03.04.2014 - UNESCO Havana/Portal of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean

Archaeological expedition in Haiti: Regional cooperation to protect endangered cultural heritage

© Daniel Torres Etayo. Working group participating in the mission.

The government of the Republic of Haiti, through the National Bureau of Ethnology in collaboration with the UNESCO Office in Port-au-Prince and the Regional Office for Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Havana, organised an archaeological mission with the participation of archaeologists and researchers from Haiti, France and Cuba. Cuban archaeologist Daniel Torres Etayo, a specialist from the Centre for Conservation, Restoration and Museology of the University of the Arts of Havana and a scientist of vast experience was invited to form part of the team.

The purpose of the mission, which took place from 16 to 23 March 2014 in Jeanty, Cap Rouge, Jacmel, in southeast Haiti, was to study a collapsed doline cave and to survey and register the archaeological site so the cultural objects in danger of being pillaged may be recovered.

The cave, discovered by a group of French researchers on speleology in the last quarter of 2013, is not easily reached and requires the use of vertical progression techniques. Inside the cave archaeological evidence from the colonial period was found, whose preliminary study revealed an approximate chronology dated between the 18th and 19th centuries.

The research team, headed by Julsain Harold from Haiti, and constituted, in addition to the Cuban archaeologist, by French speleologist Olivier Testa and Haitian specialists Joseph Charite, Wilner Mérisma and Eric Joseph, corroborated that the archaeological evidence points to said period and that many of the elements found have a historical and patrimonial value, among them, a chain for holding slaves, some firearms, as well as household items of the colonial elite. The recovered artefacts will be restored and become part of the nation's collection for their exhibition to the public.

Among the recommendations made by the Cuban specialist is the proposal to disseminate the results of the research and organise an exhibition on the Jeanty findings in order to educate and sensitise its dwellers regarding the protection of their cultural heritage.

This action is a clear example of the possibilities of regional cooperation in the sphere of cultural heritage protection that UNESCO supports and promotes.

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