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Archaeologist on Red House find: Amerindian artefacts date back to AD 0-350

Published: 
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pottery artefacts found under the Red House recently are of an Amerindian style dating back to AD 0-350 and can be dated by sight, says archaeologist Peter Harris. And he is almost certain that bone fragments found near the pottery are also Amerindian. Harris spoke yesterday after further scrutiny of the artefacts and bone fragments found under the Red House on March 25. 

 

 

Last week, the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) said the fragments were found while workers doing restoration work on the Red House were digging inspection pits on the ground floor. The artefacts were also found. Udecott said the fragments were taken by the Office of the Parliament for testing. 

 

Parliament representative Neil Jaggassar and archaeologist Harris visited later last week to investigate the discoveries. Udecott said the Office of the Parliament last Thursday advised that the bone and artefacts date to the Amerindian era. Harris said yesterday it is almost certain the bone fragments are Amerindian, since they came from the same area as the pottery. 

 

He said his team had checked the walls of the excavation where everything was found and there was no doubt the bones and pottery all came from the same part of the worksite as they were able to pinpoint exactly where the bones were located. “The pottery is Amerindian in a style that dates back to AD 0 to AD 350. It’s visually dateable because people over the years have excavated in T&T and built up a set of styles we have ample references...We can tell what style is associated with what date,” Harris said.

 

“What was found so far is a small amount of pottery, but it fits the period of AD 0-AD 350. While we havent’t got the whole story yet, I’m sure that if things were found so closely together in a place they’re likely to be related. “We’re a long way from knowing what village or what was there on that site, but we do know the bones found are almost certainly Amerindian.”

 

Parliament officials, speaking earlier in the day, said foreign testing might have to be done on the bones and as far as they were aware, there has not been full official confirmation on the origin of the bones. An official said there are three groups that specialise in Amerindian matters in T&T which the various agencies would have to check with. 

 

They said the news of the discoveries, however, has generated so much interest that it is slightly hindering their work. They said there might be consultations between Udecott and the Parliament on the situation and a statement may be made later. They were unaware whether the police were notified of the discovery of the bones. Police communications officer Joanne Archie said the normal protocol when bones are found anywhere was that police are notified to take a look at them.

 

 

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What Udecott said
Udecott’s communication officer Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said the Office of the Parliament is heading the process to have the bones tested by experts.

 

Stapleton-Whyms said it was noteworthy that the find was made under the existing ground floor slab in the rotunda of the Red House, which had been in place  since the early 20th century. She added that the find has not held up or stopped ongoing work, as the bones and artefacts were discovered in an isolated portion of the project site.

 

 

She said the inspection pits would remain in their current condition until the archaeologists and other stakeholders have concluded their testing and investigation of both the excavated material and the soil strata. On whether police were informed of the find, she said when the bones were discovered both Udecott and Parliament staff were present. “Given that the site falls under the purview of the Parliament they took the lead in this regard,” Stapleton-Whyms added.

 

Historian’s view 
On whether there is any known Amerindian connection to the Red House site, Paria Publishing historian Gerard Besson said late architect John Newel Lewis’s Ajoupa publication chronicled a travel guide to the Caribbean from 1899 by James H Starke which noted legends that a great battle between rival Arawak tribes took place in ancient times where Woodford Square now stands. Because of this, the area was known as “Place des Armes.” 

 

Besson said there was also a myth that in pre-Columbian times, tribal youths had fought battles of manhood in a large forest of silk cotton trees which stood where the square is today.

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