In the 1980s, researchers found skeletal fragments during an excavation in Oranjestad on Sint Eustatius, an island also known as Statia and part of what was then called the Netherlands Antilles. Judging from the belongings that were next to it, it may be found from the fourth century, states the local government of the island in a press release.
It’s about nine people from the Caribbean, indigenous people who lived for a long time on the islands north of South America and which led to the region being called the Caribbean. But in accordance with old colonial practice, the finds were brought to the Netherlands, and just this year a process began to give them a dignified burial at home.
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Now I have returned the remains to Statia. Local cultural heritage officials must decide how and where the burial will take place, reports the AP news agency.
What happened to their people on the island is unclear – the Europeans who, following explorer Christopher Columbus, captured Sint Eustatius in the 17th century labeled it uninhabited. But with its central location, it then became a wealthy and sought-after center in the transatlantic slave trade, where the Dutch, British and French colonists exchanged hands several times.
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For a while the neighbors were Swedes, when nearby St. Barthelemy was a Swedish colony from 1784 to 1878. The island also played a major role when a new country called the United States was formed – the rebels against the British in the North American mainland had trouble finding someone who wanted to sell arms them, but in Sint Eustatius all who could pay were welcome.
US President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the Dutch island in 1939 to give thanks for the help.
For now, however, Sint Eustatius’ 3,200 residents aren’t entirely happy with the United States. There are also antiquities that the island wants to restore. The local government in Oranjestad has announced that it will now focus on acquiring household items located at the University of William and Mary in Virginia, the Associated Press writes.
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