Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Museum receives Rodriguez legacy


Returning: Fr Anton M Dick C.S.Sp. hands over archaeological items to Eric Lewis founder of the Moruga Museum. —Photos courtesy Heather-Dawn Herrera

Mark Fraser

A virtual treasure trove of archaeological pieces unearthed in the 1960s has been released from storage at St Mary’s College. The collection, contained in more than a dozen large containers is the legacy of Fr Neil Rodriguez C.S.Sp. of the Holy Ghost Fathers who passed on in February 2013.

During his years with the pupils of St Mary’s College Fr Neil conducted a series of archaeological digs across the terrain of Moruga, an area steeped in indigenous history. These digs unearthed many notable items. These items were on display at the collage over the years but because they were inadequately guarded, a large number of them were damaged even pilfered by visitors.

In a short informal ceremony, Fr Anton M Dick C.S.Sp. handed over this collection to Eric Lewis, founder of the Moruga Museum.

“I’m happy that you can take these valuable pieces of our past to a secure place to continue preserving the legacy of Fr Neil. Fr Neil conducted archaeological expeditions in several areas even Tobago. Because he led several such trips to the Moruga area, and now you, a young man from this area are doing archaeology, I know that this is an opportunity that Fr Neil would have supported were he with us today.”

Fr Dick went on to say that while the items were on display at the college, some were taken without permission. Many pieces got broken over time.

“Fr Neil was the founder of the St Mary’s Archaeological Society. This is no longer in existence because when Fr Neil passed on, there was just no one else. The containers of artefacts just remained there. I must say that these artefacts are now returning home. Eric Lewis is a careful curator. He knows what he is about.”

Examining some of the pieces now being sorted by Lewis for the Moruga Museum, the amazing skill and craftsmanship of our

First Peoples come to the fore. Lewis fitted together an Adornis piece that looks like a bird. The painting of this piece was done using roucou and it was well baked. Lewis showed the dark inner parts of the item that supports the latter observation.

A selection of bones including those of deer, the teeth of an agouti, the skeletal remains of a caiman, oyster and chip chip shells part of the staple diet of our First Peoples and numerous implements such as axe heads comprise part of the legacy of Fr Neil.

The wide variety of items is testimony that Fr Neil and his students did have knowledge of the history of the Moruga area and the resulting archaeological treasures that would be unearthed during an expedition.

Lewis has sorted out this latest acquisition and is now recruiting specialist assistance to categorize the items.

“I plan to sensitise students throughout the country so that they will develop an interest in history, our history. History is not just about remembering dates. This will help inculcate an appreciation for archaeology. The field work is important as you experience how our ancestors lived first hand.”

Lewis has displayed some of the pieces from this latest collection at Presentation College, San Fernando as part of his presentation to colleges of the southland. He hopes the valuable work of Fr Neil and his pupils would be continued by present and future educators and pupils of St Mary’s College in the Moruga area.