Public Works Commissioner Darryl A. Smalls said Wednesday that during archaeological monitoring of the Rothschild Francis Square Enhancements Project, an important pre-Columbian site was discovered on Krondprindsens Gade (Main Street) between Strand and General Gades. This site, a midden, is between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. Specialists in this period in St. Thomas history have reviewed the site and the artifacts found and have said that it is one of the most important sites of its age on St. Thomas. It may be as complex as the village found when the Tutu Mall was built.
“The artifacts found include hundreds of whelk shells, hundreds of pottery fragments and some bone. The bone includes fish, bird, Hutia and a marine mammal (manatee or whale). Some of the pottery is decorated with what appear to be stylized eyes. The pottery is beautifully made, thin with very smooth surfaces. From this the archaeologists can learn about what the first people of Charlotte Amalie ate, their environment and life,” Smalls said today.
A team of specialist archaeologists will be arriving shortly to excavate the area to gain the knowledge of the pre-historic people before the dirt has to be removed to improve the infrastructure of Charlotte Amalie.
The pottery fragments are not valuable in terms of money, but are invaluable to understanding our only links to our predecessors here. “This will be our only chance to connect to the people who lived here 1500 years ago. The archaeologists investigating will also provide educational opportunities for the public, especially school children to visit the site and see what is found when the archaeologists are working,” Smalls added.
As a result of this discovery, Strande Gade will be closed to thru traffic at the intersection with Curacao Gade. In order to protect the site, the entire area along Krondprindsens Gade will be fenced to maintain the integrity of the site. Pedestrian walk ways will be maintained at all times. The archaeological team will work to move this archaeological dig ahead with an understanding that Carnival festivities are also fast approaching. “At this time we ask for the public’s patience and understanding as we endure this delay of the current Market Square project,” he said.
The contractor and the Department of Public Works have coordinated with the State Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Planning & Natural Resources over the last couple of days to map out a strategy of how best to preserve the find until specialists arrive on island to excavate the site.