Oranjestad, St. Eustatius- Members of the Statia Island Council on Friday paid a visit to the burial grounds at the archaeological excavation at the Airport. After receiving a verbal presentation last week by the archaeological team, the council members expressed their desire to visit the site firsthand.
The Council members had a comprehensive tour of theGolden Rock 2021 (GR2021) site by the team consisting of Dr. Ruud Stelten, Project Director,Alex Hinton, Interim Director at St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR) and Dr. Felicia Fricke, Oesteoarchaeologist. Nasha Radjouki, Program Manager at the Department of Culture was also on site.
The members were informed on the next steps that will take place during the following weeks. They also gained insights into how the team discovers, removes and processes the skeletons.
Several burials that are currently being evacuated, were shown and the Council Members saw artifacts which were found in the research area. Dr. Fricke explained the importance of the burial goods and the burials as it gives an understanding of the status of the deceased.
On the question of Councilmember Reuben Merman as to why this site is so special Stelten explained that in the 1980’s and 1990’s most of the archaeological research was focused on the plantation homes and warehouses in the Caribbean. “It is only recently that archaeologists have begun to focus on the story of the enslaved people.” He pointed out that it is incredibly moving and rare to find the majority of burials done in such a careful and respectful way. “We are quite certain that this is one of the largest burial grounds ever to be discovered in the Caribbean”, says Dr. Stelten.
Stelten also explained that most likely there are further graves located near GR2021 but archaeological protocol advises against disturbing any area which is not needed for redevelopment.