The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

By Elizabeth Righter | Go to book overview

Preface

The Tutu Archaeological Village site was discovered on 20 September 1990 by Mr Tom Linnio, who, as an environmental officer of the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), was making a routine inspection of a land parcel being cleared for construction of a shopping mall. The mall site had been stripped of topsoil which was being stored in large mounds for sale prior to construction. During his inspection, Mr Linnio observed two partially exposed human skeletons and a wide scatter of prehistoric artifacts that extended over an area of approximately 2.20 hectares. Immediately recognizing the research potential of the site, Mr Linnio reported the find to this author, Ms Elizabeth Righter, former Senior State Archaeologist for the US Virgin Islands.

Because of its relatively flat terrain and treeless expanse of open land, the site offered an unprecedented opportunity to study the remains of an entire prehistoric village and to document house types, village structure and related sociocultural patterns. This type of research had never before been conducted in the Virgin Islands. However, the site was in imminent danger of complete destruction.

The shopping mall was to be constructed on private property, which was not part of the local Coastal Zone Management (CZM) area; there was no federal funding and ostensibly no requirement for federal permits that would have triggered compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (P.L. 89-665, as amended). In 1990, there was no local antiquities act to protect either unmarked human burials or significant archaeological resources threatened by local government actions and commercial development outside the coastal zone. The developer, therefore, was not required under any territorial or federal statute to consider the impacts of his project on cultural resources, and he could not be required to fund an archaeological survey and evaluation of the site. For similar reasons, the developer could not be required by law to put the site, or portions of it, into preservation. The political climate favored mall development, and the developer verbally promised many amenities that would benefit the community.

As Senior State Archaeologist, the author approached the then Commissioner of the DPNR and State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), Mr Alan Smith, requesting his assistance. After the Commissioner had evaluated the significance of the site and the options for recovery of its important scientific information, it was agreed that the Office of Historic Preservation of the Virgin Islands, known as the DAHP, would undertake responsibility for data recovery. The Commissioner agreed to negotiate with the developer and granted the author permission to work at the Tutu site full time until construction of the mall began. Endorsement of the investigation by the government was the first step in a delicate set of political maneuvers that eventually led to increasing support for the archaeological excavation of the Tutu site. Nevertheless, at the time that the Commissioner gave the project his blessing, there were no staff, funds, or equipment with which to carry out the Department's intentions. The only contribution to the data recovery was Ms Righter's time and labor.

-xxvi-

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