Amerindian archeological site in Cupecoy destroyed: Well-intended cleanup with the wrong results

POSTED: 02/6/13 12:26 PM

Cupecoy archeological site

The site of the Amerindian prehistoric settlement in Cupecoy has been destroyed by bulldozers. Photo Today / Hilbert Haar.

CUPECOY, St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – The Princess Group of Companies is the owner of two plots of land across from the Blue Mall in Cupecoy that have recently been cleared. Managing director Hakan Unal told this newspaper yesterday that the company has no plans to develop anything on the property at the moment. Archeologist Jay Haviser noted that it was “a day of dying culture” when the property was cleared by bulldozers last week, because it is – and now: was – the only prehistoric Amerindian archeological site on the island.

“The property was dirty and there were a lot of bushes,” Unal said. “so we sent a group of people to clean it up. A month ago we spoke with the community police officer about it. There were also complaints from the other side of the property. That is why we cleaned it up.” Unal said that he is unaware that the property is a recorded archeological site.

The property is walled off and on one spot there is a banner of Elite Properties, suggesting that this company is about to develop something on the site. But John Lemacks of Elite denied this. “We have plans to develop a small building on the street side of the wall, not on that property. It is not for sale and nothing is going to be developed there. The clearing of the site has been done at the request of the police. We have nothing to do with it, but the owners are just being good citizens.”

Community police officer Ethelwaldus Josepha confirmed to this newspaper that he had spoken with the Princess Group of Companies about clearing the land. “The piece nearest to Cupecoy, the entrance to the main road was cleared by Public works. It is a safety issue, for the students of the Medical School who pass by there.”

Josepha said that his request did not apply to the part of the property that borders on Shore Pointe Villas – and that is where the archeological site was located.

The Princess Group of Companies has two certificates of admeasurement registered at the Cadastre. Both buy valium ireland documents were created on July 2, 2005 at the request of managing director Unal. The lot closest to Shore Pointe Villas measures 8,973 square meters and the adjacent lot 8,224 square meters. The combined cost of both certificates was 20,735 guilders, or close to $11,600.

Archeologist Haviser noted in his letter to the editor that the bulldozered site is “the only surviving prehistoric village site on the Dutch side.” It was populated by Amerindian peoples from about 300-1000 AD – between around 1,700 and a thousand years ago.

The site was surveyed in 1961 by the American archeologists Ripley and Adelaide Bullen with permission of the owner at that time, James Spellman from Fairfield in Connecticut.

Twenty-five years later another survey was conducted by the Archeological Anthropological Institute of the Netherlands Antilles, but after that no new surveys have been executed.

Haviser called the site “the largest chapter in the history of St. Maarten dedicated to the earliest inhabitants, the true indigenous peoples.”

When Today visited the site on Monday, the bulldozers were gone, but their tracks were still very visible all across the property. Huge piles of shrubbery and debris are awaiting removal.

Haviser considers the archeological site destroyed, as he wrote in his letter: “And now it is gone, site destroyed…the dying embers of the Amerindian presence on this rock in the Caribbean Sea. Archaeology was the last means for us understand them, oral histories were long gone, so archaeology is how we find their history, our history, as one people of this island. When will we learn that without heritage, the heritage of all ethnic contributions to St. Maarten…we will become a hollow shell.”

The well-intended cleanup action with the disastrous results comes on the heels of a symposium organized by Governor Eugene Holiday in December where the pointed out “the vital importance to increase the awareness among our population about issues that are relevant for their governance. The common future of a people is grounded in the understanding and embrace of its past.”

The governor organized the symposium because “the preservation of national heritage on St. Maarten for succeeding generations is under pressure and in some cases disappearing.”

That is certainly true for the archeological site in Cupecoy.

 

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Comments (1)

 

  1. wondering says:

    why was this site never protected? put on a monument list? designated as a historical site? who dropped the ball?