Archaeologists Busy at Cinnamon Bay, Catherineberg, Hassel Island and More

VINP archaeology intern Casper Toftgaard of Denmark has been researching this complete stone ball belt, above, discovered on St. John.

V.I. National Park Archaeologist Ken Wild shared updates on on-going projects, which were made possible in part or entirely through funding provided by Friends of VINP.

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.

Heritage Education Station and Archaeology LaboratoryWork 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 the park’s favorite Danish interns Casper Toftgaard joined the VINP archaeology department again with new discoveries from the Danish National Museum.

Toftgaard 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 the island — 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 the Virgin Islands and across the region. The stone ball belt photograph will be uploaded onto the intern blog site,

VINP archaeologists also hosted 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. Knippenberg completed his field research on St. John in November. His report will help archaeologists sort stone tools and determine what island they came from.

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 on island 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-long stay on St. John, 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. Parret had a wife, five children and three enslaved workers when he died in 1739.

VINP archaeologists were hoping to involve the community in this project more but unfortunately the survey areas are very steep and covered in Christmas bush, wild pineapple and catch and keep. Therefore, the group has been somewhat reluctant to invite the public.

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. 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 Nancy Foster was brought down in March and archaeologists 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, archaeologists completed surface data recovery for a portion of the new trail that was cut from Creque Marine to Shipley Battery and to the Officers Quarters. Work will continue as the group maps out the route from the Officers Quarters to Cowell Battery and complete data recovery as required to complete 106 compliance