Located on the north-eastern coast of Saint Lucia, the site of Anse Lavoutte has been subject tropical storms, hurricanes, and tourist activities, each of them threatening to destroy the archaeological remains of the site, which included burials and Indigenous pottery. Dating back between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, this Late Ceramic Age site contained valuable information on the lifeways of the occupants of the Lesser Antilles during this time in history, such as their diet, burial practices, and social networks. The tropical storms and hurricanes caused the archaeological remains to be exposed, while tourist activities such as horseback riding damaged these exposed artefacts. Recognizing the extent of the damage to the site, the Caribbean Research Group at Leiden University organized an excavation in 2009 to rescue the archaeological remains of the site. Together with the Saint Lucia Archaeological and History Society, the Saint Lucia Government, and the Florida Museum of Natural History, they salvaged as much as possible of the archaeological remains even though a large part of the site had already been lost.
One of the natural impacts on the site was the occurrence of tropical storms and hurricanes, which caused archaeological remains to be exposed, displayed, and lost. For the site of Anse Lavoutte, Hurricane Dean in 2007 was particularly damaging. There was significant coastal erosion on the northern part of Saint Lucia because it was closest to the centre of the hurricane and it was high tide when the hurricane reached the island. The heavy rainfall, raised water levels, high winds, and high seas that occur during hurricanes can cause the beach to erode and retreat further inland.
Horseback riding on top of Indigenous pottery
Next to natural erosion, the construction of the Cotton Bay Village Hotel on the Lavoutte site has contributed to the accelerated erosion of the site. This new facility has increased tourist activity in the area. One of those activities included the opportunity for tourists to go on a horseback riding tour. This tour also crossed the Lavoutte site, and resulted in the trampling of the exposed cultural remains. The current plans for the construction of a golf course in this area could even lead to the complete destruction of the last remaining parts of the Anse Lavoutte site. Another threat to the site is its accessibility to the general public. This made the site subject to waste disposal as well as to looters who were trying to take advantage of the exposed archaeological remains.
Archaeological remains getting trampled by tourists on a horseback riding tour (photo: NEXUS1492).
To prevent the complete loss of the Anse Lavoutte site due to the construction of a new golf course, it is important to find a balance between the tourist industry and heritage conservation. Even though heritage sites are considered to be one of the main resources on which the tourist industry depends, little is done to develop a sustainable tourist industry. This shortcoming can on the one hand be explained by a lack of resources and time and on the governments side to preserve heritage, and on the other hand by the increased pressure caused by major tourism developments. In the case of the Lavoutte site, a balance between tourism developments and heritage conservation has not been found yet. A lack of legislation prevents people to stop the government-funded construction of the golf course.
Text by Nienke Hop, based on original published research (see further reading).
Branford, M.E., 2011. Saint Lucia, in P.E. Siegel, E. Righter, T. Ahlman, R.T. Callaghan, M.P. Pateman and D.T. Etayo (eds), Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 90-95.
Cambers, G., 2002. Coping with Beach Erosion: with case studies from the Caribbean. UNESCO Publishing.
Hofman, C.L. and M.L.P. Hoogland, 2009. Interim report on the results of the 2009 (May and June) rescue excavations at the site of Lavoutte (Cas-en-Bas), St. Lucia, Leiden University.
Hofman, C.L. and M.L.P. Hoogland, 2016. Connecting Stakeholders: Collaborative preventive archaeology projects at sites affected by natural and/or human impacts. Caribbean Connections 5(1), 1-31.
Hofman, C.L., M.L.P. Hoogland, H.L. Mickleburgh, J.E. Laffoon, D.A. Weston, and M.H. Field, 2012. Life and death at pre-columbian Lavoutte, Saint Lucia, Lesser Antilles. Journal of Field Archaeology 37(3), 209-225.
Nicholas, L. and B. Thapa, 2010. Visitor perspectives on sustainable tourism development in the Pitons Management Area World Heritage Site, St. Lucia. Environment, development and sustainability 12(5), 839-857. DOI: 10.1007/s10668-009-9227-y.
https://www.wmo.int/pages/prog/www/tcp/Meetings/HC30/documents/SAINTLUCIA.pdf, accessed on 22 October 2020.