Archaeological Foundation, Inc.

Ponce, Puerto Rico


Following is a report prepared by Frank Hole, Ph.D. a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University, following a three day visit to Tibes in December 1993:


I was struck by the excellent facilities and the beautifully maintained park, with its archaeological and botanical displays. I think the inclusion of the garden with prehistoric cultivars was particularly good (although it had been harvested by the time I left). Anyway, the educational potential for this kind of tie-in is exceptional. I like the reconstruction of the Indian village and would only suggest that one of the huts might be equipped with typical household goods, including pots, mortar and pestle, hammocks, etc. Such a hut would have to be "closed", but it would be effective. Alternatively such a hut might be placed inside the museum.


I would recommend some signs explaining the bateyes and other site features. I realize that visitors are supposed to travel with a guide, but this is quite limiting and the practice might be modified for those who wish to explore on their own. I was glad to see that schools groups regularly visit the site.


Now to turn to archaeology. Tibes is a remarkable site whose full value remains yet to be discovered: its potential is hard to judge accurately from what has been recovered so far, but it would seem to be very great indeed. I base this assessment on the following considerations.


Future Activities


Since Tibes is one of the most important sites in the Caribbean, participation in the planning and further exploration should include a broad spectrum of archaeologists currently working in Puerto Rico. At the same time it should be clear that research must be centrally directed and coordinated by the archaeologists affiliated with Tibes itself. I would suggest that an advisory committee be established to review plans drawn up by the resident archaeologists and to advise on approaches, techniques, personnel, scheduling, sources of financial support and so on.


Although the site is large and potentially could support a series of separate archaeological investigations, I would recommend against carving the site into small fiefdoms parcelled out to individual archaeologists. Although such an approach might work, it tends to work against close collaboration and to diffuse authority, lead to variable quality of excavations, and confuse responsibility for analysis and publication. Instead, I would prefer to see some well-defined projects identified and interested individuals could participate in whichever phases of the work they were interested in and competent to deal with. The ability for coordinating these efforts would fall to one person, but the resulting publications would list all contributors. Such a practice would probably ensure that there would be volunteers who have neither the time nor inclination to take on entire projects, but would be happy to participate in a group effort, according to their interests and abilities.


From our latest phone conversation it appears that progress in developing a collaborative network has already been made and that a protocol for sorting the pottery, will soon be in hand. I think it is an excellent plan to involve local students. The work will go quickly and give a good basis for further research.


I mentioned that there may be some possibilities for having Puerto Rican students come to New Haven as museum interns, working with the very extensive Caribbean collections here. I don't know how we can implement this, but it seems a very good idea and I will continue to pursue possibilities here.


It is not clear to me what formal training in field techniques students in PR have had, but it might be possible to set up a kind of "field school" at Tibes. One way to do this (and not the only way) is to set up a kind of Earthwatch project. Non-PR paying participants would pay the bills and local students could participate without cost. I have not dealt with Earthwatch myself, but many archaeologists have and a lot of work is done that way that could not be afforded otherwise. If there is interest I would be willing to help organize and perhaps participate in such a venture.


Another way to do a field school is, of course, under the auspices of an academic institution. A field school director, who might be given a visiting appointment, could actually offer the course is locals are not available. In such a case normal tuition with some college or governmental subvention might cover the expenses.