Letter to the Editor: ‘Better no Archaeology than Controversial archaeology’

Letter to the Editor: ‘Better no Archaeology than Controversial archaeology’

To my astonishment I read that SECAR at this moment is again excavating on St Eustatius near the animal shelter according to the government website. 

This happens while the conduct of SECAR is under scrutiny by the St Eustatius Heritage and Research Commission in relation to the excavation of enslaved people near the airport without consulting the descendant community. 

How is it possible that they are resuming work at a different location while the commission is not finished yet. It can’t be the case that just because there is no alternative archaeological company on the island they continue business as usual. It is reported that the commission was consulted and does not object to the test trenches. This makes the status of the commission problematic as it seems that they do not consider that their report leads to significant changes in how archaeology is done on St Eustatius. 

What happens if again they find the remains of (enslaved) people? Are we going to have the same problems? I think it would be wise to defer from archaeological excavations from SECAR and any other company on St Eustatius at least until the commission has submitted its report and it has been debated in the local community. There has to be a policy in place on how to deal with these kinds of archaeological finds before new excavations start, especially as it is not unreasonable to expect more burials of enslaved people on St Eustatius.

 Dr. Marjolijn Kok

Archaeologist (ally of the St. Eustatius African Burial Ground Alliance.)

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