Documentation of shipwrecks planned

Following much uncertainty and speculation over the years, the Cayman Islands National Museum is planning to formally document the presence of shipwrecks in Cayman’s waters.

The aim will be to restore and protect national archaeological sites and finds as part of an invigorated archaeological programme.

The first concrete step towards these goals was the recent visit of museum consultant Nigel Sadler. An experienced archaeologist, Mr Sadler is the former director of the Turks and Caicos National Museum and past-president of the Museum Association of the Caribbean.

The primary purpose of Mr. Sadler’s visit was to review legislation that protects archaeological and historic sites and finds.

The CINM’s archaeology programme had been introduced originally in 1990, but became dormant following Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The programme is being re-energised with the recruitment of new staff, and plans for strengthened legislation that will emanate from the work of Mr. Sadler.

Cayman’s earliest archaeological sites date back to the early 1700s. Artefacts that have been unearthed typically include ceramics, clay earthenware and bottles. Items such as these have been discovered in recent years in areas such as Old Prospect, North Side and George Town.

In addition to investigating sites and materials, an important goal of CINM’s archaeological programme will be to document and understand early human presence in Cayman.

Archaeological investigations have so far not revealed signs of Ciboney, Arawak or Carib Indians, although there has been much speculation.

An important goal for the CINM’s archaeology programme, nevertheless, is to seek to uncover even older and more significant indicators of early life – ideally a pre-Columbian settlement.

During his Cayman visit Mr. Sadler held meetings with Deputy Director Debra Tabora-Barnes, as well as with the National Trust, Department of the Environment, and National Archive. He also met with dive company operators, and representatives of the Planning and Legislative Drafting departments.

Mr Sadler also met with lay archaeologists and private citizens such as former CINM archaeologist Peggy Lechiker-Denton and amateur researcher Simon Boxall. The CINM intends to involve the wider public, both for the purposes of gathering views and information, as well as to identify areas of national interests.