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Rescue excavations in the Caribbean

Alongside the incredible devastation brought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the fall of 2017, the storms have had an extremely damaging effect on the archaeological site of Sauteurs Bay on the North coast of Grenada. This unique and important site is now left exposed and vulnerable to the elements.

Prof. Dr. Corinne Hofman, Finn van der Leden, Alec Charles, and Dr. Menno Hoogland working against the tide to salvage the remains of one of the human skeletons left exposed in the surf at Sauteurs Bay


Due to heavy coastal erosion, an immense amount of human skeletal material is rapidly being washing away into the ocean. This type of devastation and loss of archaeological material has not been experienced by the local community for at least 10 to 20 years.

Leiden University at Sauteurs Bay

Currently, a small team from Leiden is at Sauteurs Bay rescuing what archaeological material they can, before it is lost to the ocean completely. At least three fairly complete skeletons have already been rescued, with many more to follow in the coming days. There are also plans to analyse the skeletal material from Sauteurs from earlier excavations that is already present at the Grenada National Museum in St. George’s in the near future.

Impression of the excavation works

About the site of Sauteurs Bay

The site of Sauteurs Bay is a Troumassoid/Suazoid site (e.g. finger-indented rims, “scratched” designs) with a later Cayo component. It consists of approximately three loci that together form a large settlement. Radiocarbon dates for the site roughly span from calAD 660 to calAD 1645 and it is presumed that the settlement endured for more or less 1000 years (Hanna 2016).

The site was partially excavated by Ann Cody in the late 1980’s. Cody found no fewer than 18 burials and the floor of a house structure. The material from these excavations is held at the Grenada National Museum in St. George’s, along with a few recovered human skeletons. This skeletal material primarily dates to the earlier phases of occupation at Sauteurs Bay.