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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, November 30, 2023


Jan. 1, 2003 – More than 10 years have passed since Elizabeth "Holly" Righter and her band of intrepid archeologists, scientists and volunteers finished excavating an Indian village in Tutu on St. Thomas. Now, she and her helpers have come out with a book on the dig and its scientific significance.
A scholarly tome, it will probably sell for $190, Righter says. She plans to place a copy at the Ralph Paiewonsky Library on the St. Thomas campus of the University of the Virgin Islands and hopes that local bookstores will carry it.
The book, titled "The Tutu Archeological Village Site: Multidisciplinary Case Studies in Human Adaptation," also may be purchased directly from the publisher, the Routledge division of the Taylor and Francis Group.
Routledge describes the work as "a dramatic chapter in the annals of Caribbean archeological excavation. Experts in such fields as anthropology, archeology, palaeobotany, and zooarchaeology have analyzed materials recovered from the excavation. This volume reports the results of their analysis, focusing on techniques for understanding human adaptive strategies during 1,300 years of site occupation."
Righter says funding for analysis of the artifacts excavated from the site and for writing the book came from a federal National Endowment for the Humanities grant.
The dig took place over more than a year starting in 1990. Righter said it began after Tom Lineo, who worked in the earth change office of the Planning and Natural Resources Department, saw a skeleton and other archeological artifacts while making a site visit to the Tutu Park Mall construction site.
Righter, who then worked for Planning and Natural Resources' Historic Preservation Office, was able to get about a year to work at the site before the developers pushed to get going on their project. In that time, she and her co-workers were able to uncover the village remains, which contained thousands of artifacts and 42 skeletons.
Righter said the articles excavated remain at the Historical Preservation Office. She expects that when the government builds a planned library in the Tutu area, some of the artifacts will go on display there.
The Tutu archeological site lies beneath Kmart and the parking lot adjacent to the store. Righter said the objects found there date from 65 A.D. to right before Columbus visited the area in 1493.
The earlier remains belong to a group known as the Saladoids who are believed to have occupied the site until about 900 A.D. It appears the village was unoccupied for the 200 years that followed; at least the archeologists didn't find any evidence of habitation. The Taino Indians then lived there from about 1200 A.D. to 1500 A.D.
Righter, who is now a consultant based in Florida, said there is no evidence to suggest that European explorers' arrival had anything to do with the Tainos' departure. "There's no evidence of mass burial or disease," she said.
She said she and her team uncovered some fascinating things, including round houses with deep center posts and round and oval houses with special entranceways. "Finding the village plan and shape of the houses was really exciting," she said, noting that this was a first for the Virgin Islands.
But while the discoveries were fascinating, she said, the help that came from about 500 volunteers was the most exciting aspect of the dig. "That was the part that impressed me most," she said.
To buy the book online, visit the Taylor and Francis Group Web site.

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