bone

Them Red House Bones

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The recent finds of skeletal remains and artefacts believed to be early century AD under the Red House Parliament Building in Port of Spain, Trinidad point to the need for a comprehensive archeological survey of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago’s prehistoric connections with the American mainland holds enormous potential for opening up a vast field on new research activity. The new university campus in South Trinidad ought to look at establishing an all-encompassing programme in heritage studies that incorporate research, scientific, conservation, restoration and curatorial study among other fields that would advance the knowledge and understanding of Trinidad and Tobago’s prehistory and multicultural heritage.

Nicole Drayton Photo from Guardian Report.I have no copyright claims on this
http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-04-18/more-bones-found-under-red-house 

This also has value to the region and the world.  We have for too long paid only lip service to our multiculturalism. The find under the Red House of bones potentially dating to the beginning of this epoch points to the significant need for a proper survey and actions to secure and protect zones that are of significant historical and prehistoric importance.

One of the most distressing evidence of lack of attention is the state of the Banwari site which is one of, if not the most significant known archeological treasures of not only Trinidad and Tobago but the region and around which very little of significance has been done since it was discovered some forty years ago.
Why, forty years later, as one of the richest countries in the region, must we be looking to other universities from which to draw expertise when by now we should have full-fledged – not only archeological, but also conservation, restoration and other related programmes that explore the significance of our heritage beyond the current focus on song and dance mode? While scholarly collaborations are important, certainly we could be more advanced, and a leader rather than a follower in these fields in which several other less-resourced Caribbean countries are significantly more advanced.
At a recent workshop where Trinidad and Tobago’s heritage assets, including the 7000-year old Banwari site’s potential as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was discussed, Caribbean colleagues expressed grave concern that Trinidad and Tobago had not moved towards effecting the research, legislation and other actions necessary to recognise the value and significance of the site and the surrounding districts as a place of outstanding universal value and a world treasure.
Trinidad’s entire southwest peninsula, as a key entry point to the migration of prehistoric peoples from the mainland though to the islands, would benefit from a comprehensive archeological survey and follow up action, and such sustained infrastructural mechanisms as a study and skills-building programme at university level as well as sensitisation building that begins from pre-school and injected into the primary and secondary curriculum.
So much of the history of the region is still unknown and so much of the accepted theories are being challenged. Work in this area in Trinidad and Tobago can significantly add to our knowledge and understanding of the region and this is partly the intention behind our undertaken a series of actions to enhance awareness about the prehistoric connections between Trinidad and Tobago and the mainland and islands as well as the wider diasporas of North America, Europe, Africa and Asia through LiTTributes – tributes that recognise the literatures and cultures that comprises Trinidad and Tobago’s multicultural milieu. To date, LiTTributes have been staged in T&T, Guyana (LiTTribute to the Mainland); Antigua (LiTTribute to the Antilles) and shortly in the UK, (LiTTribute to LondonTTown). Similarly, she has also been conducting LiTTours in T&T that highlight the connection between literary and built, natural, political, institutional and cultural heritage. The last LiTTour brought to light the state of tombstones dating to the mid eighteenth century belonging to the first French migrants to Trinidad and linked to several prominent families in Trinidad and Tobago’s history including the former archbishop, politicians and businessmen.
It is not pie in the sky. We are sitting on a gold mine that can add significantly to the world’s knowledge stock, and forge new employment and income earning pathways, while building a more conscious society. These are unexplored assets of indelible and indefinite value which can augment the national coffers if that is the only language we understand in relation to not only the now exploding arena of heritage tourism interests but other spinoffs as “academic tourism” and other downstream disciplines and sectors.
See related posts: 
ReflecTTions on Intrinsic ConnecTTions at LiTTribute to the Mainland: http://kris-rampersad.blogspot.com/2013/02/littribute-11-litturgy-to-mainland-with.html
See Also:

Archaeologist on Red House find: Amerindian artefacts date back to AD 0-350

Published: 
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Pottery artefacts found under the Red House recently are of an Amerindian style dating back to AD 0-350 and can be dated by sight, says archaeologist Peter Harris. And he is almost certain that bone fragments found near the pottery are also Amerindian. Harris spoke yesterday after further scrutiny of the artefacts and bone fragments found under the Red House on March 25. 
Last week, the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) said the fragments were found while workers doing restoration work on the Red House were digging inspection pits on the ground floor. The artefacts were also found. Udecott said the fragments were taken by the Office of the Parliament for testing. 
Parliament representative Neil Jaggassar and archaeologist Harris visited later last week to investigate the discoveries. Udecott said the Office of the Parliament last Thursday advised that the bone and artefacts date to the Amerindian era. Harris said yesterday it is almost certain the bone fragments are Amerindian, since they came from the same area as the pottery. 
He said his team had checked the walls of the excavation where everything was found and there was no doubt the bones and pottery all came from the same part of the worksite as they were able to pinpoint exactly where the bones were located. “The pottery is Amerindian in a style that dates back to AD 0 to AD 350. It’s visually dateable because people over the years have excavated in T&T and built up a set of styles we have ample references…We can tell what style is associated with what date,” Harris said.
“What was found so far is a small amount of pottery, but it fits the period of AD 0-AD 350. While we havent’t got the whole story yet, I’m sure that if things were found so closely together in a place they’re likely to be related. “We’re a long way from knowing what village or what was there on that site, but we do know the bones found are almost certainly Amerindian.”
Parliament officials, speaking earlier in the day, said foreign testing might have to be done on the bones and as far as they were aware, there has not been full official confirmation on the origin of the bones. An official said there are three groups that specialise in Amerindian matters in T&T which the various agencies would have to check with. 
They said the news of the discoveries, however, has generated so much interest that it is slightly hindering their work. They said there might be consultations between Udecott and the Parliament on the situation and a statement may be made later. They were unaware whether the police were notified of the discovery of the bones. Police communications officer Joanne Archie said the normal protocol when bones are found anywhere was that police are notified to take a look at them.
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What Udecott said
Udecott’s communication officer Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said the Office of the Parliament is heading the process to have the bones tested by experts.
Stapleton-Whyms said it was noteworthy that the find was made under the existing ground floor slab in the rotunda of the Red House, which had been in place  since the early 20th century. She added that the find has not held up or stopped ongoing work, as the bones and artefacts were discovered in an isolated portion of the project site.
She said the inspection pits would remain in their current condition until the archaeologists and other stakeholders have concluded their testing and investigation of both the excavated material and the soil strata. On whether police were informed of the find, she said when the bones were discovered both Udecott and Parliament staff were present. “Given that the site falls under the purview of the Parliament they took the lead in this regard,” Stapleton-Whyms added.
Historian’s view 
On whether there is any known Amerindian connection to the Red House site, Paria Publishing historian Gerard Besson said late architect John Newel Lewis’s Ajoupa publication chronicled a travel guide to the Caribbean from 1899 by James H Starke which noted legends that a great battle between rival Arawak tribes took place in ancient times where Woodford Square now stands. Because of this, the area was known as “Place des Armes.” 
Besson said there was also a myth that in pre-Columbian times, tribal youths had fought battles of manhood in a large forest of silk cotton trees which stood where the square is today.

Amerindian artefacts found at Red House

Published: 
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
If the artefacts, including bones, found under the Red House are determined to be authentic Amerindian remains, then the site could be preserved as part of  the refurbishment of the building, chairman of the National Trust Vel Lewis said yesterday. Speaking to the T&T Guardian in San Fernando, where he attended a meeting with mayor Dr Navi Muradali to discuss the destruction of historic buildings in the city, Lewis said the find was being studied to determine precisely what it was and if it was authentic.
He said: “It could be an Amerindian site but we want to conduct tests to be sure before we can make any declaration. Once we have established that, we would then be clearer as to how to treat with it and discuss with the Parliament how the site could be preserved within the refurbishment of the Red House. 
Amerindian chief Ricardo Bharat-Hernandez believes the bones and artefacts are those of Amerindian ancestors and wants to perform a religious ceremony on the site as soon as he gets the all-clear. On Sunday, he, Lewis and archaeologists visited the site where the find was made during restoration work on the Red House being undertaken by Udecott. He said the artefacts, consisting of pottery, a piece of a pipe, which may have been used by a chief, and a bead from a necklace, have all been identified as Amerindian. 
He said some verification was needed to determine the origin of the bones and whether they belonged to children or adults. Another Amerindian descendant, journalist Tracy Assing, who has made a documentary film about Trinidad’s Amerindians, said the find was very important. 
She said: “Unfortunately, there aren’t that many digs where we only ever discover these artefacts when the lands have already been sold and something constructed. Then that becomes an issue with the landowner. “In this case the Red House will continue to be built. The other issue is whether the site can be protected or if a dig can be established or expanded.”

More bones found under Red House

Published: 
Thursday, April 18, 2013
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Red House project liaison officer Neil Jagessar, right, shows Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and officials of the Housing Development Corporation the excavation site where more bones where found yesterday. PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
More bone fragments found under the Red House last Saturday and yesterday are being examined by experts, including those from the University of Miami, whose assessment should be completed in a few weeks. A skull, pelvic bone and femur were found  beneath the Red house last  Saturday and two more fragments were found yesterday.
This was confirmed by Udecott and Parliament officials when Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal visited the Red House yesterday to inspect the areas where the first set of bones and artefacts were found on March 25. On that date Udecott workers involved in the Red House restoration made the first discovery in seven-foot deep pits dug to test the Red House foundations. Parliament had called in forensic experts which confirmed they were human remains. 
The Parliament is in the process of having the bones carbon-dated to ascertain the exact age. Archeologist Peter Harris has advised the bones and artefacts may date back to Amerindian times. Yesterday Moonilal was given this information and was shown four of the 16 inspection pits being dug in and around the Red House compound and where the bones and artefacts were found. 
Moonilal was told by Parliament project supervisor, Neil Jagessar, that part of a skull and pelvic bone and what appeared to be a femur (thigh bone), about 12 inches in length, were found in a pit dug near the Knox Street side of the building last Saturday. Those fragments were the latest found since the March 25 discovery, Parliament officials said. Two other fragments were also found yesterday, it was confirmed.
Moonilal, who said he had wanted to take a look at the situation, quipped: “We have confirmed the bones are not that of any dead politician or anyone who’s politically dead but still alive,” Saying the bones might pre-date the Red House, he added: “The majority of the bones have been placed by the Parliament. They have experts, now being assisted by the University of Miami and the archeological unit, looking to date all of the bones. 
“This technical process should take two or three weeks and then they would be in a position to say how old the bones are.” Moonilal said it might be that they pre-date the early 1900s. He said  some of the backfilling under the Red House came from along the Priority Bus Route and it was possible that backfill contained bone fragments. “We don’t know yet,” he added.
Not a crime scene
Moonilal said Homicide detectives visited the Red House and had cleared it as a crime scene, indicating no foul play was involved concerning the bones. He said Udecott was on target with Red House restoration and he was satisfied with progress. 
He said the job, costing over $.5 billion, is projected to be completed in 2015. Government is doing paperwork to relocate the National Security Ministry from Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, to clear the way for construction of the planned companion building for the Red House on that site.

T&T Red House Suffers Violent Attacks In 1903 and 1990

A new chapter in the 169-year-old history of the Red House is in the making following the discovery of bones and artefacts in the foundations of the Rotunda.
Preliminary reports by archaeologist Peter Harris suggested that “the bones are from members of an Arawak tribe dating back to AD 0 to AD 350, and the pottery is definitely Amerindian in style dating back to the same era”.
Government pathologist Dr Valery Alexandrov of the Forensic Science Centre in Port of Spain confirmed that “the bones are similar to those of human beings”, but in the absence of facilities to determine the exact ethnicity and sex, arrangements are being made to send samples of the bones abroad, either to Michigan University, USA, or Miami University, for further testing and evaluation.
The report of the findings, one way or another, will now place the Red House and its surroundings in a new light, as one of the most controversial State buildings in Trinidad, where, since 1903, it has been at the centre of abuse and assault.
Historian Gerard Besson recalled an article by John Newel Lewis on the status of the site on which the Red House was built. The article, written by James H Starke, noted, “There was a great battle between rival Arawak tribes that took place in ancient times where Woodford Square now stands. Because of this, the area was called Place des Armes.”
Another source indicated that landfill from Laventille was taken to the site during construction of the first Red House.
On February 15, 1844, the foundation stone was laid for the construction of a government building which became the Red House.
The current building is the second structure to be built on the same spot. The first was designed by Richard Bridgens and built by G de la Sauvagere and AA Pierre. It comprised two main blocks connected by a double archway. Though not quite complete, the Red House was opened in 1848 by Governor Lord Harris.
Fifty years later in 1897, it was painted red during the celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Since then Trinidadians and Tobagonians have given the building the name Red House.
As the seat of government since the mid-19th century, the Red House, which is of Greek revival style, has undergone more assaults than any other government building in Trinidad.
In 1903 it was destroyed by fire, when an enraged mob broke windows, threw missiles and started a fire that gutted the entire building. This incident is known as the Water Riots, which took place on March 23, 1903.
On the day of the fire, members of the Legislative Council were debating a bill on the distribution and increased payment of water rates by burgesses in Port of Spain.
While the debate was in progress, there was also a protest meeting by members of the Ratepayer’s Association in progress at Woodford Square, then called Brunswick Square.
During the protest, the crowd became agitated and noisy and stones were thrown, at the windows of the building, smashing them to pieces.
Members in the council chamber were forced to duck under tables and desks and behind pillars.
One member, Henry Albert Alcazar, had walked out of the building in protest against the government’s water policies, stating, “The public movement is the inauguration of a more serious movement which I hope will end in the people having their own say at this table.”
After the riots, he served as counsel for those accused of rioting, before the Commission of Enquiry, as well as those who had died or were injured in the riots.
In the face of violence and destruction, the Governor Sir AC Maloney had refused to withdraw the bill.
In the aftermath of the fire, 16 people lay dead and 42 injured, and the first Red House building was completely destroyed, leaving only the shell of the building standing among the rubble which was later removed to fill open spaces in Victoria and Harris Squares.
Rebuilding a new home for Parliament began the following year. It was designed and built by DM Hahn, chief draughtsman at the Works Department, at a cost of 7,485 pounds sterling.
The ceiling in the new chamber was one of the most striking pieces of architecture. An Italian craftsman installed the ceiling.
The columns and entablature were made of purple hart wood imported from Guyana, a fountain was installed in the middle of the Rotunda and the passageway between the two buildings was closed to vehicular traffic.
Work was completed in 1906 and the building was opened to the public on February 4, 1907 by Governor Sir HM Jackson.
At the opening, Jackson called on the people of Trinidad to forget the past events at the Red House and concentrate on a fresh history of Trinidad.
In his address, Jackson said, “Today we leave that episode of the past behind us forever, and we turn a fresh page in the history of Trinidad.”
Eighty-three years after the call by Jackson to forget the bitterness of past memories, there was an attempted coup at the Red House by members of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, who on the afternoon of July 27, 1990, stormed the Parliament building during a sitting of the House of Representatives. During the siege, seven people were killed in the Red House and several injured.
Long after the assault, bullet holes could be seen on the ceiling, walls and doors of the building.
On July 26, 1991, the traditional chamber was restored, and commemorative plaques relating to the incident installed. These included a portrait of Leo Des Vignes, Member of Parliament for Diego Martin Central, who had died in the siege; a plaque bearing the names of the casualties of the invasion and a marble cenotaph crowned with an eternal flame erected on the eastern end of the lawn of the Red House.
These formed part of the history of the Red House depicting the tumultuous past, the fire, the attempted coup and other incidents that threatened the core of our democracy.
The discovery of bones and artefacts will undoubtedly raise further issues concerning the past, and even the future, of the Red House.

Bones found during excavation work sent for testing

Published: 
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Bones which were found beneath the Red House during excavation work recently  were sent to  the Forensic  Science Centre for testing last week and will also be tested  later by UWI’s Research Unit, according to the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration. The bones and a number of pottery and other artifacts were found beneath the Red House on March 25 during excavation work by Udecott which is restoring and renovating the Red House.  
 Ministry spokesman Desiree  Connor said the bones are undergoing testing to ascertain officially what era they are from. Archaeologist Peter Harris, who has been advising the Parliament on the findings, has said the findings appear to date back to Amerindian times. Harris said yesterday no further remains or artifacts have been found since the first batch was discovered. He added that indigenous groups in T&T had been receiving calls of interest from overseas on the findings.
 Police communications officer  Joanne Archie said yesterday police had gone to the Red House to inspect the bones when they were first discovered as per normal protocol. She said due to the circumstances of the situation—being found at a certain depth  beneath the Red House and the historical nature of the situation—the bones were not kept by police.
 The usual protocol when bones are discovered is that they are sent to  Forensic  for testing  against records of missing  persons which the police have. The Red House case  of the bone fragments found is different, police sources said. 
Moonilal: Bones may pre-date Red House
 http://www.newsday.co.tt/politics/0,176429.html

By SEAN DOUGLAS Thursday, April 18 2013
HOUSING Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal yesterday said he was pleased with the pace of restoration at the Red House as he visited to see the site where ancient bones had been found.
Udecott staff (for whom he is line Minister) showed him four holes ranging in depth from four feet to 15 feet dug into the ground beneath the Red House to test the building’s foundation.

“I’ve been informed by the Udecott officials over the last few days of certain ‘finds’ here — bone fragments and artefacts — so I wanted to come and take a look myself and see what was happening,” said Moonilal.

“Construction here on the restoration of the Red House is well underway, and they are doing some scientific testing now of the soil and foundation walls and so on, and apparently in digging at these inspection sites they found artefacts and bones and so on.” He joked that the bones do not belong to any dead politician.

“Apparently they are aged, that may pre-date the Red House. The majority of the bones have been placed by the Parliament, and they have the experts now, assisted by the University of Miami,” said Moonilal. “They have archaeological units and so on that are now looking to see if they can ‘date’ the bones. That is a scientific process that will take two or three weeks, I understand, and we’ll be in a position to say how old the bones are.”

He said the bones might pre-date the early 1900s. “It could well be that some of the fillings for here came from an area along the Priority Bus Route. So it could be backfill from there that has bone fragments in it.”

Moonilal said the Homicide Bureau of the TT Police Service has said the bones indicate it was not a crime site, but an archaeological site. “So there’s no foul play here.”

“So we continue to monitor it. I think it has great significance and great historical interest for Trinidad and the City of Port-of-Spain. I imagine the archaeologists and historians would be interested in this development, so we’ll monitor it, but the work continues on the restoration of the Red House, it’s just that this is a very unusual dimension to that work.”

He was satisfied with the pace of restoration, despite the time used in engaging foreign experts. “But we are on target and we expect by 2015 or thereabouts we will be finished with this,” he added. He said the project also involved construction of a parliamentary Companion Building at the current site of the Ministry of National Security at Knox Street, Port-of-Spain.

Moonilal said the Companion Building is a modern glass and concrete building, which they expect no trouble with. He said remedial work was happening at the Red House.

“Sometimes from the outside it looks as if nothing is happening, because we are not breaking down the building, but when you go inside certainly you are seeing all the rooms and what is happening there and the type of scientific work that is involved. So we are very pleased with Udecott’s handling of this project. The deadline for completion I believe is early 2015 and we are on target.”

On the restoration of other historical buildings such as the Magnificent Seven, he said responsibility variously lies with Udecott and/or Nipdec. “We are moving now to ensure that the restoration of President’s House will also be taken over by Udecott, and that they’ll assess that project quickly and see how best we can move.” Foreign experts are helping, he said. Moonilal said the funding for restoration projects is a key issue, noting the Red House projects costs $500 million.