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  • Writer's pictureE Stegmaier

St. Eustatius Airport Expansion Project: Day 21-23 (May 11-13, 2021)

The past few days have been fairly routine- head to the site around 7:30 am, draw any new remains that have been excavated, then return back to the Science Institute to render them. The number of remains that the team has uncovered this week is impressive, and my workload continues to outpace my output. I knew this would happen, however, and though I always prefer to stay on top of things, there's only so many hours in the day.

Earlier in the week, Ruud Stelten, GR2021's project director, took this awesome shot of me. I have very few pics of me in the field, and this is by far the best one!

The burials we are discovering range from absolutely fascinating to utterly heartbreaking; from completely bizarre to tragic and morose. There is little doubt that the research being conducted here will result in numerous publications and will greatly expand upon the island's known history. In addition to the remains themselves, the associated grave artifacts are also fascinating where they exist.

I had a welcomed reprieve from rendering human remains for two days. While I still continued doing field drawings, I was tasked with rendering this amazing clay pipe that was found with one of the burials. Presumably from the 18th-century, the pipe had been well-used, as the stem was worn down to almost a nub, and the owner's left thumb had worn away the clay on the bowl. Stamped on the right side were the initials "RT." The worn finger marks show that the owner took particular care not touch the inscription. Below is a cellphone snapshot of the drawing, which will be digitized and cleaned up for publication upon my return home next month.

All drawings are copyright the artist and the St. Eustatius Center for Archaeological Research (SECAR)

I did this drawing 2x the size of the pipe itself in order to correctly draw the stamped letters. The "R" was a bit worn away and at first glance looked like a "P." I have to admit, I sat and held this pipe for about 20 minutes in my room just contemplating. I thought about the thumbprint and the hand that made it, now reduced to skeletal form. I looked at the scorched interior of the bowl and the mouthpiece of the stem, worn smooth by the owner's lips. Certain artifacts do that to me, especially personal items; they act as bridges that connect me with people from another time and place. It's an indescribable feeling, but it's evidence (at least to me) that human connection cannot be severed by any length of time.

That experience is the one thing I love most about what I do, and I will never grow tired of it.

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