SABARC and Leiden University presented new findings of Saba’s Amerindian history

Saba Archaeological Center SABARC co-founder and Leiden University graduate Ryan Espersen, together with Leiden University profes­sors Corinne Hofman and Menno Hoogland, held a public presentation at Scout’s Place in Windward-side on Monday, discussing new findings and interpre­tations of Saba’s Amerin­dian history.

The trio discussed ways of life at Plum Piece, which was settled as far back as 1800BC and is one of very few known inland archaic-age Amerindian sites in the Caribbean. They also dis­cussed the Fort Bay Ridge site, which was also inhab­ited as far back as 1800BC and is now the site of the new electricity plant.

During further excava­tions at the Fort Bay Ridge in December 2015, Espers­en, Hoogland, Hofman and Leiden University students discovered the burial site of an enslaved African woman who died between 1762 and 1780.

From left: Leiden University professors Menno Hoogland and Corinne Hofman, with co-founder of Saba Archaeo­logical Center SABARC Ryan Espersen.

Hoogland outlined his new analyses of the remains of an enslaved African wom­an, along with her unborn child. She lived to about age 35, smoked tobacco from a clay pipe, and evi­dence from the child sug­gested that it was ready for birth with the head down but turned in the oppo­site direction. Previous re­search by Jason Laffoon of Leiden University showed that the mother was born in West Africa, south of the Saharan desert.

The archaeologists ended with discussions of Kelbey’s Ridge, which is located on a bluff separating Cove Bay from Spring Bay. Not only is Kelbey’s Ridge the east­ernmost known outpost for highly decorated ceramics and other materials from indigenous groups from the Greater Antilles, but it also had a 17th-century home­stead and cistern.

A re-analysis by Espersen of excavated materials and site maps from Hoogland’s and Hofman’s excavations at that site from 1987 to 1989 determined that it was probably the long-lost plan­tation owner’s house for the Spring Bay sugar and indigo plantation, which was in operation from the 1650s to 1665, and again from the 1670s to around 1730.

“These sites show how the same regions of Saba were used by people from the island’s ‘deep’ history until present times,” they stated. “The steep terrain of Saba limited people’s choices for areas suitable for living, so they adapted their diet and settlements to the environ­ment around them.”

They gave examples such as the Audubon’s shearwa­ter. Until recently, Sabans would harvest juvenile birds because of their high fat content. Juvenile shear-waters were also harvested as early as 1800BC by ar­chaic-age people at Plum Piece.

Hofman, Hoogland and Espersen intend to con­tinue with new archaeologi­cal research in Saba into Saba’s deep history in the coming years.

The Daily Herald.

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