Friday, February 20, 2009

Archeological Note

The archeological site mentioned below reminds us of a situation that appears to be something of a paradox. The lifestyle of the residents of the site appears to be that of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition, which happened roughly 8000BCE in the mideast, yet Alexandre Moreau De Jonnes' memoires [Adventures in the Wars of the Republic and the Consulate (1858) by Alexandre Moreau De Jonnes, translated by A. J. Ardy.(John Murray, London, 1920)/] describes people who are equally comfortable in their native culture on St. Vincent and in the nominally civilized colonial culture of Martinique.

We would not expect this because we have not had a choice of cultures: of being relatively free under the extended-family culture of the Garifuna of St. Vincent or being one step above a slave under the European-Colonial culture of the French and English islands. The Garifuna tolerated the French because they were not as culturally parochial as the English, but that did not encourage them to subject themselves to French colonization. The Second Carib War had French support, but on the basis that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

This is why it will be particularly interesting to carbon date and do detailed excavations of the sites (existing and potential) of Carib/Garifuna culture on St. Vincent. The native culture was able to carry forward the democratic mesolithic values for centuries after first contact with post-Neolithic European culture, when other incursions of European culture (especially technology) quickly transformed the aboriginal role to that of "Barbarian at the Gate" (Toynbee's "external proletariat"). This makes Vincentian archeology a unique resource: not only because it is literally a relatively virgin field but because it asks entirely new questions.

Let us hope that we get to answer some of those questions before St. Vincent gets overdeveloped as a supplier of tourist facilities. Perhaps a global recession will slow down the development enough to allow us to do that.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is certainly a venue that is easily accessible to northamerican archeologists and it will be, before the Argyle airport and its surrounding areas get developed, a particularly good source for training students and volunteers. Not to mention that one can work outdoors for most of the year. All we need is to convince the arceological community that the results are potentially "interesting" from an acdemic point of view.