Texas State University students are conducting research on St. George’s Caye

By
Updated: July 18, 2017

Hipolito Novelo reporting…
Students studying archaeology at Texas State University are in Belize with Anthropology Professor, Jim Garber. They are at Saint George’s Caye learning excavating, mapping and artifacts analysis technics as part of their archeological investigation program. Currently twelve students are digging up 13 skeletal remains buried at an Anglican cemetery on the caye. The team is trying to gather as much information they could from the remains in order to figure out what sort of life they lived.

Jim Garber, Professor, Texas State University
Through the extraction of genetics from the skeletal material we’ve learned that most of them are from Europe, some are from Africa and some are Native American meaning Indian and so everybody was represented in that cemetery. We are trying to tell the facts of the old Baymen and what they were doing, where they came from, how hard their lives were because we can analyse their skeletons and we can even tell where they were born by looking at strontium analysis and chemical in their bone to find out if they were born here or in Europe or Africa.”

Professor Garber says the people buried at the cemetery had died some gruesome deaths.

Jim Garber, Professor, Texas State University
“Some of them have severe trauma to their skeletons to the point where one of them it looks like his hip was dislocated and relocated and dislocated again so that would have been very painful. Their dental work, they were having some problems with their teeth as well but a lot of them were robust, they were muscular, they did a lot of hard work and so we are still in the analysis phase but we will be able to tell quite a bit about their general health.”

The men women and children that lived on Saint George’s Caye mainly enjoyed a European base diet. Apparently, they also loved turtle meat.

Jim Garber, Professor, Texas State University
There was a lot of turtle extraction going on. In fact we have located the areas where they kept turtles in large pens out in the water. We’ve excavated there and found a lot of turtle bones so we know that thousands of turtles were being exported to Europe for turtle soup and also one of the turtles was used for tortoise shell jewellry which is now illegal to buy and sell but thousands of pounds were being exported to Europe and used all over Europe for jewellry.”

Several artifacts have been found at the dig site. They also found a small coffin belonging to a baby. Most of the persons buried at the cemetery would have their head pointing to the west.

Jim Garber, Professor, Texas State University
“There was one burial that we found this year that is an exception, it is the opposite, the head is to the East and the feet are to the West, we don’t know why, we have no idea. We are going to look into the records and talk to some Anglicans who know about early history of their burial practices and find out if they can shed some light on that but right now it’s kind of mystery because all were pointed head to the west but not this one.”

Professor Garber says some three hundred persons are buried at the grave site.

Jim Garber, Professor, Texas State University
“There are an awful lot of Belizeans too and their history is right in that cemetery and descendants or at least friends and relatives of the Baymen and it wasn’t just white Europeans, it was African slaves. We know one of the graves in there was Eve Broaster that was a family here in Belize still we know she was from Africa, on her stone it said she was from Mandingo Africa, we traced her then to Jamaica and as a slave and then from Jamaica to Mosquito Shore and then from there to Belize where she married James Hyde and that was sort of the earliest Creolization unions in Belize that lead to the burgeoning Kriol population and many businesses and so some people here in Belize have ancestry to Africa, Europe it was a melting pot and it’s exciting to look into that.”

After the team finishes its work, they will present a full report to the Institute of Archeology on their findings.