Archeological Discovery at La Poterie

Test pit showing the remains of post holes and the outline of a Kalinago house

by Donella Hosten

Archeologists and researchers have discovered some historical artefacts from the 9th, 16th and 18th centuries, in the small village of La Poterie in St Andrew.

These artefacts include Kalinago pottery, which, according to Professor Corinne Hoffman of Leiden University, is a kind of pottery which has a very wide distribution and has to do with the occupation of the Caribs. Other colonial structures and slave ware were also found.

Although the site at La Poterie was discovered in 2010, it was only last year that they began excavations. “The site at La Poterie is very interesting because it has three occupation phases two Amerindians, and one to enslaved Africans,” said Professor Hoffman.

President of the La Poterie Community Group, Mr Evan Bhola, said this is the first time they have had such an archeological dig in the area, and “how this could be a model for the rest of Grenada, and the entire Caribbean as a whole.”

Bhola said they are trying to preserve as much as they possibly can. Throughout the rest of the Caribbean the developers have different approaches — archeologists would love to preserve the past, while government and other stakeholders are interested in development, and “these two tend to clash.”

He continued, “In the La Poterie case, we are hoping to work together to fuse all 3 — that is, the developers, the archeologists, and the community, working to make sure that the interests of everyone [are] actually taken care of.”

Bhola also hopes that the La Poterie site can help to improve the livelihood of the people in the area, because from an economic point of view, these findings are very significant.

The discovered artefacts were able to give an idea of the skills of the Kalinago, which are similar to that of the current villagers at La Poterie. According to Professor Hoffman, they made their living from fishing, agriculture, and trading with neighbouring communities.

Conversations are being held with the Government and the people of La Poterie on how to proceed, but first, the artefacts and data must be analyzed. Although Professor Hoffman was unable to give a specific number of persons who lived in that area, she estimated that it was no more than 60.

According to local Historian and Archivist, John Angus Martin, the project Nexus 1492 is a multi-disciplinary 6-year project looking at the impact of European invasion of the Caribbean.

Martin said this discovery can lead to more in-depth knowledge about the Kalinago. They are not only hoping to produce articles about the discovery, but also to have a children’s book to impact how children learn about the Amerindian heritage.

He spoke about the misinformation which can lead to misunderstanding, and this discovery can give a better story. “The way the story has been told can be told in a very nuanced way that truly does justice.”

The local Historian said he is working on identifying all Kalinago sites when the Europeans came here. “I am hoping that we would get a better understanding of our heritage in the last 500 years.”

Hoffman urged people not to sell artefacts found outside of the excavation. “You cannot sell your heritage,” as it is important to preserve the past in order for future generations to learn from it.

The only other Kalinago site found in the Caribbean to date is in St Vincent, where they found Spanish and other European materials, pottery, olive jars, beads, and French wear.

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