Archeology Internships  

The archeological intern program at Virgin Islands National Park employs students from a wide range of disciplines in order to address the needs of the Park’s cultural resource program. Over the past ten years the Friends of the Park have funded students studying archeology, ethnography, history, engineering, collections management, architecture and historic architecture, chemistry, photography, artifact conservation, computer sciences, maritime studies, and museum graphics. Students from all these disciplines are still needed today to help us preserve and protect the wide variety of cultural sites and artifacts in the Park’s collections. Currently, students have come from all across the US and the Park has established international programs with Canada and Denmark.

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Archeology in VI National Park

Originally VI National Park was established for its natural beauty and recreational resources. Since then, the Park Service has become aware of the rich cultural resources in the Park with landscapes that are the most all-inclusive and culturally diverse in the National Park System. Virgin Islands National Park has since revised management plans to reflect these significant cultural resources that collectively preserve a comprehensive picture of the Caribbean’s human heritage and development from prehistory to the present, on land and underwater.

Significant prehistoric sites are present on almost every beach and in every bay within the Park. These archeological sites date from as early as 840 BC to the arrival of Columbus. Only two prehistoric sites have been investigated in the Park, Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay. However, these sites have given us a greater understanding of this Caribbean region’s prehistory, and the religious and social development of the Taino culture. In addition, these two sites have dramatically increased our understanding of the ancient rock art that is found throughout the Caribbean islands. We now know when Caribbean rock art was carved, why they were carved in these specific areas, (such as the petroglyphs found at Reef Bay), their purpose, religious meaning, and how they reflect cultural development.

VI National Park Archeology at a Glance...A few of the projects in the works


A group of eight anthropology students from Beloit College, Beloit, WI, used Virgin Islands National Park as the site for part of a twoweek archeological field course, Public Archeology. The purpose of the course was to let the students experience archeology outside of the academic realm and learn what it means to do public archeology. Below are some excerpts from their blog.

Cinnamon Bay Erosion Project : Excavation at the Cinnamon Bay erosion site was an experience in true salvage archeology. Immediately off of the beach, the site was threatened by erosion, especially due to periods of high tide. As the water rushed in, taking cultural resources with it, we attempted to collect, record, interpret and analyze as much information as possible. During our systematic, but rapid investigation, we uncovered diagnostic and many more not-so-distinctive pottery shards, faunal material like fish and bird bones, and even five shell beads and small pieces of red ocher. Our interpretation skills were challenged by the disturbed nature of the deposit; contexts were lost, soils were mottled, and the rate of erosion quickened. The last day of excavation, we knew that the remaining undisturbed portion of the site would be destroyed over the weekend, so we struggled to recover and record as much as possible. These last artifacts recovered were truly extraordinary, as were the lessons we learned on that little beachside site.

Cinnamon Bay Reinternment : Located just behind the archeology lab, the Cinnamon Bay reinternment excavation has been underway for several years. While we were there, we were able to dig an additional 20 cm, to a total depth of 100 cm. Our efforts yielded many prehistoric artifacts including shells, fish bones, pottery shards, and beads. Once the site area is cleared of artifacts it will be used as a reinternment location for burials that had previously washed up on the beach. The bones are currently being stored in the National Park Service’s repository, located in Cruz Bay.

Constantine Plantation : Within Virgin Islands National Park there are hundreds of historic sugar plantations. And while most of these are at least known to the Park Service through historical documents, many have not been located or documented archeologically. Because the NPS is mandated to identify and list sites for potential inclusion in the National Register, the park must continually work to record its numerous undocumented plantations. Our work at Constantine Plantation demonstrates this process in action. Due to the lack of remaining above-ground structures at the site, our investigation began by trying to identify their stone foundations. Once identified, we cleared the surrounding vegetation, photographed and mapped each structure, and used GPS to record the coordinates of each corner. We also noted and flagged any surface artifact clusters (mostly historic ceramics, glass, and pipe stems), including them on the site map and recording their GPS coordinates.



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