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Project Objectives

The objective of this REU Site is to provide undergraduate students real world experience in the application of scientific methods and analyses in anthropology, contributing to an increase in the representation of racial and ethnic minorities, women, and veterans in STEM-related fields. The project’s international setting offers students an opportunity to explore social justice and global engagement while participating in scientific research on the African diaspora and European colonial impacts in the New World. In today’s world it is important that a globally competitive workforce understands the history and development of globalization and colonialism and its short and long-term effects on individuals, families, and communities. Our project explores the history and development of globalization and how it affects a diverse group of individuals, families, and communities by examining plantation, slave, institutional, and military contexts. International projects, like this proposed REU Site, provide students opportunities to engage with people from different locales and experiences that facilitate developing skills necessary to participate in a globally competitive workforce. We hope this project will expand interest among racial and ethnic minorities, women, and veterans in STEM-related fields by demonstrating that scientific research can be grounded in the study of diversity and that all voices and histories are important.

Based on the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius (commonly referred to as Statia), this REU Site will study globalism and colonialism using archaeological and forensic archaeological analyses. Statia was the first foreign land to acknowledge the Continental Congress flag on November 16, 1776. Unlike most of the sugar mono-cropping Caribbean, Statia made its wealth as a free port and global entrepôt and at its height over 3,000 ships a year imported and exported goods through Oranjestad’s 600-plus warehouses. As a multi-cultural crossroads, Statia is a prime location to study colonialism and globalization because of the island’s role in the expansion of global trade networks, colonization by European powers, and reliance upon enslaved and freed Africans as laborers on plantations and in warehouses.

Statia’s role as a multi-cultural crossroads and as one of the most important shipping ports in the world in the mid-to-late eighteenth century (Gilmore 2004) is poorly known to most Americans. The island played a vital role in the road to independence for the United States as Statia’s free port status allowed the fledgling United States to import vital war materials and export goods to the rest of the world. From the early-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century, Statia played an important role in global trade networks as commodities like sugar from the Caribbean were shipped to the United States and Europe, and European goods were processed through the island’s warehouses and shipped to North and South America. As the Caribbean headquarters of the Dutch West Indies Company, Statia was a focal point of the company’s trade network and served as the primary location for goods brought to the New World. In the early eighteenth century, the island served as a transshipment point where enslaved Africans were brought by the Dutch West Indies Company before being sold to planters across the Caribbean.

The recovery and analysis of scientific data provides undergraduates an environment where they work closely with mentors to develop scientific research questions and methods and appreciate how individuals and teams work together to collect data and research scientific questions. At the end of each project season, the anticipated results will include:

  1. Students understanding the processes of formulating and designing scientific research projects.
  2. Students gathering field and laboratory data to address scientific research questions.
  3. Students presenting their findings to a variety of audiences (professional and general) and developing verbal and written skills.
  4. Students undertaking scientific research while working in teams and individually.
  5. Exposing underrepresented ethnic and racial minorities, women, and veterans to scientific research in an international setting.
  6. Students are encouraged to pursue further education (graduate school) in science-related fields.
  7. Students appreciating the rigorous nature of scientific inquiry and joys of intellectual discovery.
  8. Students developing a sense of social justice and global engagement.