Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091746/00008
 Material Information
Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Series Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Alternate Title: JCA
Abbreviated Title: J. Caribb. archaelo.
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Publisher: Christopher Ohm Clement ;
Christopher Ohm Clement
William F. Keegan
Place of Publication: Gainesville FL
Publication Date: 2007
Frequency: annual
Subject: Archaeology -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1 (2000)-
General Note: Title from title screen (publisher's Web site, viewed Dec. 2, 2002).
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 5 (2004).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091746
Volume ID: VID00008
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003345617
oclc - 41077527
lccn - sn 99003684
issn - 1524-4776


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Journal of CaribbeanArchaeology
Copyright 2007
ISSN 1524-4776


Holly K. Norton
Department of Anthropology
Syracuse University
209 Maxwell Hall
Syracuse, New York 13244-1090
hknorton@nmaxwell. syr. edu

Christopher T. Espenshade
New .SL ,i1h Associates, Inc.
415-A Sll/ Edgle ii,'i Ih Street
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401

The hideouts, lookout points, temporary camps, and concealed communities of runaway
slaves may be difficult to locate using traditional methods of archaeological survey. These lo-
cations were intentionally made inconspicuous, were likely kept clean of surface refuse, and
may have been placed in atypical landscape settings. As well, these sites may be small in size
and likely contain only a few durable goods. A typical archaeological survey that combines
screened shovel tests on a 20 m interval i, ith surface survey for structural features is not well
suited to the discovery of Maroon refuge sites. If these important resources are to be discov-
ered, typical methods should be augmented il iih a GIS-based consideration of locational fac-
tors and controlled metal-detector survey.

The Maroon, or runaway slave, plays a
large role in defining the cultural identity of
many African Caribbean inhabitants of the
former Danish West Indies. The modern in-
habitants of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Tho-
mas proudly point to their unique history of
resistance to slavery, including marronage.
They know the landscape of resistance, and
many island locations are remembered as im-
portant in the Maroon experience.
Paradoxically, there is little good evidence
for the exact nature of Maroon activities in
many areas of the islands. For northwestern
St. Croix, the geographical focus of this pa-
per, there are two general schools of thought.

The first holds that the area known broadly
as Maroon Ridge or Maroon Mountain -
served simply as a path or conduit for run-
aways hoping to catch a boat to Puerto Rico.
The alternative position is that there was a
significant Maroon population living perma-
nently in the area from circa 1650, when the
island was occupied by the French, until the
1760s, by which time the extensive develop-
ment of the Danish sugar economy on St.
Croix probably rendered hiding in the bush
nearly impossible. A similar trajectory was
followed on Barbados, where Handler and
Lange (1978:144) note "Although Barbadian
slaves escaped and sought refuge in caves

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

I ...... i o Maroon Refuge Sites

and forested areas, by the second half of the
seventeenth century the island was fully oc-
cupied, the forests were mostly removed, and
there were no opportunities for the establish-
ment of maroon communities."

How were the Maroons using the landscape
of northwestern St. Croix? This seems like a
pretty basic question to remain unanswered at
this late date, yet it is an important question
in understanding slave resistance. As
discussed more completely below, the
archival record has little to say to resolve this
question, and it is time for historical
archaeology to step to the forefront. Is
archaeology prepared for this task?

The present paper is the result of an
evolving proposal to archaeologically study
sites of Maroon refuge activity in the Maroon
Ridge area of northwestern St. Croix (Figures
1-2). In reviewing the archaeological
literature, it became clear that little work has
been done on Maroon camp sites, where the
Maroons were under persistent threat of

recapture and punishment (i.e., Maroon
refuge sites), in contrast with Maroon
communities that were tolerated or condoned
by the Euro-Caribbeans. Furthermore, in
considering the nature of Maroon refuges, it
is evident that typical archaeological survey
methods may fail to properly find, recognize,
and interpret such sites.

We offer a preliminary paper at this
juncture, rather than awaiting field results,
because Maroon Ridge is under imminent
threat. Resort development has begun to
squeeze the area from the south and the east.
Hoping to counter unchecked development, a
local consortium has been pushing for the
purchase and development of the area as a
territorial park to commemorate the Maroon
experience on St. Croix (Maroon landscapes
are under threat in many countries. For
example, see Price and Price 2002). Under
either scenario, it will become necessary to
assure that the Maroon sites are discovered,
recognized, and properly treated.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Figure 1. Portion of the 1754 Map of St. Croix (Beck 1754). Note th
is labeled as "Uoptagne Grunde" or Unrecorded (unclaimed) Ground.

Norton and Espenshade

I.... i o1 Maroon Refuge Sites

_"\o. .7v . .

Figure 2. Portion of a 1942 Navigation Chart (U.S. Department of Commerce 1942) Show-
ing Topography and Place Names, "Maroon Ridge" and "Maroon Hole."

Historic Context

Marronage existed, in various forms, in
every slave-holding society in the Western
Hemisphere. Although Marronage is
classically associated with runaway African
slaves, Indians were often the earliest
Maroons in the Caribbean (e.g., Yaremko
2006). Generally the acts of these self-
liberating individuals, commonly referred to
as "Maroons," is categorized in one of two
ways: petite marronage, also referred to as
truancy or absenteeism, where an individual
left their plantation or other place of
enslavement for a short period of time,
tending to return on their own; or grand
marronage, an act of permanent escape (Price
1979). In the case of grand marronage,
ethnohistoric evidence suggests that

individuals banded together, sometimes with
Native American groups, to form permanent
settlements. Arguably, the most famous of
these is Palmares, in northwestern Brazil,
which existed for nearly 100 years before
finally being crushed by British mercenaries
and Native Americans, after persistent
Portuguese attacks (Allen 2001; Orser and
Funari 2001). Accompong and Nannytown,
both located in Jamaica, were also highly
successful Maroon communities. The
Maroons of these communities were so
successful that they were able to negotiate
treaties with the British government to ensure
their continued existence (Agorsah 1993,
1994, 2003; Bilby 1997; Kopytoff 1978,
1979; Schuler 1970). Despite these
examples, most Maroon communities were
ephemeral and short lived, under constant

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Norton and Espenshade

I ...... i h Maroon Refuge Sites

pressure from the militarily dominant
European societies in which they existed.

Marronage within the Danish West Indies
was similarly varied. Although the historic
documentary evidence hints at these semi-
permanent internal settlements on St. Croix
and St. Thomas, most of the activity centered
around escape from the islands, along what
Hall has identified as the "marine
underground" to Puerto Rico, Vieques and
Tortola (Hall 1985: 482. See also Chinea
[1997] for an evaluation of the archival
record on marronage to Puerto Rico.), islands
held by European powers that were often
hostile to Danish policy. The Maroons that
were able to eke out an existence on the small
Danish holdings (the islands of St. Croix, St.
Thomas and St. John fall short of 200 square
miles combined, the bulk of that retained by
St. Croix) did so at a place identified as
"Maroon Mountain" or "Maroon Ridge" on
St. Croix (Pope 1972).

Maroons of northwest St. Croix were
discussed by Oldendorp, a Moravian
Missionary and visitor to the Danish West
Indies in 1767-68. Oldendorp left a detailed
account of island culture, including a brief
description of "Maroon Hill", which he
describes as "almost impassable" (Highfield
and Barac 1987:51). He further notes that the
Maroons on St. Croix rely on rainwater
caught in rock crevices or basins for their
drinking water (Highfield and Barac
1987:53). Oldendorp (Highfield and Barac
1987:106) reports that the fruit of the susack
tree was a major subsistence item of the
Maroons, who "often live exclusively on
them" (Susack trees, Annona murciata, grow
to 25 to 30 feet in height, and produce fruits
up to 15 pounds in weight. The fruit has an
inedible skin with stubby spines, but the flesh

of the fruit is sweet and acidic in taste.) A
resident of St. Croix, writing a decade before
Oldendorp's visit, noted that ".. .planter
families were being ruined by the running
away of slaves in groups of as many as
twenty to twenty-five in a single night" (Hall
1985: 485).

Oldendorp provides details on the Maroon
Hill people:

For a long time now, a large number of
these Negroes have established them-
selves on lofty Maroon Hill in the moun-
tains toward the west end of the island.
In addition to the lay of the land, they
are there protected by impenetrable bush
and by their own wariness. They keep
every approach safe by attempting care-
fully to conceal small, pointed stakes of
poisoned wood so that the unwary pur-
suer might wound his foot on them and
therefore be prevented from continuing
the chase as a result of the unbearable
pain .... For those foods that they can-
not obtain in the wild, they must search
at sea at night, exposing themselves to
life-threatening dangers in the process;
or they can steal them from plantations.
On St. Croix, they are so bold that they
often venture down from their hills dur-
ing the day and go into the Negro mar-
kets in order to procure the necessities.
It is not at all easy to identify them
among the great numbers of Negroes in
the market [Highfield and Barac

This passage is interesting in suggesting an
economic relationship between plantation/
market Afro-Cruzans and the Maroons. The
Maroons must have been offering something
- possibly wild foodstuffs in exchange at

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Norton and Espenshade

I ...... i h Maroon Refuge Sites

the market. The market contacts also suggest
that kin ties may have been important in sup-
plying Maroons.

Oldendorp (Highfield and Barac 1987:234)
notes that the Maroon problem was often
addressed through organized hunts for the
runaways, yet states "hunts such as these,
however, are not organized to track down
those who remain in the high Maroon Hills of
St. Croix." Noting "a large number of these
Negroes" on Maroon Ridge, Oldendorp is the
best champion of the permanent population
school of thought.

Dookhan (1994) offers a somewhat
different interpretation of Maroon Mountain:

Runaways never comprised a permanent
body in the Virgin Islands such as the
maroons in Jamaica, for when the slave-
hunt became too successful, the slaves
escaped to Puerto Rico. That island had
not yet developed a plantation economy
and the treatment of slaves there was
relatively mild. Besides, runaways were
usually employed on works of
fortification on the island for one year,
after which they were pronounced free
and given a plot of land to cultivate.
Slaves escaping to Puerto Rico became
lost to the Virgin Islands slave-owners, a
loss which was more strongly felt since
only the most robust slaves were
prepared to hazard the dangers of the 40-
odd miles of ocean separating the
Danish islands from the much larger
Spanish island. The numbers of
runaways were apparently large since for
1745 alone it was estimated that about
300 slaves from St. Thomas and St.
Croix had escaped to Puerto Rico. The
traffic became highly organized by the

runaways themselves, and in St. Croix
there was a mountain-hideout called
'Maroons' Hole' just east of Hamm's
Bluff, where hideaways were safely
hidden in a cave whose entrance was
protected by poles of poisonous wood,
until they could be transferred to Puerto
Rico [Dookhan 1994:164].

An 1828 reference does little to resolve the
nature of the use of Maroon Mountain. The
Church Missionary Society (1828:619)
reports "among them lies the so-called
Maroon Mountain, where a few run-away
Negroes still hide themselves."

Maroon Ridge remains a historically
significant location to St. Cruzans. It has
generally remained a rugged, remote place
from the seventeenth century through today.
It is mentioned on heritage tours of the island,
retains key place names, and is a source of
local pride (e.g., Voight 2006).

The archaeological study of Maroon sites is
important for scholars of the African
Diaspora (Weik 1997, 2004). Not only
would it provide information regarding the
internal social structure of maroon
communities themselves, but archaeology
may also shed light on questions concerning
identity, agency, creolization, and internal
economies, to name just a few arenas of
scholarly focus.

Because the archival record is surprisingly
quiet (and conflicting) on the nature of
Maroon activity in northwestern St. Croix,
and because paradoxically that activity is
important to the cultural identity of African
Cruzans, it falls to archaeology to address the
nature of the Maroon existence.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

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I ...... i i1 Maroon Refuge Sites

Previous Archaeological Research on
Maroon Sites

Although there has been much progress in
the historical, anthropological and
archaeological study of Maroon culture over
the past decade (Agorsah 1993, 1994, 2003,
2006, 2007; Allen 2001; Bilby 1997; Camp
2002; Forbes 1992; Hall 1985; Kopytoff
1978, 1979; La Rosa Corzo 2006; Lokken
2004; Orser and Funari 2001; Price 1979;
Weik 1997, 2004) the literature is generally
devoid of archaeologically examined Maroon
refuge camps (c.f., Vega 1979; Garcia
Arevalo 1986; Maris-Wolf 2002, La Rosa
Corzo 2003, 2005, 2006). Instead,
archaeologists have generally investigated
stable communities that were established by
Maroon groups, and that were tolerated by
the dominant Euro-Caribbean culture
(Agorsah 1993, 1994; Allen 2001; Orser and
Funari 2001). Such Maroon villages can
often be discovered and examined by typical
methods of historical archaeology because
the villages are typical residential sites.
These villages often had a rich material
culture including permanent structures, refuse
middens, and cleared horticultural plots.

In contrast, refuge camps occupied by small
numbers of Maroons living under threat of
recapture and punishment are expected to
have different characteristics (see La Rosa
Corzo 2005 and 2006 for examples of this
type of site in western Cuba). It is reported
that the Maroon Ridge area of northwest St.
Croix harbored Maroons from 1670 through
at least 1767. The limited archival record
suggests that these Maroons would have been
recaptured and severely punished if their
recapture was easy. To make their capture
difficult to impossible, the Maroon Ridge

groups used the rugged, minimally accessible
landscape of Maroon Ridge for their refuge.

It is anticipated that refuge camps in areas
such as Maroon Ridge on St. Croix will have
the following traits:

1. Site locations will have been selected ii th
concealment in mind. Rather than settling
on a broad, open ridge top, the Maroons
would have selected an obscure, secluded
cove. Rather than settling near a major
trail, road, or landing, the Maroons would
have chosen locations with difficult ac-
cess. In this regard, Maroon camp loca-
tions might be considered analogous to
illicit whiskey stills in the southeastern
United States.
2. Site locations would have been chosen
11 ith defensibility in mind. The site itself
or the access to the site would have been
selected to provide strategic advantage to
the Maroons. The superior weaponry of
slave-hunters would mean little if the Ma-
roons were pelting them with rocks from
concealed locations 50-100 ft above the
trail. Military considerations would have
played a key role in selecting site loca-
3. Due to 1 and 2, Maroon refuge sites
would not have been located on the land-
forms targeted by normal archaeological
survey. If such sites are sought by an ar-
chaeologist used to searching for planta-
tions, slave villages, and similar historic
sites, the survey could easily miss many
or all slave refuge sites.
4. Related to 1 and 2, Maroons would have
made a concerted effort to reduce their
signatures on the landscape. Refuse
would have been policed and buried or
dumped into the sea. A general residen-

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I ...... i ii Maroon Refuge Sites

tial midden would not be created. Useful
items would be cached out of view. Sub-
stantial houses would not have been con-
5. Depending on the amount of interaction
between the refuge Maroons, enslaved
African Caribbeans, freedmen, and others
(e.g., pirates), the Maroons may have had
limited material possessions. Maroons
may have preferred to have limited mate-
rial goods, to allow their rapid abandon-
ment of sites. Artifact counts may be
relatively low at refuge sites.
6. Due to lack of building materials and risk
of loss to slave hunters, the Maroons
likely utilized indestructible, ready-made
rock shelters or caves for many of their
sites. Even if the domestic site was dis-
covered and the Maroons were forced to
flee, the slave hunters could not burn
down or raze a natural overhang. In west-
ern Cuba, La Rosa Corzo (2005:165) re-
ports that "within these elevations, all the
sites consist of overhangs and caves that
served as temporary shelters to isolated
groups of cimarrones." Vega (1979) also
addressed the use of rock outcrops, and
Barnet (1993) provides an account of a
Cuban Maroon who lived for years in a

Implications for Archaeological Survey

The anticipated traits of Maroon refuge
sites have implications for the selection of
archaeological survey methods. A typical
compliance survey (within the U.S. Section
106 process) utilizes shovel testing on a 20-
meter interval. Shovel tests are generally not
excavated where the landforms are sloped
more than 20-30 percent, and these slope de-
terminations are often made on the basis of

rather coarse, U.S.G.S. topographic maps.
Shovel testing is typically augmented by a
surface search for structural features (e.g.,
stone or brick foundations).

The method of shovel testing on 20-meter
intervals is premised on the targeted sites be-
ing greater than 20 meters in diameter. This
may not be the case for Maroon refuge sites.
Five Maroon sites documented in western
Cuba by La Rosa Corzo (2005:166) measured
3 x 4 meters, 14 x 5 meters, 1 x 1 meter, 13 x
5 meters, and 4 x 3 meters, respectively. Ar-
rom and Garcia Arevalo (1986) also com-
ment on the small size of Maroon refuge

The method of shovel testing at 20-meter
intervals is also premised on there being a
sufficiently dense midden deposit to assure
discovery of the site in shovel tests spaced at
20-meter intervals. As argued above, Ma-
roon refuge sites probably did not have sheet
middens and may not have had sufficient arti-
fact density (Figure 3). Furthermore, the vast
majority of artifacts at such sites will be con-
centrated either in caches or refuse pits.
Shovel testing is especially ineffective in dis-
covering relatively small features.

Maroon refuge camps will be small, have
low artifact density, and have severe artifact
clustering. These attributes represent three
strikes against the applicability of shovel test
survey (termed "TPS" or "Test Pit Survey"
by Nance and Ball 1986. See also Orser and
Funari 1992 and Weik 2004 for discussions
of shovel testing on Maroon sites). Follow-
ing a thorough review of the mathematical
premises of such survey, Nance and Ball
(1986:479, emphasis in original) conclude
"The net effect is that TPS is biased against

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Norton and Espenshade

I .... oi i Maroon Refuge Sites

Figure 3. Maroon in Suriname (from Benoit 1839). Note limited material goods and
simple abode.

discovery of small, low density sites, espe-
cially when these sites exhibit marked spatial
clustering of artifacts. TPS is also unreliable
in such contexts."

There is little gained at Maroon refuge sites
by the surface search for structural features.
The Maroons would have avoided the very
types of features sought by the archaeolo-
gists. A rock cistern or a brick hearth would
have drawn attention to the refuge during oc-
cupation and would have been a prime target
for destruction by the slave-hunters.

Furthermore, it appears that the Maroon
strategy was often to abandon a settlement
whenever there were incursions by slave
hunters. La Rosa Corzo reviewed extensive
slave-hunter records for Cuba, and concluded

"the tactic of falling back before slave hunt-
ing militia arrived prevailed throughout the
area" (La Rosa Corzo 2003:104) and "it was
a setback when slave hunters discovered a
settlement, destroyed their crops, and burned
down their huts, but the runaways were able
to recover quickly and easily" (La Rosa
Corzo 2003:236). This strategy of dealing
with the omnipresent risk would have in-
cluded the use of expedient (sensu Binford
1979) structures. In the absence of suitable
rock overhangs or caves, La Roza Corzo
(2003:245-246) reports that "dwellings of the
first type that is, low, thatched-roof huts
with dirt floors seem to have been more
commonly used and more convenient in
places where the conditions did not facilitate
the development of a long-lasting, safe settle-
ment." Such structures would have left an

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Norton and Espenshade

I ...... i ii Maroon Refuge Sites

extremely light archaeological signature,
probably with no surface features (but possi-
bly with sub-surface post holes).

It is difficult to know what percentage of
Maroon refuge sites would be missed by a
standard archaeological survey. However, if
our expectations about such sites are correct,
the potential loss of information is signifi-

An Improved Approach

In addressing Civil War and other military
sites, Espenshade et al. (2002) noted that tra-
ditional survey methods were poorly suited
for finding camps, picket posts, and skirmish
locations, for many of the same reasons de-
lineated above (see also Connor and Scott
1998; Fox 1993; Scott et al. 1989; Sterling
and Slaughter 2001). Espenshade et al.
(2002) argued that survey methodology
should be changed in areas likely to contain
military resources, and that controlled metal
detector survey should be an important ele-
ment of such research. Controlled metal-
detector survey is especially effective for
military sites because a large portion of the
surviving material culture is metallic, and be-
cause artifacts are likely to be sparsely dis-
tributed, except for a few refuse features.

Clearly, the same applies to Maroon refuge
sites. Survey in areas of known or suspected
Maroon refuge sites should include intensive
metal-detector survey. These areas, at least
on St. Croix, generally lack deep soils and
have not undergone extensive disturbance by
plowing, logging, or relic-hunting. This
means that metallic artifacts, even if buried in
refuse pits, should be within the operating
depth range of a metal-detector. Intensive
metal-detecting of all suitable landforms

should be completed by archaeologists with
extensive experience in metal-detecting.

Survival in the Caribbean forests and shore-
line depended heavily on metal objects. La
Rosa Corzo (2005) found machetes, a hoe, a
shackle, and buttons in his test excavations in
Cuba. Slave-hunters from Cuba (La Rosa
Corzo 2003:104) reported Maroons "armed
with machetes, knives, and five "nearly use-
less" shotguns." An account from Martinique
in 1667 (Baptiste Dutertre 2004 [1667]; Eng-
lish translation by Espenshade) emphasizes
the importance of metal items:

Los segundos al estar mas acostumbra-
dos al pais, no se convierten jams en
cimarrones mas que cuando han puesto
orden en sus asuntos; es para ello que se
proven de herrajes, tales como sierras,
hachas, y cuchillos; se llevan sus hara-
pos, hacen provision de mijo y se retiran
a los lugares mas elevadoes de las mon-
taflas que son casi inaccesibles donde
abaten arboles, hacen un huerto y plan-
tan mandioca y flames, y a la espera de
que lleguen a madurar, vienen por la no-
che a los limits de bosque donde los
otros negros no faltan de llevarles de
comer lo que tengan. Cuando no estan
seguros, van osadamante en el noche a
robar a las haciendas y toman todo lo
que encuentran; ha ocurrido que han lle-
gado a robar hasta la espada y el fusil de
su amos [Baptiste Dutertre 2004 (1667)].

(The second group, being more accus-
tomed to the country, never become run-
aways before they have put their affairs
in order; they gathered implements such
as saws, axes, and machetes; they clean
their clothes, make provision of millet
and retire to the most elevated places in

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

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I ...... i h Maroon Refuge Sites

the mountains that are almost inaccessi-
ble, where they fold over the trees, make
an orchard, and plant manioc and yams,
and while they await the ripening, they
come at night to the limits of the forest
where the other negroes never fail to
give them whatever food they have.
When they are not safe, they go daringly
in the night to rob the haciendas and
they take everything they encounter; it
has happened that they have stolen even
the sword and the gun of their masters.)

In their call for better approaches to finding
military sites, Espenshade et al. (2002) also
called for archaeologists to apply the concept
of Inherent Military Probability (as defined
by Hans Delbruick and Alfred Burne. See
Keegan 1976). This basically requires the
archaeologist to think like a soldier. Is this
location defensible? How high up the ridge
should the rifle trenches be placed? What are
the best observation points?

Similarly, the archaeologist searching for
ephemeral Maroon sites must put themselves
in the mindset of the Maroon, to the degree
possible. The archaeologist must let go of the
typical parameters of site location level
ground, access to a good water source, expo-
sure to cooling breezes, proximity to trans-
portation corridors, nice view -- and think
like a Maroon. The archaeologist must keep
in mind concealment, defensibility, and es-
cape routes. The archaeologist must abandon
their concept of what a house will look like,
and which support features (an oven, a cis-
tern) 'must' be present at a residence. The
archaeologist must abandon the typical ex-
pectation for midden.

In his work in Cuba, La Rosa Corzo (2003,
2005) embraced the concept of Inherent Mili-

tary Probability, although without using that
term. La Rosa Corzo (2003:223) reports:

In fieldwork, both archaeological and
ethnographic aspects were helpful, but in
this phase of the work, obtaining on-the-
spot knowledge of geographic condi-
tions that favored the founding of run-
away slave settlements as a form of ac-
tive slave resistance was most important,
since, in order to understand and explain
this phenomenon, it was necessary to
make direct contact with the environ-
ment in which the incidents took place
[La Rosa Corzo 2003:223].

The Other Half of the Equation

Although it would be great to intensively
metal detect every square meter of Maroon
Mountain, this would be cost and time pro-
hibitive (Figure 4). Luckily, Geographic In-
formation Systems (GIS) provide a means of
defining those areas with the highest prob-
ability of containing Maroon sites, while also
defining areas that will not require survey.
The challenge is to translate expected pa-
rameters of Maroon site selection into vari-
ables that can be derived from available geo-
graphic data sets.

There are consistencies in descriptions of
Maroon refuge camps. Price (1996:5-6)
notes "to be viable, Maroon communities had
to be almost inaccessible, and villages were
typically located in inhospitable, out-of-the-
way areas. . Successful maroon commu-
nities learned quickly to turn the harshness of
their immediate surroundings to their advan-
tage for purposes of concealment and de-
fense." La Rosa Corzo (2003:225) offers this
in agreement with Price:

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I.... i o i Maroon Refuge Sites


Figure 4. Image of Maroon Ridge from Google Earth, Showing Ruggedness of the

As already stated, the places in which
runaway slaves chose to settle had to
meet the most basic requirements for
living under attack: distance (as far as
possible from colonial population cen-
ters and from means of communication),
inaccessibility (that is, they had to be in
locations that were difficult to reach by
passersby, farmers, and cowhands and
that had few probabilities of being stum-
bled upon), and natural concealment (a
place whose topography and vegetation
offered its protection). These three con-
ditions, which often overlapped, corre-
sponded to three different though re-
lated spatial levels [La Rosa Corzo
2003:225, emphasis in original].

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

For an example of these consistencies in the
US Virgin Islands, the reader can compare
the Oldendorp description of Maroon Moun-
tain (see above) with an early eighteenth cen-
tury description from St. Thomas:

J.L. Carstens, who was born in St. Tho-
mas in 1705 and died in Denmark in
1747, noted in his memoirs that in those
early years runaways occupied the is-
land's coastal cliffs, where they shel-
tered in almost inaccessible caves.
Those first maroons chose well, with a
keen strategic eye, for the cliffs could
not be scaled from the seaward side and
vegetation obstructed the landward ap-
proaches. Such refugees went naked and
subsisted on fish, fruit, small game such

Norton and Espenshade

I ...... i h Maroon Refuge Sites

as land turtles, or stolen provender.
Slave hunts, organized three times a
year, could neither loosen their grip on
freedom nor dislodge them from the
cliffs [Hall 1992:127].

How does one model inaccessibility? How
does one model a condition described in
Cuba in 1828 as "there was no way for beasts
to get through. We went down to it along a
stony stream. The descent was very difficult
and we had to hang on vines" (La Rosa Corzo
(2003:124)? Perhaps by scoring the land-
scape by travel labor, derived from distance
and slope relief. How does one account for a
desire to remain hidden? The tools of
viewshed analysis, as widely applied in cell
tower studies, can be used to map which loca-
tions are visible from key points (Bruce Lar-
son [personal communication 2007] reports
that suspected Maroon sites on Vieques were
located in the rear portions of caves that were
hidden at least 100 m back from the beach.
See Sanders et al. 2001, 2003). Where are
potential rock outcrops on Maroon Moun-
tain? Local ecologist Olasee Davis knows of
one cave with two compartments on the high
slope and additional caves close to the beach.
Oral history interviews, the soil survey, and
Digital Elevation Models can create a signa-
ture for potential shelters and caves. Upon
survey, potential shelters and caves may re-
veal signs of past use, such as sooting of the

The benefits of incorporating a GIS compo-
nent into an archaeological survey of Maroon
Ridge would be two-fold. First, GIS can be
used to create a predictive model, allowing
the researcher to narrow the focus of inten-
sive metal-detector and other remote-sensing
survey. GIS allows for a targeted landscape
survey. Although we recognize that suggest-

ing the use of a predictive GIS model places
us squarely within a particular camp (i.e., em-
bracing some variety of environmental deter-
minism), it is not the intention of the authors
to argue the theoretical implications within
this paper. A substantial literature exists
highlighting the controversy (Brandt et al.
1992; Ebert 2004; Llobera 1996; Wheatley
and Gillings 2002; Gaffney and Van Leusen
1995; Kvamme, 1997; Kuna 2000, Wheatley
1998). Instead, our intention is to suggest the
use of GIS predictive model as an atheoreti-
cal tool, a methodology that can hopefully be
applied to a number of theoretically derived
research questions.

Viewshed analysis requires establishing
which points on the physical landscape are
visible from a particular viewpoint on that
landscape (Conolly and Lake 2006; Wheatley
and Gillings 2002). It has been used primar-
ily to identify the visual landscape of monu-
mental structures (Bevan and Conolly 2002-
2004; Wheatley 1995). However, as dis-
cussed by Llobera (2006), all landscapes are
inherently visually structured. This is proba-
bly most true for societies such as Maroon
communities or refuge sites where conceal-
ment is central to their survival. Not only
would Maroons have been concerned with
their own visibility to outsiders, but the abil-
ity to actively scrutinize activities around
them, to anticipate their detection by authori-
ties would have been a requirement for site
placement as well. The use of cumulative
viewshed analysis for the entire area of Ma-
roon Ridge and surrounding locales may
therefore be an effective tool in establishing
areas of priority; locations on Maroon Moun-
tain that are masked from below, but that al-
low views from the ridge-top should be given
highest priority, those sites with no intervisi-
bility second priority, and those with full in-

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Norton and Espenshade

I ...... i h Maroon Refuge Sites

tervisibility lowest priority. Other factors
should be considered along with viewshed
data, both environmental and cultural, such as
proximities or paths to markets, to sea and
land escape routes, availability of natural
shelters such as rock overhangs, presence of
economic trees and bushes, etc. Although not
utilizing GIS software and mapping capabili-
ties, Gabino La Rosa Corzo had great success
in identifying Maroon refuge sites on Cuba
looking at a variety of environmental condi-
tions as predictors that he wrought from his-
toric documentary sources (La Rosa Corzo
2003, 2006). One the most compelling envi-
ronmental consistencies that La Rosa identi-
fied was the near absence of water sources at
refuge sites; only 3 of 30 had springs/water
sources, and of those two were seasonal
sources, which fits with accounts of refuge
sites on other islands, such as St. Croix (La
Rosa Corzo 2006: 9). Maroons may well
have avoided settling close to springs because
water sources were the first place a slave
hunter might look. Testing this hypothesis
may fit well with an agent-based model of the
type created by Lake and Woodman to test
the importance of hazel-nut collecting to an-
cient foragers (Conolly and Lake 2006; Lake
2000a, 2000b; Lake and Woodman 2000).
This model provided agents with "...a set of
goals, decision-making abilities and risk-
taking parameters..." along with information
on the environment and known archaeologi-
cal site and artifact patterns (Conolly and
Lake 2006: 49). A compelling hypothesis,
and one that may be incorporated into an
agent-based model, is that self-liberating
slaves may have purposely avoided known
water sources as these would have had the
potential to be high traffic areas of the gen-
eral populace of the island.

One of the greatest advantages of GIS to
constructing predictive models for Maroon
refuge sites would be in the ability to con-
stantly asses and modify the model through-
out the duration of field work as GIS soft-
ware "...enables the visualization of data pat-
terns at or soon after their collection...
facilitating a 'reflexive' approach to data col-
lection..." (Conolly and Lake 2006: 37). Be-
cause we are unsure of the exact nature of
Maroon use of Maroon Ridge, it will be espe-
cially important to adjust and refine the GIS
model as initial survey data become avail-
able. By creating a GIS model, the scope of
the metal detector survey can be reduced to a
feasible level, and the key locations can be
examined intensively.

The second benefit to a GIS based approach
would come after the field data are in, when
we can begin analyzing and explaining the
relationships of Maroon sites across the
physical and social landscape of St. Croix.
For instance, was there a change through
time, say between when the French held the
island versus when the Danish occupied, in
the character of maroon sites? Did multiple
sites exist simultaneously? The creation and
testing of the model provides an interpretive
tool for better understanding Maroon strate-
gies. Once a GIS model has been developed
and tested, the key variables can be used to
assess the potential for Maroon refuge sites
on St. John and St. Thomas, as well as ques-
tions concerning the spatial relationships be-
tween Maroon sites and plantation or other
institutional sites across the island, and the
spatial and temporal relationship between
Maroon sites themselves.

A number of GIS layers already exist for
St. Croix. The United State Geological Sur-

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 7, 2007

Norton and Espenshade

I.. i o,11 Maroon Refuge Sites

vey offers digital elevation models (DEMs),
the Environmental Protection Agency of lay-
ers for hydrology and land cover, and the Vir-
gin Islands Conservation Data Center can
provide access to soil survey, hypsography,
LANDSAT enhanced thematic mapper mosa-
ics, and NWI wetlands.


Little is known about the lifeways of Ma-
roons in refuge areas such as Maroon Ridge
in St. Croix. At least in the former Danish
Virgin Islands, there is not a good archival
record to guide reconstructions, and archae-
ology is the most promising avenue to inter-
preting the Maroon refuge existence. How-
ever, archaeology may fail to properly locate,
evaluate, and interpret Maroon refuge sites if
only traditional survey methods are used. It
is argued here that we should apply a two-
step approach that begins with GIS modeling
of desirable (in a Maroon mindset) locations
and ends with the intensive metal detector
and landscape survey of those locations. By
using this different approach, archaeology
can find key sites that ultimately will provide
valuable information on Maroon lifeways in
the former Danish Virgin Islands.

Acknowledgements. The writing of this paper was
supported by New South Associates, Inc. The paper's
genesis was a series of conversations with individuals
concerned with preserving Maroon Mountain, includ-
ing Mr. Onaje Jackson and Dr. George Tyson. Dr.
J.W. Joseph at New South Associates and Dr. Theresa
Singleton at the Department of Anthropology, Univer-
sity of Syracuse provided in-house peer review. Dr.
Lynne Guitar, Dr. Gabino La Rosa Corzo, Ms. Sue
Sanders, and Bruce Larson assisted us by providing
source material, and Mr. Olasee Davis provided infor-
mation about caves on Maroon Ridge. An abbreviated
version of this paper was presented at the 2007 meet-
ings of the International Association for Caribbean
Archaeology in Jamaica. Dr. Chris Clement and two

anonymous peers reviewed the article for the Journal
of Caribbean Archaeology.

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