Saturday, February 24, 2018

All about archaeology

...Local researchers get a taste of life in the field

Four full days of work on archaeological sites located around the northern range valleys of Lopinot and Caura were only just enough to whet the appetites of participants in the Archaeological Management Field Training Class initiated by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr Neal Lopinot, archaeological researcher on Trinidad archaeology and Lopinot Estate history with the Centre for Archaeological Research, Missouri State University, USA, led the class from the initial stages of locating sites to field survey, excavation and analysis training.

There to assist in the progression of activities were supporting researchers Jack H Ray, assistant director, research archaeologist and assistant research professor, and Dustin A Thompson, project supervisor.

Participants consisted of key stakeholders such as representatives from the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago, Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development Town and Country Planning Division, Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, Environmental Management Authority, Santa Rosa First People’s Community, Moruga Museum, the Tobago Trust, Lopinot Village Council, Tobago Tambrinas Indigenous Art and Music Organisation (TTIAMO) of Golden Lane, a visiting US International Fulbright scholar, as well as members of the Lopinot and Caura communities.

Members of the local communities welcomed the work of the class and spontaneously joined participants on the field. In Caura, estate owner Rajindra Ramcharan was proud to bring out his surface collection of artefacts that included pestles and some pottery. In Ramcharan’s ploughed field, the class discovered a rim scherd and a large grinding stone of First Peoples origin during survey training.

At a previously excavated site in Lopinot, hot spots were marked by pin flags. These turned out to be actual post holes to prehistoric structures that were identified during work in April 2013. Some pieces of charcoal were found here and these were placed in vials to be carbon dated at a later date. Some of the soil from the area was placed into special bags, tagged, tied and taken down to the river to demonstrate the flotation technique.

President of the Lopinot Village Council Donna Mora expressed her endorsement of the work that the programme entailed. She participated in the Lopinot leg of the class and unearthed some remarkable pieces of pottery in a surface pile.

“This is all part of the rich history and cultural heritage of Lopinot. Our community is proud to embrace this experience and welcomes the addition of the archaeological finds to our heritage tourism product. We are fully committed to protecting our origins.”

This was the first time in recent years that a cross-section of the Trinidad and Tobago Government and private sectors as well as local communities participated in an archeological training programme with the common goals of developing public education and awareness with a view to mapping, managing and protecting archaeological resources. All agreed land development must be controlled to avoid destruction of archaeological heritage.

Participants had the bonus visit of three archaeology experts in Trinidad and Tobago—archaeology professor Dr Arie Boomert from the Kingdom of the Netherlands; Christopher Harris, son of deceased archeologist Peter Harris, who is custodian of the Peter Harris Archeological Collection; and local archaeological researcher John Correia.

Coordinator of the training programme and chairman of the archaeological sub committee of the National Trust Jalaludin Khan is optimistic crucial and far reaching decisions will be arrived at as a result of the programme.

“I believe that we are well on the way to seeing the materialisation of a national archeological policy, an integrated legal management, enforcement and administration system, a centralised Archaeological Collection Repository and the construction of an archaeological institute for research, planning, development, training and management.

Given the success of this class and the calls for further training exercises, the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago is working on hosting another Archaeological Management Field Training programme next year.”