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Archaeology takes centre stage

ica~ IACA Congress 2015 begins July 19 ~

By Lisa Davis-Burnett

This month, experts in the field of Caribbean Archeology will gather on our island for the week-long IACA Congress. The International Association for Caribbean Archeology meets every two years to share research and ideas in the spirit of collegial support and professional growth. The attendees will be shown around the archaeological sites of Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, with an additional field trip to the island of Anguilla.

The venue for the seven-day event will be Sonesta Maho Beach Resort. One hundred and fifteen papers will be presented along with two field trips, and poster sessions will be ongoing for all interested parties. One can register as an observer and see all the papers for the conference for $50, and university students can show a student ID and get the same privilege for $25 – this does not include the field trips.

Conference organizer, Dr. Jay Haviser, says the response from the world of archaeology has been overwhelming: "We have about 200 participants representing research from 28 countries. The research will be focused on the Caribbean region, but much of the work has been done in North America and Europe. The University of Leiden in Holland is a major centre of research and so is INRAP (French archaeological government agency)."

The congress will be a first for the island, in that the week-long congress will require simultaneous translations for the international attendees. These services are being provided by a Puerto Rico firm out equipped to handle such a requirement. With their translators and headphones, attendees will be able to hear the presentations in English, French or Spanish as preferred.

During a visit at his SIMARC office, Haviser said, "We have got positive support coming from all directions: Port of St. Maarten, government of St. Maarten, Leiden University, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, Sonesta Maho, Anguilla Tourist Bureau, Collectivité de Saint-Martin, Conseil Régional de Guadeloupe, Republique Francais Ministry of Culture Communication, and Holland as well."

The researcher, nearly always upbeat and gregarious, spoke with severity on the topic of needing to address the island's need for facilities with state of the art conference equipment. "This whole experience has shown me that the island is absolutely lacking a decent conference facility. Conference Tourism is a really viable market and that is true, especially because these kinds of events are often scheduled during the low season. We have all the attributes needed, including a major airport hub, hotels, restaurants and entertainment. We really need a good place to hold these kinds of conferences for, say, from 300 to 800 people. For example, to have the simultaneous translations done correctly, there need to be built-in soundproof booths. There should be large scale projection screens and state of the art sound systems built in and ready to go."

Haviser explained that the IACA has held conferences every other year for 52 years and he has been a presence in the organization for some time, acknowledging that he is a former president. Four years ago, he convinced the leadership to hold the 2015 congress on St. Maarten. "The IACA conference is normally held on the big islands, because they do have those facilities and the funding sources to make it happen. I argued that the smaller islands can handle it, and we are bi-national, which a draw to the members of the organization is. The IACA is a diverse group which includes professional archaeologists, graduate students, professors and amateur archaeologists."

He went on, "It is going to be a quite technical conference; the papers will be representing new research that has not yet been published." Examples of some of the topics include cultural resource management, Prehistoric Archaeology, Historic Archaeology, African Sites Archaeology, Migration, Rock Art and Symbolism, Proto-archaeology, Ethno-archaeology, Paleo environments, and more. At the Thursday lunch session; there will be a round table discussion on the topic of climate change and its effects on archaeology.

The theme for the 2015 IACA Congress is Unity in Diversity, which meshes nicely with the multi-national nature of the gathering. The logo has been designed by Haviser and his planning team which shows the island of St. Maarten/St. Marin overlaid by a Taino Zemi and an African Adrinka symbol of two crocodiles that share the same belly, indicating democracy and oneness irrespective of cultural differences.

Unity in Diversity also seems a fitting slogan for our island itself, according to Haviser, as the island's two names suggest European distinctions, superimposed upon mutual Amerindian and African heritages.

If you would like to attend the IACA congress, register online at