The archaeological site Spaanse Water, or Spanish Water, is located in the south-eastern part of Curacao. The site was first investigated by Jay B. Haviser in the 1980s. Between 2008 and 2009, rescue excavations by Leiden University in collaboration with local stakeholders took place prior to the construction of a golf course on the site location.
The Spanish Water site consists of twelve shell heaps and an early colonial hearth. The size of the shell heaps range between 10 to 120 square meters. Some of these shell deposits also included a fireplace or cooking pit, surrounded by burned conchs. A number of shell and charcoal samples point to a discontinuous use of the site from circa 2900 BC to circa AD 1655. The site area comprises several temporary camps, where the occupants collected and processed shellfish like Aliger gigas and mangrove clams.
Location of the Spanish Water site (map: Hoogland & Hofman 2011).
The early colonial cooking pit has been dated to around AD 1590. The artefacts that are associated with this pit consist mainly of dolphin bones of at least four different species. These dolphins were probably hunted in the lagoon. Some of the bones were burnt, suggesting the meat has been processed on the spot. However, the dolphin remains point to a total number of 41 individuals, which would be too much to process at once. A few dolphins have been cooked at the Spanish Water site, but most of them were probably transported uncooked to nearby settlements.
In close proximity to the Spanish Water site, two other sites were recorded. The first site, labelled C-215, is dated between circa 2800 and 2500 BC. It consists of a shell deposit and stone artefacts. The second site is called ‘Seru Boca’, after the nearby Seru Boca Hill. Seru Boca is a rock shelter with rock paintings. Other features of this site are a cooking pit, shells (mainly landsnails) and percussion tools made of Aliger gigas. Like the Spanish Water site, both the C-215 and the Seru Boca site are interpreted as temporary campsites that were used by during the Archaic Age (circa 3000–500 BC).
Photos top: Excavations at Spanish Water site, 2008-2009 (photo: Leiden University); Aliger gigas shell heaps identified at Spaanse Water, Curaçao during rescue excavations in 2008 and 2009 (photo: Hofman & Hoogland 2016).
Text by Laura van de Pol, based on original published research (see further reading).
Hofman, C.L. & M.L. 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., & J.B. Haviser, 2015. Managing our past into the future. Archaeological heritage management in the Dutch Caribbean. Sidestone Press.
Hoogland, M.L.P. & C.L. Hofman 2011. Archaeological investigations at Spanish Water, Curaçao. Proceedings of the 23rd International Association for Caribbean Archaeology, 631-639. Antigua.