UNEARTHING ANCIENT HISTORY IN BLANCHISSEUSE
Between July 20 and August 1 and August 17 and 21, 2003 archaeological surveys and excavation were conducted at Marianne Estate in Blanchisseuse, north Trinidad. The archaeological crew, headed by Dr. Basil Reid, U.W.I. Archaeology Lecturer, was comprised of the following undergraduate history students: Corrine Allahar, Fayola Clarke, Joel Gobin, Feroze Khan, Diann Ragoonanan, Narissa Seegulam and Jasodra Ramnarine Singh as well as Cecil Hodge, undergraduate student in the Department of Surveying and Land Information.
This archaeological site, which dates from 250 BC to AD 600, is one of the largest and most productive Saladoid sites in Trinidad and Tobago. Situated on a bluff that overlooks the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Marianne River to the west, the local geology of Blanchisseuse is quartz sandstone interbedded with shales. The site’s coordinates for site are 1,193,693 N and 685,938 E (U.T.M. Zone 20; Datum Naparima 1955).
Archaeological activities ranged from field walking, ground surveys, shovel test pitting to the complete excavation of an 8 X 4 meter unit. Situated in close proximity to the Paria Main Road, the excavation unit yielded a variety of Saladoid pottery, many of which have diagnostic features such as zoned incised crosshatching on rim sherds, white paint over red slip referred to as white-on-red on WOR, D-strap handles coupled with adornos with various zoomorphic (animal) images such as bats, snakes, monkeys, fishes. The zoomorphic images are reflective of the Saladoid religion of animism.
Developed as a concept by the British anthropologist Sir Edward B. Tylor in the late 19th century, animism is based on the belief that a spirit or divinity resides within every object, controlling its existence and influencing human life and events in the natural world. In animism, animals can be transformed into humans, plants or minerals in as much as people can be transformed into animals, minerals and plants. Also discovered at the Marianne Estate site were the remains of what appeared to be an Amerindian fireplace with flecks of charcoal. The flecks of charcoal were collected and will be sent overseas for radiocarbon dating.
ALL ABOUT THE SALADOIDS
The Saladoids were the first pottery making peoples to have settled in Trinidad and Tobago from 250 BC to AD 600. Named for Saladero in Venezuela, where their pottery styles were first identified and classified, the Saladoid peoples migrated from the Orinoco Delta of north-east South America settling in areas near to the sea, rivers and on hilltops. Occupied by extended families, their villages usually consisted of huts centred around a central plaza. The Saladoids practiced a mixed economy based on horticulture, fishing, shell collecting and lapidary trade. As skilled artisans, the Saladoid peoples were adept at making pottery, pottery adornos and stone pendants. Human burials found in the central plazas of Saladoid settlements such as Maisabel, Puerto Rico as well as the presence of anthropomorphic (human) pottery adornos at Marianne Estate and elsewhere in Trinidad clearly suggest that these Amerindians believed in ancestral worship.
Migrating from South America, by 0 B.C. the Saladoids inhabited the entire chain of islands from Trinidad to Puerto Rico. By AD 600, the Saladoids in Puerto Rico evolved into the Tainos with possible cultural influences from the pre-ceramic Archaic populations in eastern Hispaniola. In Trinidad, the Saladoids either merged with or were replaced by later Amerindian groups such as the Barrancoid peoples (AD 250 – 750) and the Arauquinoid peoples (AD 600 – 1300).http://www.uwi.tt/fhe/archaeology/