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Vitality of historical archaeology in Cuba stated by specialists
Discovering what lies under the ground and the old walls of a city has been the passion of archaeologists and historians all over the world, and a countries`necessity to retrieve a cultural heritage, many times hidden along centuries.

More than 200 delegates from Mexico , Argentina , Perú , Venezuela , Chile and Cuba met in Havana to Exchange experiences on pre-hispanic archaeology aspects with that aim. We mean the Second International Seminar Internacional on Archeology recently concluded.

The event held in Old Havana Historical Centre, enjoyed a wide profile within the speciality at national level, because works on historical archaeology as well as the study of aboriginal cultures in the Caribbean island were

The forum was spomnsored by the Department of Archaeology (DA) of the Office of the Historian of the City, which celebrates its 20th anniversary. Its director, Róger Arrazcaeta, talked with Notimex on the discoveries made in this city founded almost 488 years ago..

Studies on physical anthropology and human bone remains in different spaces, were made public during the meeting, being. Among them the III Order of Saint Francis of Assisi with detailed analysis of its dug graves and anthropological aspects of those burials.

Arrazcaeta, a museologist (47) considers that archaeology is the science which assists society to directly understand itself when providing the knowledge of the historical past from that material culture, and foreseeing its future.

He commented that historical archeology in Cuba is a relatively young discipline which has already finished several case studies and carried out efforts to preserve historical sites doomed to destruction, since the 1960`s.

He said that the discipline counts with a great lot of heritage material coming from the colonial and republican eras. It includes testimonies on architecture in cities and towns; settlements of industries, sugar and coffee plantations.

He explained that the DA, integrated by a many-discipline team, carried on the researches started by a group directed by Eusebio Leal, the historian himself, who, at the same time, started from the work developed by outstanding experts along previous decades.

Arrazcaeta expressed that a systematic research on the system of fortress, on the most important churches and convents, on a wide group of city mansions and houses, as well as on colonial mural painting, is being carried out by the DA.

"Old Havana constitutes a great archaeological site treasurind under its soil and buildings a wide history on the daily life of the city families which has stayed as remains of the past. I mean what was used in the kitchen, when cooking, and on the table of its early villagers", he quoted.

The researches has provided a worthy information concerning the noursihing habits of the former Havanan citizens, the ceramics they used, their currency, the city flora and fauna, as well as its constructions and shipyards.

He added that it has been posible to study a great amount of material culture, the t material, the typology of the buildings, their development, the previous ones rediscovered thanks to the diggings under the city ground and walls.

The fact that Havana was a built around a port where the flleets carrying the gold and treasures they grabbed from America to Spain, and its geographic and strategic position in the Caribbean, made this city to become a centre for redistributing merchandises.

Arrazcaeta stood that in the historical heritage aspect from the colonial era, Cuba counts with one of the most important standing in America, well preserved, "and also a wealthy archaeological heritage to be studied. There`s plenty to be done".

Researches are being carried out in the Convent of Saint Francis of Assissi and its church; in Saint Philip Neri Church, in the castles of El Morro, La Cabaña and La Fuerza (the oldest 16th century fortress still standing in America) as well as in colonial building.

The most recent diggings carried out in the Historical Centre of the capital, which folllows those started in 1985, were made in the so-called Havana Sea Wall, in order to study and retrieve its remains,. with the aim to show it to the people.

Remains of the foundations of the so-called Cortina de Valdés , a part of a hole included in the Havana Wall and an interior with different structures of construction, such as rain canals, and partial foundations of a fish market, can be watched by the people now.

Besides, masonry walls which could belong to a battery in the top of the Wall when it was finished in 1773 by the colonial Spanish authorities to defend the city against pirate and corsair raids, as well as against the fury of the sea. The findings made posible to retrieve ceramics, glass and domestic anmal bones used as people`s food in the 17th and 19th centuries, as well as tableware, with a great amount of majolica ware, manufactured in the state of Puebla, Mexico.

Being asked about the eventual collaboration with his Mexican colleagues, Arrazcaeta pointed out that Mexico enjoys "a fabulous historical archaeological heritage" and a huge tradition of researches in such field, but he regrets that whe do not have assistance agreements.

He outstood that the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, (National Institute of Anthropology and History) of Mexico , "is a very professional institution, and we admired everything it does".

He made clear that "there hs been personal relations with some Mexican archeologists who have come to Cuba , to deliver lectures and exchange information".

"Such relations would be quite useful due to the Mexican experience, including historical archeology, and we know that some important Mexican archeologists are engaged in the same work we are carrying out", the museologist expressed.

Source: Cubarte

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