St. Croix members of a youth organization have received a hands-on experience with history, courtesy of a local archeological dig.

Members of the Caribbean Centers for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands got a look at an active dig in Estate Little Princess. The trip comes as part of an educational component of ongoing research at the site of a plantation dating to 1749.

The site’s educational component is headed up by Alexandra Jones, the founder and CEO of Archeology in the Community, a group dedicated to taking the science of studying artifacts from history and prehistory and bringing it to the people.

Participation allows students a feel for the science behind archeology, though students also receive classroom introductions on subjects like understanding soil layers, Jones said.

Even so, nothing beats a hands-on approach, Jones said.

“We bring them out in the field so they can have real-world experience excavating and washing artifacts so that they can see the whole process that we follow,” she said. “I like to quiz them.”

Older students also have the opportunity to work as interns at the site, Jones said. The site has 15 spots for paid interns, and the Boys and Girls Club selects those eligible to participate, Jones said.

“If we have students interested in archeology, we’re going to keep fostering that,” she said.

The dig at the site originally started as part of the Slave Wrecks Project. The Little Princess site is on land owned by the Nature Conservancy.

The Slave Wrecks Project is a joint venture of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Park Service and George Washington University.

Researchers have also brought in additional funding from various academic institutions, like Alicia Odewale’s University of Tulsa, or Ayana Flewellen or William White III’s University of California-Berkeley, or Justin Dunnavant’s University of California-Santa Cruz.

Odewale, Dunnavant, Flewellen, and White are core members of the Society of Black Archeologists, which aims to bolster diversity in archeology, and encourage appropriate conservation efforts for artifacts from the African Diaspora.

The plantation’s habitation date ranges over 200 years, meaning the plantation’s later years are within living memory, Jones said.

“You still have people that remember the estate,” she said. “This is ingrained in the community today.”

Researchers working at the site are also interested in building a collection of oral histories of remembered experiences dating to the later years.

However, the hands-on experience relates to the recovery of earthenware, pearlware — a fine glazed earthenware pottery — ceramics, and other artifacts, and more importantly what those artifacts say about various epochs of the plantation’s history.

The artifacts will be categorized over the next year and added to the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, which allows details of artifacts, including photos, to be shared with researchers and the public.

For example, Odewale’s research is focused on a comparative study of slavery in Virginia with slavery on St. Croix. For example, her research tackles how enslaved populations in either region addressed natural and social adversity.

“It’s not that one side was better or worse than the other,” she said. “It’s different challenges that each community faced.”

By contrast, Dunnavant is focused on how the presence of slavery altered St. Croix’s ecology, and White’s research is focused on how both the enslaved village area and other outbuildings on the site have changed over time, Odewale said.

In addition to looking for old stories, researchers are interested in new dollars, Flewellen said.

The project currently operates from an annual budget of about $47,000, which covers housing for the researchers, graduate students, interns, a training program, food, lights, and other expenses. As a result, the five full-time staff members have had to volunteer their time.

“With $90,000, you could pay the staff, you could possibly run this field school twice,” she said. “That would also allow us to potentially offer paid internships to the university students coming down, and hire guest speakers to communicate more outreach to what we’re doing.”

The site workers — all professional archeologists or anthropologists — say local historic preservation efforts are inadequate for maintaining history, for example Danish colonial-era records listed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage register.

Keeping local archeological treasures would require both a facility to store them, as well as personnel, Flewellen said.

“Having a robust anthropology program at the UVI that trains students in conservation would make it more possible to keep cultural resources that are on the island,” she said.

Anyone wishing to share personal narratives of Estate Little Princess plantation may contact Odewale at, Flewellen at, or Jones at

Contributions to the dig can be made through Archeology in the Community at

— Contact Brian O’Connor at 340-714-9130 or email