Further human remains could yet be disturbed as work continues on St Helena’s airport project, a source has cautioned.
It’s been confirmed that “a number of human bones” were found on Friday 14 September 2012, on ground being used by construction firm Basil Read as a laydown area for equipment and materials.
More than 300 skeletons were exhumed in Rupert’s Valley in 2008 when archaeologists cleared ground for the airport haul road – which opened recently.
Lead archaeologist Andy Pearson – who has coincidentally returned to the island on another project – had been asked to investigate parts of the valley that might be disturbed by airport construction works.
Rupert’s Valley contains many unmarked shallow graves of Africans who were put ashore on St Helena after being rescued from slave ships. Records of the location of slave graves are said to be very poor, though maps have been produced historically.
The latest set of bones was in material thought to have been excavated during building work elsewhere some years ago.
The St Helena Independent said “It is likely that the remains come from the excavation of the building site for the power station.
“It is known and accepted that during construction work in Rupert’s Valley in the 1980’s and before, a significant number of Liberated African’s graves were disturbed.
“Some disarticulated remains were taken to St Paul’s graveyard for burial but others were left in their disturbed condition in Rupert’s Valley.”
A protocol has been put in place for dealing with any other remains that come to light.
Initially, this means cordoning off the area while expert archaeological advice is sought.
Further investigations of the affected site would be carried out, or alternative areas of ground found for Basil Read’s use.
With most of the company’s construction vehicles now transported out of the valley, it was thought that cordoning off the area of the new finds would not have significant impact on operations.