Archaeologists train students to peer into the past on St. Croix

Archaeologists train students to peer into the past on St. Croix


The field of historical archaeology can be predominantly white and male. Coming into this field if you actually don’t see yourself in it, don’t see your research questions as valued–why would you why would you even attempt it? Justin and I really wanted to create a space where we valued our experiences in this field We valued the knowledge backgrounds that we come with to this practice. The Slave Wrecks project really provided the seed funding, not just for the scuba diving training but also for the terrestrial archaeological work that we do here at the Estate Little Princes. So what began as a sort of one-week youth training program, has spun out into a one-week youth training program, there’s four weeks of archaeology, and now we’re up to seven HBCU students all doing archaeology together at this site. The undergraduates that are with us this year– we have folks from Morgan State, we have folks from Spellman, we have folks from Howard University, and it’s a lot of energy. There’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of curiosity. These are students who are coming from institutions that don’t have archaeology as a core class that they could take, so for a lot of them it’s their first experience in this field, and they have gotten a crash course on archaeological theory, method and now they’re out here in the field really digging with us. And in the mix of all of that we’re also asking them, “What are you curious about?” And often times it’s that thought, and that point of curiosity that’ll lead to greater research questions and a desire to have those questions answered. Since we have five PhDs leading this initiative, that means that we can literally open a pipeline that’s never been attempted before, where we can have Dr. Alexandra Jones working with our middle school and high school students getting training. We can have Dr. Flewellen and Dr. Dunnavant working with HBCU students from across the country at the undergraduate level getting training, and then I am now working with graduate students that are coming into the University of Tulsa to get additional artifact analysis training in artifacts that are coming out of Estate Little Princess. So really from middle school to graduate school, we have this open pipeline to where we’re seeing students get access to archaeological training, artifact analysis training, and underwater training as well, all in one program, for free. So when we all came together one of the first questions that we asked each other were “Alright what did you love about your field school experiences, and what was challenging about them? And how can we address that?” And that goes from like the logistics of like what paperwork we have, but also thinking about, “Alright what sort of experiences do we want to make sure that these students have while down here?” And we don’t want to work them into the ground, We understand that yes this is a field site, and we have our research questions, and this is a space to educate people. So this really has become a training site for many of us, and not just for the students as well it’s also for the researchers. So anytime we talk about setting up a unit to do excavations, we have to make sure that all five of us are on board. Anytime we talk about how we’re gonna classify artifacts, we need to make sure that all of us on board. So it’s very much a slow-moving process, but I think it makes us all better as researchers. And then when we go split off and do other projects, maybe around the island or in other sites, we know that we have a foundation by which we can build upon. Archaeology really needs to be more community-based, and my colleague Dr. Ayana Flewellen and I have been talking about sustainable archaeology, and sustainability in the sense that the projects and the history, and the work can continue to go on well after we leave, but also sustainability in recognizing that the archaeological work that we do is destructive, and if we’re going to destructive work, we need to also do some sort of restitution to the environment that we’re destroying. And so having students and having ourselves trained in a way where we’re actually able to do both the conservation work and the archaeological work, really makes it that much more important, and that much more impactful when we enter a space and begin to think about doing research there. So now we’re trying to make archaeology in St. Croix more visible, but also bring the community in, so we can actually have them be part of the discovery. So that’s why we’re training local youth starting in middle school, to be the ones making the discovery with us, and help us ask questions in this space. As I’m building my lab guide for the field, they’re asking questions like, “Okay what’s the difference between Afrocrucian ware and a rock? What’s the difference between this glass bottle and this glass bottle? Okay one’s historic, one’s modern. How are you making that distinction?” And then they’re asking larger questions about the site, “Why did they live here and not over here?” As they’re asking those questions, it’s causing us to stop and think about, “Okay why would they settle here instead of over here?” So we’re looking back at the maps, we’re looking back at our understanding of the space and how it’s changing through time, and trying to communicate to the students while the students are now, you know, pressing us— the community is pressing us to think about, “What’s the next step? What can we do more of? What can we think about in a new way?” So many people from the community have been involved before we even dug the first shovel. So many people have come out in support, and shared their stories, and their photographs, and their experiences with us, that the least we can do is share the information we get from archaeology, with the community. The students who live on St. Croix that are getting a chance to do archaeology as middle school students as high school students, you know that’s very unique. First of all, they’re meeting their first archaeologists and getting their first taste of archaeology, but they’re doing so from a team of all black scholars. who are all working at different institutions across the country, with a diverse background. There’s not really an opportunity like that for most individuals.

5 thoughts on “Archaeologists train students to peer into the past on St. Croix

  1. Why do people have to inject race and Colour into everything,… Science doesn't care if you are yellow, black, pink, white or orange,… This Race bullshit needs to stop, It's not only Archaic but it also slows down our Mental Evolution on a whole.

  2. Wow that woman is racist.
    I for one am grateful for all the hard work white men have done in the field of archaeology. To begin this video with that opening line was simply unnecessary and blatantly anti-white.
    She could have simply stated, I would like to see more people who look like me get into archaeology. The best part is anyone can do it. Just dig into the earth, find something, catalogue all the data you can and post on the internet for sharing. You don't need the white mans approval to reveal what you may have found in your work and there is inherently nothing wrong with it being dominated by whites due to lack of other races interest.

  3. Hey Science Magazine, why is this video so quiet? Right click on the video and select 'Stats for nerds'. From there, you can see that YouTube measures the audio as more than 11 dB too quiet. You need to boost your levels for future videos.

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