US Army Corps of Engineers
Jacksonville District

USACE coordinates with Puerto Rico agencies to preserve artifacts found at Dorado archeological site

Published Dec. 23, 2019
Archeologist looking at pieces on the ground

Archeologists with Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 2019. Photo courtesy of SEARCH.

Archeologist looking at pieces on the ground

Archeologists with Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 2019. Photo courtesy of SEARCH.

Archeologist looking at pieces on the ground

Archeologists with Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 2019. Photo courtesy of SEARCH.

Archeologist looking at pieces on the ground

Archeologists with Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 2019. Photo courtesy of SEARCH.

Archeologist looking at pieces on the ground

Archeologists with Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico, August 2019. Photo courtesy of SEARCH.

San Juan, Puerto Rico - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted Southeastern Archaeological Research, Inc, to conduct cultural resources surveys at the site of the Rio de La Plata flood control project in Dorado, Puerto Rico.

Methodology for all surveys conducted by SEARCH has been approved by USACE and coordinated with the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Officer in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

In 2018, USACE hired the archaeological research firm to evaluate the archaeological find at the site of the La Plata flood control project in Dorado in order to consider its eligibility and inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). USACE, in coordination with SHPO, determined that the archeological finding is eligible for inclusion in the NRHP and that it will provide important information about the pre-history of Puerto Rico.

Archaeological materials recovered in the excavations of the Rio de La Plata include ceramics, lithics and bones.

"Each archeological find for us is special and the findings in Puerto Rico are no exception. The data from this site is valuable because few late period prehistoric sites have been systematically excavated and reported in Puerto Rico,” said USACE Jacksonville District’s Lead Archeologist, Meredith Moreno. “Once the artifacts have been analyzed, this site will tell an important story about the daily life and customs of the indigenous ancestors of the Caribean islands."

USACE understands the scope of this archaeological site and ther importance of implementing mitigation techniques to safeguard the integrity of the archaeological finds, especially because the site is located within the construction limits of the La Plata River channeling project.

"Our goal is, first, to try to avoid or minimize the impacts of federal projects on archaeological sites. We continually strive to preserve our heritage as we complete our mission of providing flood protection to our communities,” said Moreno. “When there are no other options, and the project would fail without impacts to the site we will mitigate the loss of it through data recovery.”

As part of the mitigation process, USACE and SHPO signed an memorandum of agreement in 2019 to establish the procedures and techniques to be used for the collection of field data and extraction of the archaeological artifacts. The MOA has been coordinated with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

The materials were extracted following the mitigation techniques agreed in the memorandum and then washed and taken to the SEARCH laboratory in Puerto Rico to analyze the pieces, photograph them and document the finding. These materials are also being classified and prepared for permanent curation.

“A lot of thought, planning and effort goes into deciding the appropriate methods and equipment to use according to the terrain, depth of deposits, and disturbances on site to ensure we maintain the integrity of the findings." Said Moreno.

Technical experts from USACE and SHPO have inspected SEARCH’s field and lab conditions on multiple occasions and found that archaeological materials have been handled in accordance with the MOA. The flood control project’s non-federal sponsor, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, and USACE have been coordinating with the Museo de Historia, Antropología y Artmoree for permanent curation.

"There is so much to learn from every item found, that can add to the vast history and culture of Puerto Rico, that is why we are working hand in hand with our non-federal sponsor, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Puerto Rico Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte for permanent curation of the artifacts, as well as in close coordination with the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office." Said Moreno.

The site initially identified in 1985, was studied by archaeologists in 1992 and 2008; As a result of these studies, it was determined that there was the presence of archeological materials dating from the late prehistoric period to the modern period. Pre-historical archaeological finds were found in intact condition and are considered significant. Subsequent historical findings (not pre-historical) were found in deteriorated conditions, possibly related to agricultural practices carried out in this area over the years. The historic and modern materials that remain on site consist of more recent construction debris that was found within disturbed portions of the site.

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Contact
Catalina Carrasco
787-289-7037
787-664-3460 (cell)
Catalina.carrasco@usace.army.mil

Release no. 19-096