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Reports & Projects

Faculty Reports and Highlighted Projects

Highlighted Project

Each month the faculty will highlight 2 of its major projects. To find out more about the various projects being undertaken in the faculty please contact our administrative office so that they could further help you find the information you need.

The following project Archaeological Excavations at Blanchisseuse was spear-headed by Dr. Basil A. Reid of The History Department.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCAVATIONS AT BLANCHISSEUSE

On March 7 and 9, 2007 a U.W.I. archaeology crew headed by Dr. Basil Reid, Lecturer in Archaeology in the Department of History, conducted archaeological excavations at Marianne Estate in Blanchisseuse. With an area of approximately 2 hectares, the site of Blanchisseuse is generally considered to be the largest pre-Columbian site in north Trinidad. Radiocarbon dates of the sites indicate that Amerindians inhabited Blanchisseuse 1,800 to 1,400 years ago.

Figure 1
Pre-Columbian Site of Blanchisseuse depicting village and plaza

The pottery found at the site is characterised by white-on-red, red and black painting, which are the signature pottery decorations of the Saladoid people. The Saladoids, the first pottery making Amerindians to have arrived in Trinidad and Tobago, settled the Twin Island Republic from 250 BC to AD 600. Migrating from the Orinoco region of Venezuela, the Saladoids were farmers, potters and villagers. A Saladoid village usually had a central plaza, which was the scene of meetings and ritual activities, including cohaba rituals. Saladoid men would inhale hallucinogens as part of their ritual displays. Vomiting spatulas were often used during these ceremonies to induce vomiting as a method of purification. Previous archaeological surveys conducted at Blanchisseuse in the late 1990s suggest that areas where sparse quantities of pottery were found might have been the site of the central plaza while the areas with the heavier quantities of pottery might have been the residential areas of Blanchisseuse (see Figure 1).

Figure 2

This year's excavation focused on a 2 meter by 2 meter excavation unit, which yielded an assortment of pottery, griddles and stone artifacts. The Saladoid pots were used for a variety of functions such as cooking, food storage and ceremonial feasting. The griddles tend to be thicker and poorly fired and were used for baking cassava bread, a staple of the Amerindians in north-east South America and the Caribbean. An interesting find this year is a stone artifact that seems to have been used a vomit spatula (Figure 2). The stone is 10 cm long, with width varying from 1.8 cm to 1 cm. The stone is polished and this could be interpreted as evidence of human manipulation. Dr. Reid had asked Dr. Brent Wilson, a Lecturer in Geoscience in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of the West Indies to identify the geological make-up of the stone. Upon examining the stone, Dr. Brent Wilson stated that the object is made of a fine-grained, acid, extrusive igneous rock (i.e., it was erupted out of a volcano), and is possibly, possibly dacite with slight hydrothermal alteration. He further argued that there is no such rock on Trinidad and the stone probably imported from the Lesser Antilles. Dr. Basil Reid is therefore of the view that the stone may be a vomit spatula, imported by the Saladoid inhabitants of Blanchisseuse and used in their cohaba rituals on the central plaza. The importation of precious stones, called lapidary trade, is one of the defining characteristics of Saladoid culture throughout the Caribbean.

Figure 3

The following students were involved in the Blanchisseuse project this year: Naresh Ramsamooj, Fayola St. Bernard, Ziggy Foster, Candice McDonald, Renisha Hutchinson, Onika Mandela, Farzaana Khan, Dahlia James-Williams and Rosemonde Montano. Ms. Naseema Hosein, Research Assistant, at the Archaeology Centre in the Department of History, U.W.I., St. Augustine also assisted with the project. Figure 3 shows some of the students engaged in site excavation.



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