Discovery of Historic Floor Delays Interment Ceremony for Cinnamon Bay Remains

Cinnamon Bay beach, above, is home to so many artifacts, archaeologists are having difficulty finding space to inter remains which have washed up on shore.


Cinnamon Bay has proved to be a wealth of historical artifacts, from human remains to the recent discovery of a 17th century floor — in fact, there is so much history at the site, archaeologists are having a hard time finding a place to reinter human remains that have washed up from their original burial site.

The 17th century floor was discovered while exploring a site designated for the reburial of the remains, which have been washing up from their original burial site, now underwater a few hundred yards from the beach due to erosion.

A reburial ceremony is in the works for the human remains, which have been surfacing at Cinnamon Bay for more than 30 years.

“We hit a historic floor, so what we’re going to do is move over a bit,” said National Park Service Cultural Resource Manager and archaeologist with the Virgin Islands National Park Ken Wild. “We are going to try to stay in the same area we discussed with the clergy.”

Wild met with several local church leaders in February to determine what type of ceremony would be appropriate for the reburial of the remains.

Historic Floor
Wild and the clergymen concluded that the area behind the Cinnamon Bay archaeology lab would be the best site for reburial, as the lab will buffer the site from erosion.

“We just want to bury these individuals in the most proper and respectful manner,” said Wild. “We want to keep it very simple.”

Wild dated the historical floor that was recently discovered behind the Cinnamon Bay archaeology lab back to the 1840s.

“We think it was the kitchen,” he said. “There would have been a house where the archaeology lab is, and given the size of the floor, it seems that it would have been a kitchen. There are probably a lot of floors below that one.”

Approximately seven floors and countless historical artifacts have been found at Cinnamon Bay, said Wild.

Late 1600s Occupation
“When we excavated where the beach is eroding, we found evidence of the 1733 revolt,” he said. “We have about seven floors, and below those is evidence of a pre-Danish occupation going back to maybe the 1680s.”

Wild now must document the most recently discovered historic floor before proceeding with finding another area to rebury the human remains.

“I’ve got to finish documenting that, and then we’ll start up again,” he said. “What are we going to find next? I don’t even want to speculate.”

Wild originally estimated that the bones would be ready for reburial by February 2007, but given the recent discovery of the historic floor, he wouldn’t speculate on a timeline for the interment ceremony.

Returning To V.I.
Wild must also wait for the remains to be returned to the Virgin Islands from the Southeast Archaeological Center, he said.

“When those remains were recovered 30 years ago, there weren’t any facilities here to house any artifacts at that time,” said Wild. “There wasn’t a storage facility where the remains could be properly maintained. The NPS Southeast Archaeo-logical Center is trying to get everything together.”

A range of ages is represented in the remains, which are both male and female, said Wild.

“Based on a very basic archaeological study, one of the people was in their 90s, and there were children too,” he said. “They are probably of African descent, but we don’t really have a time frame on them. They could be from the 1680s to the 1800s, which is basically the full time frame of when the Cinnamon Bay plantation was in operation, and over that period of time, you can have a lot of people who live there.”

Died of Cholera
The people whose remains have been surfacing at Cinna-mon Bay were probably not en-slaved, and likely died of a cholera epidemic, said Wild.

“There’s a good possibility that they were not enslaved, because after Emancipation, there was a cholera epidemic there that caused 21 deaths in a week’s time,” he said. “It’s not uncommon here in the islands for people to be buried on the beach. You just can’t dig up in the hills, but you can on the beach.”

Wild plans to keep working to ensure the human remains have a proper reburial, he said.

“Certainly we’ll keep plugging away and try to make it happen as soon as we can,” said Wild. “We are just going to keep working at it.”