Professor Reifschneider Finds Evidence of Slaves' Wellness Efforts in Saint Croix

Monday, September 13, 2021

ARCHAEOLOGY -- “Plantation hospitals were designed to keep enslaved people alive and to keep them working, which is a form of violence,” says San Francisco State University archaeologist Meredith Reifschneider, who led a team that excavated and analyzed botanical remains from the site of the plantation’s hospital building.

Reifschneider and her colleagues found evidence of a once-thriving kitchen garden where enslaved workers grew plant species that have both nutritional and therapeutic value. Some of these, including nightshades, purslane and amaranth, may reflect knowledge of healing plants that people had brought to the West Indies from Africa. The team also uncovered extensive remains of pigs, goats, fish and mollusks, as well as ceramic cooking pot fragments, suggesting that nurses nourished patients with stew-like meals.