - MAGNETOMETER SURVEY FOR DEEPWATER MOORINGS - Survey for impacts of CR due to the deepwater mooring replacements in compliance with Section 106. Jan 9-16, 2011. Complete anomalies survey after magnetometer survey

FRIENDS/EDUCATION - PREHISTORIC AND HISTORIC VIDEO TIMELINE - Compiling archaeological data to create a video timeline of St. John. Produced by Bill Steltzer and Ken Wild

Dissemination of Scientific findings - Present findings as required for publication and peer review - Present scientific findings at the International Congress for Caribbean Archaeology for publication