20 August 2015 by Paula
Joanna Ostapkowicz, Curator of the Americas Collection, is on the last leg of her research trip to Trinidad before heading over to Tobago:
“Day 7-8: The central South West: ‘five-fingers’, ‘fat pork’ and tamarind sours
Our last area was the central South West, one of the island’s more geologically complex regions, with both Tertiary and Cretaceous sedimentary bedrock. This was among the oldest geology on the island, and generally, the older the geology, the higher the expected strontium isotope values. We covered a large region over the course of two days, from Waterloo in the north to Moruga on the south coast, finishing off on the important archaeological site of Banwari Trace, home of ‘Banwari Woman’, thought to date to ca. 5000 BC, which would make her the oldest human skeleton known from the entire Caribbean.
We were joined on our journey through the central region by forestry officer Mr. Peter ‘Nayo’ Nigh Joseph, extending our search east to the Navet Dam and west to Couva, with a brief visit to the tranquil Waterloo temple, where we acquired our southern-most sample of Olivier sp. Instead of the usual mango – which was becoming addictive (do they grow in Liverpool?) – the taste experiments this trip included ‘five finger’ (star fruit; Averrhoa bilimbi), ‘fat pork’ (Chrysobalanus icaco), a fruit with a firm, white flesh (hence the name) and a very subtle (not like pork at all, I’m happy to say) flavour, cashew fruit and fresh tamarind, the latter two having a lingering sour sensation. By the end of another long day, we had a tired crew and 16 samples to add to the growing herbarium/strontium collection.
Forestry officer Safraz Ali rejoined us for the foray to the southern coast – from Princes Town south to Moruga and Morne Diablo, we stopped to collect our species at approximate 10 km intervals, so we would have as wide coverage as possible within the geological zones. The road from Morne Diablo down to the coast ended in a small fishing port, where the local fishermen were selling fish direct from the boat, while in La Lune we stopped for lunch on the lovely beach. Our biggest challenge turned out to be finding the site of Banwari Trace – for such a significant archaeological site, it had no signage. After a couple of phone calls to those ‘in the know’, we managed to get the right road, and to find the custodian of the site, Mr. Hamlet Harrypersad, who gave us a guided tour. It was a wonderful way to end the last day of field collecting in Trinidad.
Over the course of the last eight days, I travelled the length and breadth of this remarkable island, seeing sites even many of the locals in the team had not seen before, and experiencing some incredible flavours along the way, from road-side breakfast doubles (bara bread with curried chana, mango chutney and cucumber) to sweet doux-doux after a hot day of fieldwork. The many Trinis I had the good fortune to meet and work with made the trip unforgettable – my many thanks to them for guiding the field collecting and research via such enjoyable routes.
Thanks to our combined efforts, we collected over 100 samples across the span of the entire island, which will provide a thorough strontium isotope map in due course.”
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