The V.I. National Park’s archaeology program welcomed two people to the island on Sunday, March 21, who are armed with a myriad of information and ready to help solve the mysteries of recently uncovered ruins.
The two graduate students from the University of Copenhagen’s Saxo Institute — along with a third student, who is slated to arrive April 1 — have spent the months leading up to their trip to St. John in the Danish State Archives, gathering bits of information to help determine who lived at estates which are now in ruins between Haulover and Brown Bay.
This will be the fourth year the VINP has welcomed interns from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, who have all come to help flesh out the stories of those who called St. John home during Danish rule in the 19th Century.
Adding urgency to the task facing this year’s interns is the fact that hiking trails were recently cut through the area between Haulover and Brown Bay, leaving whatever artifacts that may be in the area unprotected.
“We could lose that part of history sitting on the surface,” said VINP Archaeologist Ken Wild. “We want to carefully map all those artifacts and the ruins. A lot of these things were lost in the Danish archives for a long time.”
The interns’ first mission will be to catalogue whatever ruins and artifacts are directly along the recently cut trails, Wild continued. “We can’t get it back once it’s gone,” he said.
The Danish students research covers people who may have lived at different estates on St. John. They then hope to match artifacts found at estate ruins with information gleaned from the archives.
“Artifacts may match up to what the students find in the archives, which enables us to say, ‘yes, this was so-and-so’s estate,” said Wild. “If we lose the artifacts, we lose the ability to do that.”
The students typically come in May; however, they are coming earlier this year because the Danish archives are shutting down and being moved.
Wild anticipates the schedule change will prove to be a good thing for two reasons. First of all, the students will be able to spend more time in the archives once they return to Denmark before their reports are due, Wild explained.
“I think it will also work better because the mosquitoes won’t be so bad,” he said.
The internship program has proven hugely beneficial to the VINP archaeology program’s efforts to put faces and stories with the remains of numerous estates dotting the island.
“They help us interpret the landscape,” said Wild. “Between what they find in the archives and what the archaeology shows, they help us drag out the stories.”