Human bone fragments estimated to be the remains of about four people have been discovered under the Red House during restoration work there, Parliament and Udecott officials say.Archaeological experts say the remains and certain artifacts also found at the site date back to Amerindian times–and there may be more, they added.
Udecott is supervising the restoration and renovation of the Red House. The project began in 2011 and is projected to be completed in 2014.Udecott's Roxanne Stapleton- Whyms said the discovery of the bones and artifacts was made last week Monday during a site visit by Udecott officials and Parliament representatives to the Red House.She said work on the project has involved digging a number of inspection pits on the ground floor.
Parliament officials said this is to assess the foundation strength of the "old" Red House and test foundation strength for future construction. Some pits being dug are over ten feet deep.Stapleton-Whyms said during the site visit, the bone fragments were seen in the excavated material of one of the pits in the rotunda area of the Red House, in the middle of the structure. She said the bone fragments were taken by the Office of the Parliament for testing.
On Tuesday Neil Jaggessar, the Red House project liaison officer, and archaeologist Peter Harris visited the site to investigate the bone fragments which were unearthed."And earlier today (yesterday), the Office of the Parliament advised the bone and artifacts date back to the Amerindian era," Stapleton added.Jaggessar added: "From all reports, it's a major historical find.,"
Jaggessar is a former Clerk of the Parliament. After he retired last year he was appointed project administrator for the Red House restoration project.Jaggessar said a wide variety of bones had been found including spinal column pieces, leg and hand bones and skull parts with intact teeth. He said remains found could be those of about four people. Small pieces of clay items and what appeared to be part of a necklace were also found.He said Harris told Parliament tone of the items appeared to be an implement to burn herbs in.
The Parliament has stored the bones and other items in glass cases at its current Waterfront location.Jaggessar said the Parliament has contacted the Division of Anatomy at Mt Hope to source experts to examine the bones, and also contacted the University of the West Indies to ascertain if history shows any burial ground in the area.
He said as soon as all results are received Parliament will find further experts to test the bones for information on the age and sex of the bodies from which they came, and obtain more information on what might have existed in the area.Jaggessar said a Parliament team has started working on sifting the earth in the area where the remains were found to search for more items.He said the bones found so far have been sourced from one test pit hole only, but it is believed there are many more on the site.
The Parliament team will continue work on this today.Harris, who has specialised in T&T and regional archaeology for many years, said it was a very interesting find, and within the three excavation pits which had been made, workers had found the bones as well as Amerindian pottery and Gulf of Paria seashells.
Harris said: "The bones are those of about three or four people. The material was not found in any defined way, but in quantities around the area. We have theories including that the bones and shells may have been landfill moved from the coastal area to the Red House location and that would account for the seashells."But what is clear is that it is definitely Amerindian remains judging from two bits of evidence found."
Harris said one of these is the implement to burn herbs, which had two small tubes and a bowl. He said this might have been used to sniff hallucinogenic herbs and was the type of implement used by a tribe's chief or shaman.Harris will be taking a team, including Archaeology Society members, back to the dig today, he said.
Jaggessar added, "It's a fantastic find, particularly since we'd planned that a museum would be one of the things the Red House will have when Parliament returns. This will be a significant part of that project."