The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) is planning to establish an Antiquities Unit to more effectively use Tobago’s archaeological artefacts as part of its tourism product, after finding that people have been stealing artefacts either to sell or use in their homes.
Some have even turned old, historic sugar boiling pots into plant pots in their yards.
“We have a few indiscriminate and inconsiderate citizens pilfering and trading artefacts from across the island. Individuals have stolen artefacts from State lands and private holdings, and have taken these artefacts into their homes and even exported some,” THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said as he presented the island’s $3.97 billion Budget on Thursday.
He added that some have harvested the artefacts and sold them as scrap iron.
“Others have repositioned artefacts to their own yards and used artefacts, such as the large copper pots once used to boil sugar cane juice to plant flowers and adorn themselves, thereby robbing the population of access to part of their history,” he continued.
Augustine said in fiscal 2023, the Antiquities Department will rehabilitate and refurbish various historical sites, inclusive of the Speyside Waterwheel, Roxborough Cocoa House and the Canoe Bay Sugar Mills among others, to more formally integrate them into the island’s tourism product.
The department will also develop an Antiquities Registry System that will more accurately keep check of cultural and historical assets.
“Given that Tobago has had a more storied past than most other Caribbean territories, there is an urgent need to have an Assembly Bill sent down to parliament to have legislation enacted to protect the island’s artefacts,” Augustine said.
He added that the THA will explore having archaeologists and university students participate in controlled/authorised digs.
Augustine added that in the long run, Tobago will have to invest in climate-controlled facilities and appropriate spaces to house artefacts and historical records on the island.