Dec. 16, 2002 Analysis suggests that a burned layer uncovered along the beach at Cinnamon Bay is the remains of a building set aflame during the 1733 slave rebellion, V.I. National Park archeologist Ken Wild said Monday.
Wild said the area was evaluated more than a year ago by a team from Syracuse University, but the team just completed analyzing the data.
"They looked at the ceramics to date it," Wild said.
St. Thomas-based historian David Knight, who did historical research on Cinnamon Bay for the Friends of the Park group, said two different sets of documentation indicated that the Cinnamon Bay plantation went up in flames during the 1733 revolt.
One, compiled by a Danish military man named Ottenger during his interviews with every planter on St. John after the rebellion, indicates that the plantation's slave houses, factory buildings and estate house burned. Knight said that Ottenger, fresh from Denmark, was the man responsible for catching the last of the rebels.
Knight said the second set of documentation, by a St. Thomas plantation owner, Pierre Pannet, indicates a fire occurred at Cinnamon Bay during the rebellion.
He said that information about the fires coupled with items found in the burned layer, including pieces of ceramics, remains of bottles, and a Danish silver coin dated 1723, lead to the conclusion that the building burned during the 1733 rebellion.
"We put two and two together," Knight said.
Wild said it appears that the remains found in the burned layer came from a wattle and soft mortar house occupied by the Cinnamon Bay slaves. Wattle is made of sticks and the soft mortar is made from lime, shells and coral.
Wild said that the layer is, at its deepest, three inches thick. It sits right at the edge of the water. However, the house originally stood inland, but erosion over the past centuries removed copious amounts of sand from the beach.
"We found it because the surf exposed the outer post mold of the building," Wild said.
He said that another building went up on top of the burned remains, which helped preserve the burned layer.
"It caps a layer in time," Wild said.
In fact, the team of filmmakers creating a St. John segment about the 1733 rebellion for the Discovery Channel's "Moments in Time" series shot at the site in November.
Knight said this is the first archeological evidence from the 1733 rebellion. The stone fort at Fortsberg, where the rebellion began, was built after 1733. Knight said documents show that the fort involved with the 1733 rebellion was made of earth.
Wild said he will continue work at the site.
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