Barbados’ rich archaeological resources are quickly becoming history — and not in a good way.
Professor Frederick H. Smith an American Anthropologist, who has been uncovering historic pieces of Barbados over the past 20 years, is warning Barbadians that much of their heritage is “disappearing fast” and the country needs to do something about it.
Smith, who is a member of the Department of Anthropology at College of William and Mary in Virginia, United States and has conducted archeological investigations in Bridgetown, Holetown, and St. Nicholas Abbey, said the proliferation of construction projects in recent years meant important pieces of local history would never be recovered.
“There is a huge potential for archaeological work in Barbados. Unfortunately, archaeological resources are disappearing fast,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Barbados should have a full time team devoted to recording archaeological sites, collecting archaeological resources, and mitigating damage done by development on the island. Barbados’s relatively strong economy has led to the massive development of housing and hotels.
“Construction projects often destroy archaeological sites, and there is no time set aside for archaeological work before construction begins.”
Smith said it was important for archaeologists to “assess the impact a construction project will have on cultural and historical resources, and there are tough rules in place in places like the UK and US for ensuring archaeological assessment of sites that will be potentially damaged due to development”.
“There are certainly enough students who have graduated from the heritage programme at UWI Cave Hill who could conduct archaeological work. Some developers have been good and set aside time for archaeological work. The Port St. Charles project, for example, gave archaeologists time to record and collect archaeological resources before construction began,” he noted.
“As a result, we were able to learn a lot about the ancient Amerindian peoples who lived and fished around the reefs on the west coast. It is important that this information is collected so that future generations of Barbadians can learn about the many peoples who shaped Barbados’ history.” Calling the inscription of Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site “a real feather in the cap for Barbadian heritage”, Smith said important pieces of Bajan heritage including buildings needed to be recorded, celebrated and preserved.
“Imagine how difficult it would be to explain Barbadian history if all the great houses were destroyed or all chattel houses gone. Archaeological resources are equally important for their insights into Barbadian heritage,” he said.
“The recognition of the Garrison and Bridgetown as a World Heritage Site helps raise the profile of Barbados in the broader international community and raise awareness of Barbados’ role on the Atlantic world.
“It’s these efforts that will raise the consciousness and ensure that Barbadian heritage is protected for future generations,” Smith added. (SC)