Cultural heritage management
and archaeology in Suriname
Surinamese cultural heritage management,
implementation of archaeology and its past and present
Addick A. van Brakel
Cultural heritage management
and archaeology in Suriname
Surinamese cultural heritage management,
implementation of archaeology and its past and present position.
Addick A. van Brakel
Dr. A.V.M. Samson
BA Faculty of Archaeology
Faculty of Archaeology
Papendrecht, June 13th, 2012
Addick A. van Brakel
1. Introduction 4
1.1 Research questions and their rationale 5
1.2 Approach 7
1.3 Geography, Demography and Politics of Suriname 9
2. The theoretical framework of Cultural Heritage 11
Management and the position of archaeology
2.1 Necessity and value 11
2.2 Significance 14
Significance as a western concept 17
2.3 Theoretical conclusion 21
3. Surinamese culture policy and international cooperation 26
in heritage management
3.1 Culture Policy in Suriname 26
The culture directorate 31
3.2 Suriname and the Dutch shared heritage 34
3.3 UNESCO, Suriname and international Conventions on
Protection of the Worlds Cultural Heritage 37
3.4 Problems and benefits of inclusion of Paramaribo as a
World Heritage Site 40
3.5 A conclusion with regard to heritage policy, cooperation
frameworks and archaeology 43
4. Archaeological heritage 47
4.1 An overview of archaeological data about
pre-Columbian times 47
4.1.1 Origin 48
4.2 Archaeological research from the 1940’s up to
the independence in 1975 50
4.2.1 Stichting Surinaams Museum (SSM)
4.2.2 Institutionalization of archaeology and ethnology 52
4.3 Archaeology in a new country from 1975 onwards 53
4.4 Archaeological work and standards in the 21
4.5 Current archaeological heritage perspective 58
4.6 Conclusion on Cultural Heritage Management and
efforts in the field of archaeology in Suriname 60
5. Continuation of archaeology within Surinamese 64
5.1 Recommendations with respect to politics and 64
archaeological research in Suriname
The researchers 65
List of abbreviations 71
List of figures 72
1.1 Research questions and their rationale
The primary goal of this thesis is to gain a better idea about present cultural
heritage management in Suriname. It is a preliminary orientation to further
investigation for a Masters degree. The focus is especially on the position of
archaeology within heritage management of Suriname.
Basic to this thesis are some suppositions about present policy and cultural
heritage in Suriname. Suriname is a country in northern South-America, since
1975 independent from Dutch colonial control. The country’s policy does not
appear to be particularly active in incorporating archaeology as a part of heritage
management. A broader research project like this ensures that the existing image,
the absence of the subject archaeology within heritage policy, is not to limited.
Most ongoing research is carried out by western scientists. Dutch
archaeological research initiatives are more anthropologic. Current research by
archaeologists, linguists or historians focuses on subjects like present day
Amerindian material culture or trade economy and language of contemporary
Amerindian groups. Others are more concerned with colonial history and deal
with the past of particular groups like the Maroon, descendants of runaway slaves.
Archaeological research regarding pre-Columbian times is already five years old.
A great number of pre-Columbian Amerindian petroglyphs have been discovered
at the Werehpai caves in the Kwamalasumutu region in 2007. This research has
not been publicized yet. The last major archaeological scientific publication in
2003, Suriname Before Columbus, by archaeologist Aad Versteeg, was a review
of research, results and finds from over forty years of investigations in Suriname
between the mid-1950s and the year 2000. Such publications have limited impact
in Suriname. Researchers or ordinary people with a Surinamese background
appear not to be interested. To ensure that serious archaeological research in
Suriname has a future, and valuable scientific and cultural historical information
about regional and overall human development does not vanish as a negative
result of ongoing economic progress, it needs to be found out what contributes to
the existing disinterest. Especially when we look at the Surinamese governments
aspiration to conserve, develop and foster the Surinamese cultural heritage. There
can be financial reasons, for example lack of use value? Is it simply a lack of
awareness about the subject of archaeology, or has it to be sought in the presence
of many ethnicities in Suriname who may feel no connection to a pre-colonial
past? Or is the image we have totally wrong? The main reason is likely to be an
economic or cultural one. To be able to answer these kind of questions there also
has to be looked at the development of archaeological field-research in
In this research an attempt is made to place archaeology within a context
of Heritage Management theory. A comparison is especially made with the
management of tangible built heritage and with current initiatives. This because of
the close connection between them. To find out more about the current position of
archaeology within overall heritage management a second research question was
With respect to this perspective on archaeology the following sub
questions were formulated:
– What archaeological work or work by archaeologists is being executed at
– How and why is this initiated?
– Who participate in these projects and from where do they receive their funding?
Answering those questions has to substantiate if the image we have is
correct and if a negative change in concern can be seen. If so, revitalization of
archaeological research is needed. Aim is to ensure that archaeology as a part of
Cultural Heritage Management will not disappear. This would lead to exclusion of
heritage categories and certain peoples pasts as well as it would be the loss of
important cultural and scientific information.
For advisory purposes a third question was formulated, related to the future
of archaeology within Cultural Heritage Management in Suriname.
Main questions of this preliminary orientation are:
1. How does Suriname at present deal with the subject of Cultural Heritage
2. What is the present position of archaeology in Suriname?
3. What could be the future of Cultural Heritage Management and archaeology in
This research is primarily a literature study. Future research would benefit
from interviews with stakeholders in Suriname, which was outside the scope of
this research. However, where possible interviews have been conducted with
archaeologists in Leiden who are, or were involved in research in Suriname. Some
investigation on the subject of Surinamese heritage already took place, and has
been published. A thorough and balanced research should incorporate data about
opinion of Surinamese people towards their heritage because heritage deals with
the contemporary use of the past by present societies (Eugenio van Maanen 2011,
48; Skeates 2000, 10; McDowell 2008, 40). This is the only way to find out how
people in Surinamese society value aspects of their past and present material
culture as designated heritage. This thesis offers a basic orientation on the subject
of heritage, and the significance of “prehistoric” archaeology in a plural ethnic
society with a colonial past. The study of Eugenio van Maanen, Colonial Heritage
and Ethnic Pluralism, provides some conclusions about the attitude Surinamese
people have towards cultural heritage, as well as on governmental heritage
development plans, laws, and participation in international treaties. This thesis
builds on this by including an analysis of the history of archaeological research.
Fig. 1: The Guianas
Fig. 2: Position of Suriname within South America. (left)
Fig. 3: Suriname. (right)
1.3 Geography, Demography and Politics of Suriname
Suriname forms part of the area known as The Guianas (fig. 1) and is situated on
the northern coast of the South American continent (fig. 2). The larger part of the
Guianas consists of a massif of mainly Proterozoic rocks (the so-called Guiana
Shield). The massif has comparable geological characteristics in the entire
Guianas and extends for the greater part of the Orinoco River and the Atlantic
Ocean in the North to the Amazon River in the south (Wong et al. 1998, 1).
The Northern part of the country is covered by sediments of the Guiana
Basin. Deposits reflect the provenance of the sediments (both hinterland and the
Amazon River), sea level fluctuations and climatic changes. The coastal area is
the region where colonists settled and where the majority of the Surinamese
population still lives (Wong et al. 1998, 1).
Soon after Columbus’ first transatlantic voyages, the north coast of South
America was sighted by European travelers. The first visitors joining the
expedition led by Alonso de Hojeda in 1499 reported that the area was not very
attractive. English and Dutch traders settled nevertheless near the mouth of the
Suriname River. Colonists established many plantations, initially on the relatively
dry Pleistocene and Tertiary deposits and later on the near coastal Holocene
sediments. (Wong et al. 1998, 1-2)
The present climate of Suriname is a Tropical Rain Climate. The average
annual temperature is 27.3°C. Dependent on the monthly rainfall, three types of
climate can be distinguished. A coastal monsoon climate, a dry savanna climate
and an always wet tropical rainforest climate (Versteeg 1985, 656-657).
Suriname covers an area of 163,000 km² and borders French Guiana in the
east and Guyana in the west. The south borders Brazil (fig. 3). From the 17
century onwards, inhabitants of Spain, Portugal, the Dutch Republic, French and
British settled mainly in the coastal areas. Today most of the approximately
500,000 inhabitants live in the northern part of the country where the landscape
consists out of a coastal river delta, estuary, swamps and sandy embankments and
in the capital Paramaribo. A savannah landscape to the south predominantly
consists of infertile soils. Eighty percent of the total surface of the country is
covered by tropical rainforest (Van Maanen 2011, 68-69).
The diverse composition of Surinamese population today has its origins in
the plantation economy which laid the foundation for the large ethnic diversity in
Suriname (Van Maanen 2011, 97). The population in Suriname in 1993 was made
up of: Indian (Hindustan) 35%, Creoles 32%, Javanese 15%, Maroon 10%,
Amerindians 3%, Chinese 3%, European 1%, others (Lebanese, Anglo-American)
1% (Noordegraaf & Van Grunsven 1993, 72). These percentages will have
changed because of ongoing migration. At present significant numbers of LatinAmericans
as well as Chinese immigrate to Suriname. The overall
population has also increased because of the more stable politics during the last
ten years. At present as many Surinamese live outside the country as within. Of
the Surinamese diaspora the majority live in the Netherlands because of its
Before 1975 Suriname was a Dutch colony. From 1975 until 1980
Suriname tried to become more self sufficient but degenerated to dictatorship after
a coup in February the 5
, 1980. After this coup a long period of political
instability and economic downfall started. Several years the country was in a state
of civil war between the army of Desi Bouterse and the Jungle Commando of
Ronnie Brunswijk. In 1993 the situation stabilized but the country remained
politically weak. The main causes of malfunctioning of the government are the
often conflicting interests between the diverse cultural groups and their
disproportional distribution within the workforce. The stability of this plural
society came very much under pressure because of the economical crisis during
the 1980s that was primarily a result of the many years of military competition for
power (Buddingh 1995, 371-373).
Since the elections in 2000 and the appointment of Ronald Venetiaan as
president, the political situation improved and renewed bilateral cooperation with
the Dutch was restored. Since the elections in 2010 the NDP (National
Democratic Party) of former army leader Desi Bouterse is the strongest faction
within the government.
2. The theoretical framework of Cultural Heritage Management and the
position of archaeology
This chapter about Cultural Heritage Management (CHM) gives an
overview of contemporary opinions in this field. It also creates the possibility to
point out more clearly where Surinamese heritage management and archaeology
places itself at the moment. The general development within CHM can later on be
compared with that within Suriname. The chapter is especially important to
become aware of Cultural Heritage Management and its goals and concerns with
archaeology. It also clarifies where I personally take position.
2.1 Necessity and value
In order to draw conclusions about the position of archaeology within
Cultural Heritage Management and the necessity of archaeology within heritage
management in Suriname, one first has to look at contemporary theory.
Many kinds of value can be defined when we look at archaeological work.
Archaeology can be seen as scientific tool in giving sense to place, and as a
complement to historical research. Written sources don’t supply us with all
information we want to know. They are subjective and influenced by
contemporary opinion. They don’t give us full information about many subjects of
daily life in historical times. Data from written sources essentially are records of
low-frequency processes; extraordinary happenings that didn’t take place on a
frequent basis (Tainter et al. 2005, 66). Many aspects of daily life represented
particular classes and backgrounds and were not considered worthwhile
mentioning. From this perspective historical archaeology, besides complementary,
also is a correctional science (King 2011, 82). The same can be said of the built
and material environment remaining today. What survived is selected through
time and gives us some tangible insights about peoples’ lives and surroundings in
historical times and the recent past. It is deliberately chosen because of its
peculiarity or spared due to physical quality and environmental conditions. This
ongoing situation is the main subject of concern within so called cultural heritage
management (CHM) or cultural resource management (CRM). Looking at
prehistoric times, archaeology is the only tool that provides us with information
from the ancient past. It provides us with information about overall human
development through time, sealed beneath, or even on the present day surface at
many places of the earth.
Connection to the past seems to be a universal human condition and is an
essential element in forming human identity. The sense of descent and connection
to the past, in personality as well as surroundings, creates stability and a safe
haven for ongoing development. Heritage allows humankind to transcend
individual destiny to achieve continuity (Edson 2004 in Van Maanen 2011, 184;
Thomas 1996, 51-53). Awareness of the past and its importance to the individual
differs widely between people and cultures. Many people are interested in recent
past, surroundings, family lineage and direct descent or social versus cultural
identity. Others will be also interested in global human origin, identity and
development. There are also people who in the first place are concerned with
benefits of the present and plans for the future. In the same way as people differ,
their concerns with cultural heritage and archaeology also differ. This is what
makes cultural heritage management as well as archaeological heritage (AHM) or
resource management (ARM) so difficult. This subject is liable to multiple
opinions and interests. Choices or selections are made from diverse, often
conflicting viewpoints. These different and constantly changing viewpoints are
even visible in choosing definitions like heritage or resource management. The
very choice of words, which colors perceptions about the places that are preserved
or destroyed, is changing (Mathers et al. 2005, 9). Heritage as a definition is not a
fixed canon, but open to negotiation, manipulation and fashion. As David Harvey
“Heritage is the selective use of the past as a resource for the present and
future. Memory and commemoration are inexorably connected to the
heritage process. Public memory is a fluid process that is not only
negotiated by official or national groups but also by the media, academics,
heritage institutions and local community organizations” (McDowell 2008,
From this we can see that although not everyone is fully aware of the subject, or
actively concerned, it influences all of us. Heritage colours our cultural landscape.
Further reading tells us:
“In construction of heritage, nation-states play leading roles. The state
often is the official arbitrator of public commemoration and subscribes to a
set of ideas embedded trough socialization and education. It assumes
responsibility over planning, maintaining and funding memorial
monuments, programmes and events” (McDowell 2008, 40- 41).
This leading role of the state can be explained from its desire to create coherence
and legitimacy. To connect people within a state there has to be a shared
interpretation of events and experiences that formed the group. Collective
understanding and beliefs, cultural solidarity, is vital in the formation and
legitimization of national identity (McDowell 2008, 41).
“National cohesion requires a sense of collective awareness and identity
endorsed through common historical experience” (McDowell 2008, 41).
This is a very important statement when we look at Suriname with its cultural
diversity, but also with respect to the subject of this research, archaeology.
Many standards of significance can be attributed to cultural resources.
Significance varies according to qualities of the resource, the context of
assessment, and the perspectives of the evaluator. The crucial point, well
recognized by Schiffer and Gumerman, is that “relativity” is the single most
outstanding quality inherent in the concept of significance, for significance can
only be interpreted by employing some explicit frame of reference (Schiffer and
Gumerman 1977, in Mathers et al. 2005, 6).
“ Three broad domains of interest, traditionally regarded as affecting the way that
frames of reference are established and aspects of archaeological resources are
discussed, can be identified.
1. The physical and intellectual environment within which the value
and importance of archaeological remains are established.
2. There are moral and ethical considerations that underpin and
inform particular approaches and perspectives.
3. An operational one. At one level this may be related to legislation
and the associated legal frameworks. Scales of importance are in some
cases enshrined in the legislation itself. Operational issues also introduce
issues of scale and the impact of value gradients. The rationale behind the
development of many grading systems is to identify those resources that
are most significant or most important in relation to a specified purpose.
Inevitably this creates divisions and categories and causes things and
places to be excluded as well as included” (Mathers, Darvill and Little
According to John Carman, Senior lecturer in Heritage Valuation at the University
of Birmingham, an expert in British cultural heritage as well as worldwide, a
tendency shift can be recognized since the “invention of heritage” in Britain. He
mentions at first heritage inventors. The word inventors perhaps better can be
interpreted as aware and deliberately users of heritage. These inventors were
concerned with real people he says. Carman is continuing as follows:
“In the late 19
century they sought to improve the everyday lives of real
people by introducing them to ideas about how the world could be
improved, derived from studies of the past. Their successors took us away
from that into a concern with more abstract notions: the nation-state, the
world order. Archaeology as a social resource was to be utilized to
construct a collective welfare. Nowadays, use value and financial profit
seem leading concerns. The public use is increasingly divorced from
people and absorbed into bureaucratic agencies. Carried out by specialist,
who work on behalf of the public they serve, but not for them” (Carman
Although not an archaeological example, this can also be said about the
incorporation of Paramaribo on the World Heritage list. The intention of the
government is to unite Surinamese citizens by fostering the city because of its
historical relevance. At the same time many buildings are not publicly accessible.
The governmental ministries reside within them. This makes them essentially a
symbol of a certain leading class. Not of the majority of people. Eugenio van
Maanen discusses how this tendency could be altered. This can be read from the
essence of his findings in Chapter 3.4. As an example from archaeology within
Europe we can mention the decreased possibilities of amateur archaeologists in
participating. This after coming into force of the Malta treaty that regulated
professionalization of practicing archaeology in many European countries.
Carman further mentions that nowadays there is widespread agreement as to what
heritage can be used for and what use is illegitimate. The idea that heritage is
valuable and its preservation useful is no longer part of political debate. Heritage
has become the realm of bureaucracy and standardization. At present it is a
resource used for some purpose external to itself (Carman 2005, 54). This is also
being expressed by Darvill’s value system for archaeology that is moreover a
distinction between Use values and potential use values than Non-use values (Fig.
4). Heritage through time, all the more became resource.
Fig. 4. Darvill’s value systems for archaeology
Source: Carman J., The trajectory of archaeology in Britain, 2005.
In valuating heritage, many executers think in terms of significance. Agencies
such as UNESCO have issued site significance criteria that attempt to universalize
history. Significant problems are defined on the basis of a progressivist,
evolutionary level, if no longer colonial (Tainter and Bagley 2005, 67). Funding is
attuned to the last two millennia and to assigned evolutionary developments. This
evolution is seen in the development from hunter gatherers to sedentary farmers
and city states and is essentially a Western definition of progress. The underlying
problem is that significance assessments are based on the wrong criteria. That is,
they are based upon material content, the extraordinary, rather than upon the
behavior that produced the content. The goal of archaeology is to understand past
behavior, but as we now know well, behavior does not translate in any simple or
direct manner into the formation of the archaeological record. The assumption of
most cultural resource managers is that less-salient archaeological remains, the
kind usually considered insignificant, must reflect less-interesting past behavior
(Tainter and Bagley 2005, 63). This assumption at present can also be seen with
respect to archaeology in Suriname. When we look at Suriname it can be said that,
choosing of Paramaribo as a world heritage site, serves the progressivist
evolutionary view as exemplified by the UNESCO viewpoint. Its potential
archaeological benefit will be discussed later in this research. The intention of
Surinamese government with respect to the historical city centre of Paramaribo
was a totally different one. Its policy aimed to revitalize the colonial inner city of
Paramaribo as cultural binding factor. Why this until now didn’t have the intended
impact is explained by the research of Eugenio van Maanen, discussed in chapter
3.4. The inner city’s binding factor exists more within its present physical
existence and degree of involvement of its people than by its history. Attachment
has very much to do with physical presence and the feeling of belonging to a
place. People feel comfortable or at home because parts of how they define
themselves are symbolized by certain qualities of that place (McDowell 2008, 38).
From the previous physical notion it becomes clear why Surinamese
heritage policy primary concentrates on the built colonial environment and not on
a less obvious archaeological surrounding. From the present author’s perspective
archaeology has an important potential in responding to the Surinamese aims of
nation building and cultural binding.
Significance as a western concept
The concept of significance stems from the Western philosophical tradition
known as empiricism in England or as positivism on the Continent. Proponents of
this tradition assert that we know things by experiencing them, so that the path to
knowledge is to perceive sensory experiences without preconceptions. From that
viewpoint, applied archaeology is a tool that secures information for the future, by
which scientists observe and record an undistorted description of their subject
matter. This assumption is not valid because we are not culturally unbiased.
Cultural resource managers do not merely perceive, record and evaluate the
archaeological record. On the contrary, they apply a set of mostly unexamined
assumptions, biases and filters to privilege certain parts of the record, and to
ignore the rest. Our unconscious categorization, and our transmission of this
categorization to future archaeologists, contravenes the principle on which
cultural resource management was established: conservation for the future. We
are predestining the future by repetition of such rigid approaches. The first step
toward resolving a dilemma arising from unconscious assumptions is to expose
them. It is time for the profession to openly debate how we value non-salient sites,
the past behaviors from which these originated, and the losses that we incur when
we routinely dismiss them (Tainter and Bagley 2005, 70). The archaeological
record at present is an active construct of our assumptions and biases. What we
pass to the future are precisely these assumptions and biases and the material
remains privileged by these assumptions and biases (Tainter and Bagley 2005, 6970).
The definition of the word site, a spot or area,
where some archaeological find or feature is situated is also being applied in
management of the archaeological heritage. Two trends indicate that this
individual-site-focused approach is increasingly inappropriate in managing
cultural heritage. First cultural landscape concepts in archaeology emphasize the
connectedness rather than the singularity of sites and the importance of landscapes
and environment in the understanding of past human behavior. Second, increasing
awareness and vocalization of Indigenous and other community claims to land
and places draws attention to the complexity of interest in sites within any
landscape. This results in Indigenous and community involvement in site and area
research and management. Consequently, cultural heritage sites become identified
within complex social and physical landscapes, and heritage managers need to be
able to recognize, identify, understand and operate within such landscapes (Boyd
et al. 2005, 92). Precisely the involvement of Indigenous people and community is
essential for development of archaeological science. To be able to find new ways
of engaging people in archaeology, it is important that the realm gets broader,
diverse cultural attention. This also counts for the discipline of cultural heritage
management. Individuals from different cultural backgrounds must get involved
in the discourse. The field of cultural anthropology, closely related to
archaeology, already engages with different realities and interpretations, as
opposed to westernized thinking. With the emergence of a multicritical analysis of
society and culture, the traditional view of a single history becomes increasingly
untenable and open to contest (Boyd, et al. 2005, 89). When we look closer to this
discussion, archaeological/scientific bias can also be incorporated within my
conceptualization of former principle in figure 5.
Importance of multicultural concern with the heritage discourse is also
emphasized by Pedro Funari. He argues that archaeological heritage has nothing
to do with financial quantification, or with productive use however defined
(Funari 2005, 108). The basic criterion of the 1972 UNESCO World Heritage
Convention, “outstanding universal value,” has been useful for providing legal
protection to numerous sites, but fails to take into account non-European, nonelite,
and indigenous contexts, for ordinary people’s concerns and values are
undervalued (Funari 2005, 126). The community comprises local inhabitants,
indigenous peoples, and elite groups, among a host of many other interest groups.
Especially within Suriname the diversity of interest groups has to be taken notion
of. The diversity of values attached to different cultural properties by different
groups cannot be underestimated, as the value of a heritage property is not
inherent and immutable, nor linearly related to size, depth, and material content.
This diversity also implies that any hierarchy of values, whatever its practical
justification, is perceived by the different interested groups as a decision imposed
by a distant scholar. This indicates that, if the concerns of scholars are to be taken
seriously by the laity, community involvement is essential (Funari 2005, 127).
Increasingly, people recognize that archaeological knowledge is not neutral or
apolitical by virtue of its very nature as a human endeavor and that archaeological
work should result in a motivation for the development of critical thought (Funari
2005, 130). Especially within Suriname, a country with a various population and
indigenous groups still present, opportunities for a healthy scientific debate and
critical thought are obvious.
Fig. 5: Model of societal change and construct.
The blue dots (A, B, C, D, E) represent
cultures within a mutual shared
Some cultures overlap, having a partly
communal reference frame- work
The cultures live within the same
landscape (natural conscious
environment) and interact.
Interposition of another cultural group
(dot Ex.) from the external realm, or
disappearance of a culture within the
landscape, will change the current
reality and interrelated bias. The same
counts for the passing of time and
related communal experience.
The landscape, sense of external realm,
so cultures and their bias, will change.
Expressed by change of colors in the
The whole is a continuous process with
no point of return. The cultural
restructure alters bias. Bias cant
reconstruct the past, but is just able to
construct it in the present.
2.3 Theoretical conclusion
Following the above we can define some useful basic principles in modern
heritage management with respect to archaeology.
– The heritage management and archaeological discipline evolved in Europe from
the Renaissance onwards and the emergence of science from the natural history
tradition. Realities and truths have been firmly set within the socio politics of the
places and times in which they emerged (Boyd et al. 2005, 108).
From this follows the disciplines have to be aware of their own development and
– A focus on sites and hierarchical subdivision in standards of significance results
in neglect of heritage categories and different kinds of social value.
– Awakening attention to landscapes opens new perspectives on heritage, human
behavior and archaeological heritage management.
– Ongoing development of critical thought in archaeological science and cultural
heritage management is only possible by community involvement and dialogue.
– Critical thought, about existence and the past, is the primary goal for
archaeology because the option of preservation for future generations is relative.
– According to cultural heritage management, use value is not aim in itself but a
means. Use value doesn’t always foresee in emotional contentment.
– The past is a construct of the present, as well as the present is a construct of the
Heritage management is about keeping connection to the past, to keep its
creativity and its diversity alive. It creates awareness of preceding times.
Awareness of diversity in human existence and its creativity in being and
With respect to Suriname we see an enormous palette of diversity as a
result of the many cultures within the country. Evidence from archaeological work
within Suriname indicates that human presence in Suriname dates back to the last
Ice Age, over 12.000 years ago.
In the process of selection we structure our minds. We choose between
significant and insignificant. We make choices that structure our understanding of
present and past. These choices are made individually or with respect to heritage
and management on a community basis. In this way we restructure our present
being. At the same time we construct the past because we are prejudiced or
biased. This means we cannot reconstruct it but just can get some sense of it.
Heritage management implies we are using the past for the present and
future. Choices have to be made within management. We choose between things
that are manageable or not or perhaps less manageable for the moment. When we
look back at Chapter 2.2 and the domains of interest that affect establishment of
reference frames within archaeology, we can draw some conclusions. Suriname is
a small scale society with a small scale economy. There is political will and
necessity to respect the country’s cultural diversity. The political representatives
are exploring opportunities to unite the country’s residents to make Suriname
stronger for a joint future. In their efforts they have to cope with many ethical
responsibilities. When we look at heritage management the natural environment is
one of them. Within national and social environment the country has to deal with
the cultural past of a vulnerable but very important minority of indigenous
residents, the Amerindians and Maroon societies. With respect to legislation the
government is bound to the UNESCO convention of 1972 and signatories to the
World Heritage List. This also enshrines responsibilities with respect to
archaeology. Further operational practice has to be developed. In the first place
Suriname has the ability to restructure its present. For this a structuring of the past
We try to get hold to the past but are confined by our present socio
cultural being. To try to break out of this Western predestined scholarly being,
discussion between scholars, heritage managers or archaeologists with different
cultural backgrounds is not enough. They are mostly educated within the same
Western biases of the disciplines. By confine ourselves to academic discourse
these biases go undetected (Preucel and Cipolla 2008, 140). In fact we always
need to discuss our perception, especially within non Western or indigenous
archaeologies, with locals and ordinary people from outside the discourse.
Choosing our heritage, to reconstruct the past, while excluding society does not
The abovementioned conclusion has consequences for practicing
archaeology or heritage management in Suriname. A distant scholar is not able to
do research only from his Academic chair. Good research demands profound
fieldwork. This includes human interaction on the spot and exchange of ideas and
experiences with locals. It is also necessary for a national to look beyond own
borders and be aware of a connection to other people in the surrounding world,
especially within present day globalization.
The process of discussion leads to transfer and use of knowledge in other
situations than the initial one. This process leads to creativity in thought,
flexibility of the mind and creativity in managing existence. In fact it leads to
progressive cognitive evolution or at least to metacognitive development. Simply
said this is thinking about thinking or problem solving. We try to get grip on our
existence in an effort to find stability of mind. This we do finally to become self
confident human beings. For we can’t go back to the past, we are preparing in the
present for the future. Because of the diversity of human life and thought, our
connection to the past creates greater time depth to existence. Looking at the
model presented in Fig.5 we should realize that human interaction and its
diversity of thought always has created tensions, conflict, changing horizons and
reevaluation of existence. Giving more time depth to existence should show us,
there has always been confronting bias, assimilation and integration. Coming
together of multifarious bias creates new knowledge and thus gives rise to new
bias. Perhaps the best lesson we might learn from this is that we should work
together to create collective understanding and acceptance. This can be reached by
dialogue and mutual respect.
In Suriname with its many cultures, collective understanding of the country’s
past is very important. This past isn’t confined to colonial heritage. It is a fact that
the colonial past puts its burden on composition of present day society. How the
process to present day society’s composition went through time, is an important
and interesting topic. It is essential to understand how this composition of present
day society evolved in order to be able to understand Surinamese and present
within regional Northern South-American or Caribbean contexts. What we must
not forget is that the countries and regional composition has a much longer
timeline. Like present day society has its uniqueness, also this past society has its
unique aspects. These still can be found within present day indigenous
communities in Suriname. Other, for this moment lost information, is waiting in
many areas in the country to be detected. This potentially lost information will
contribute to new wonder, knowledge, regional embedding and finally also
possible, Surinamese identity formation and international attention and
recognition. For archaeology is a science that is interested in overall human
development and existence, it should be of concern to people with a diverse
background. How to value archaeology depends on each “individual” entity or
society. As mentioned before, use value is not aim in itself but means because it
doesn’t always foresee in emotional contentment. Archaeology within heritage
management is an important “tool” or “way” for dialogue about diversity. This
could benefit all people. From a humanist point of view, survival “or revival” of
human dignity and achievements. Where do we end up or return to in the 21th
century? To 18
or early 19
centuries real people, 20
centuries nation states and
global welfare or present day economics? For Suriname this must be a balanced
mix of these ingredients. A difficult task that has to be accomplished but also a
process with new opportunities. Surinamese society has to decide what shape
When we look at Surinamese national symbol, the escutcheon, we see the central
part that refers to the colonial history (a sailing ship), the natural vegetation and
plantation economy (a palm tree), and the five-pointed star (symbolizing the
countries different cultures) (Fig. 6). This central theme is flanked or upheld by
two indigenous Amerindians. The motto says: Justitia Pietas Fides (Justice Peace
Loyalty). It is a very strong national symbol that might advocate what course
future heritage management should proceed. This will hopefully bring the country
where the national flag refers to (Fig. 7). Green symbolizes fertility of the country
and its hopeful expectation. White symbolizes justice and freedom. Red refers to
progressivism and the nations never ending aspiration to effort for renewal of
people and society. The yellow star symbolizes sacrificial unanimity and
orientation on a golden future.
The following chapter will look in detail at Surinamese present policy regarding
overall Heritage Management and tangible heritage in particular.
Fig. 6. The national escutcheon of the Republic of Suriname. Fig. 7. The national flag of the Republic of Suriname.
3. Surinamese culture policy and international cooperation in heritage
This exploration aims to clarify the Surinamese position towards heritage
management and archaeology. It looks at present-day non-archaeological and
archaeological work that is undertaken on the field of heritage. Choices within
and dealing with Cultural Heritage Management, plus international cooperation,
are points of concern.
How does Suriname at present deal with the subject of Cultural Heritage
3.1 Culture Policy in Suriname
Fig. 8. The National Culture Policy of Suriname.
Culture policy in Suriname is a task of the Directorate Culture of the Ministry
of Education and Peoples Development (Directoraat Cultuur van het Ministerie
van Onderwijs en Volksontwikkeling (MINOV)). Starting point of their vision is
the Surinamese multicultural and plural society. From that perspective culture is
seen as a powerful tool for the development of the Surinamese people and nation.
The mission of the Directorate is to:
– promote respect for, to preserve and protect diversity of cultural values and
standards. This is seen as fundamental to development and strengthening of the
Surinamese cultural identity.
– create basic conditions for a favorable climate for artistic and cultural expression
– take care of conservation, development and fostering of Surinamese cultural
Surinamese culture policy 2006-2011 (Fig. 8.) focuses on national
development in which culture fulfills a central role; establishing cultural
encounters to let people experience, see and feel cultural diversity. Another
central goal is to uplift inner dignity of the Surinamese people and to develop
policy that aims to creative diversity and acceptance, fulfilling needs and desires
of all groups.
As can be seen from the formulation of this policy, Surinamese cultural policy
makers are aware of the difficulties in uniting people as a result of the diverse
cultural backgrounds of the country’s citizens. Their opinion is that unity only can
exist with mutual respect. As well as it is a difficulty, they also see this diversity
as an enrichment and the driving force for future development. The creative force
of diversity can be applied for economic growth. Their target is to let people in the
first place experience the countries cultural variety. Experiencing diversity will
lead to mutual understanding. Policy makers want to provide conditions for
cultural and creative expression and take care for cultural heritage by protecting
and using it in such a sense that Surinamese people can be proud of it.
It is a very comprehensive description that sounds very idealistic.
In the Development Plan 2006 – 2011 of the Republic Suriname (see attachment)
the subject Culture is worked out in paragraph 5.2.3. The starting point is the
description of culture by UNESCO and the right of participation to cultural life of
the community according to principals of the International Covenant on
Economic, Political, Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights. The aim of culture policy is primary focused on free participation
of all civilians in the cultural life of Suriname. Culture is the bearer of past
tradition and instigator of future change: both aspects need further development
(See appendix: 2.5.3 Cultuur, Meerjarenontwikkelingsplan 2006-2011, 160).
The Development Plan mentions the growing awareness that culture can
be a way of subsistence and in particular an economic role can be applied to fight
poverty. It also has the ability to inspire and mobilize people and has potential to
create communal solidarity and forming a nation.
Aims of cultural policy are:
– improving conditions for culture production;
– improving conditions for preservation of cultural heritage;
– enlargement of the export potential of the creative industry.
To realize these aims, between 2006 – 2011 programmes had to be developed to:
1. improve quality of culture education; 2. stimulate artistic expression and
production; 3. preserve cultural heritage; 4. enlarge cultural relations; 5.
institutionally reinforce the Culture Directorate, 6. improve media policy and 7.
stimulate creative industry.
In addition, let’s have a closer look at the programs 1., 3., 4. and 5. Their sub
1. Improving conditions of culture production, comprising improving quality
of culture education (1.1). The pith of the matter deals with lawmaking
and regulation, education of art and culture and support of cultural
organizations and institutions.
2. Preservation of the cultural heritage by improving conditions for
preservation (2.1). The focus is on restorations of monumental buildings,
documentation and registration, Museum policy and Nominations to the
UNESCO World Heritage List.
4. Culture for forming a nation and international integration by building on
international cultural relations (4.1). The focus was on the Commission
Carifesta IX (Caricom) and support of national days of celebration.
5. Institutional reinforcement of the Culture Directorate (Fig.9.) aims at
restructuring, automatization of the personal administration, network
building and training of the work force (5).
When we evaluate the above policy documents the focus in the first place is on
the productive use-value of cultural heritage. Heritage has to contribute to
economic wellbeing. Within education, teaching about heritage in the first place
must contribute to its future creative production. The conservation of the cultural
heritage in the first place is focused on the built colonial heritage. Especially on
efficiency of its management. This is the result of the financial consequences after
inclusion of the Paramaribo city centre on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Further nominations also regard colonial built heritage. National reinforcement is
above all aimed at international recognition, especially within the Caribbean. For
national unity the focus is on a Caribbean identity. With respect to the Culture
Directorate policy is to aim at a shift from bureaucracy to efficiency.
There is a main focus on economic benefit, more than on identity
formation within the country. Nation-building takes place from an economic
perspective more than from a sensitive viewpoint. Emotional heritage significance
or value seems to be subordinate to its economic use-value. The question is, if
future economic and social wellbeing starts with pride or vice versa. There
perhaps should be better balance between them. The starting point in
policymaking has to be the financial and productive abilities of the country.
Fig. 9. Organization chart of the Cultural Directorate.
Modified from source: http://gov.sr/media/63741/organigram-kultuur.pdf
The Culture Directorate
Policy is based on a cultural democracy in which recognition and equality of
all cultures is of primary importance. Realizing points of departure is the
responsibility of the Culture Directorate. The emphasis of the responsibility can
be found in the field of initiating and developing artistic expressions and cultural
production. The government also tries to promote an acculturation (stimulate
culture) process by means of developing cultural education and culturallyoriented
his book that the department of Cultural Studies (Cultuur Studies) and the
Surinam Urban Heritage Foundation are co-responsible for the implementation of
these responsibilities (Van Maanen 2011, 181). The MOP (Development Plan
2006-2011) mentions explicitly that both tangible and intangible heritage are of
concern. Reading the MOP (see above sub target 1., 3. and 4.) plus research
interviews by Van Maanen make clear that the focus is more on the intangible
sphere. This can also be seen in the majority in spending of its budget (Van
Maanen 2011, 181). With respect to the built cultural heritage the focus of the
responsible directorate is on Nominations to the World Heritage List (See sub
target 2.). This counts for the already enlisted nomination of Paramaribo city
centre, but also for nomination of the “Jodensavanne” and the
“Cassiporabegraafplaats” (Cassipora graveyard) (Speech S. Sidoel, 2007 – see
3.2 Suriname and Dutch shared heritage.
As a former colony of the Netherlands, Suriname still has co-operation with the
Dutch. This also takes place at the level of taking care of the shared cultural
heritage. This section sets out from which point of view this cooperation takes
place. It also presents current projects.
In the light of the intense collaboration between the Dutch and Surinamese
governments with regard to culture, the Culture and Development Program of the
Dutch embassy in Paramaribo (Beleidskader GCE) has to be mentioned. Their
funding was concentrated on eight cultural fields: built heritage, visual arts, film,
stage arts, museum, music, cultural studies and the cluster: language, literature,
library and archives. The main focus lays on capacity building at governmental as
well as local level. The Culture and Development program should be seen
separate from the MCH policy. It has been possible for The Netherlands to make a
specific cultural framework with Suriname, and in 2001 Suriname was the first
country with a country-specific policy framework for mutual cultural heritage.
Although Suriname has acknowledged that there is mutual cultural heritage
between the two countries, it is not altogether clear for both countries which
heritage can be experienced as mutual and which not. The valuation of heritage
differs greatly (Center for International Heritage Activities, 2011).
The agreement between the Dutch and Surinamese government (GCE)
focuses on three main sectors. The built heritage, the museum sector and the
After many years of political instability and arduous diplomatic relations
between the Netherlands and Suriname, the relation took a turn with the election
of Ronald Venetiaan as president in 2000. Dutch-Surinamese relations intensified
and various agreements were signed or revitalized. The Memorandum of
Understanding on Mutual Cultural Heritage between the Surinamese and Dutch
government was one of these agreements. The bilateral cooperation between the
Netherlands and Suriname is in line with the Surinamese international cultural
policy, which mainly “focuses on starting and intensifying relationships with the
heritage institutions in the Caribbean region, international heritage organizations
and the Netherlands as partner concerning mutual heritage”.
The established policy framework is aimed at:
– Attracting a broader audience
– Knowledge Increase
– Information structuring
– Instrument for project applications
– Strengthening of infrastructure
Many of the projects taking place with regard to the mutual cultural
heritage in Suriname, are either, financed through “HGIS-C” (Homogene Groep
voor Internationale Samenwerking), supported by the Dutch Government or fall
under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed between the governments of the
Netherlands and Suriname. The governmental agreements can be regarded as a
Much work is undertaken by CIE (Center for International Heritage
Activities), a non-profit and independent knowledge centre for international
cultural heritage cooperation. The center aims to increase collaboration and
knowledge sharing in the cultural heritage field by bringing professionals
together, collecting and disseminating expertise and developing and facilitating
heritage projects all over the world (CIE annual report 2011, 5). CIE identifies
partners in and for priority countries and initiates local and international meetings
with partners from The Netherlands and local priority countries. The outcome of
the discussions and meetings are presented to the Dutch government to improve
future cooperation policy. This formula is applicable to programs for many
countries with mutual heritage.
During the last ten years of cooperation with Suriname, various joint
projects have been completed. Many of them were concerned with restoration of
colonial built heritage. Examples are: The historical buildings of the
Frederiksdorp plantation and officers quarters in Fort Zeelandia. Also on the field
of archaeology and heritage with regard to the Amerindian indigenous population,
initiatives have been undertaken. Compared to others this is not so much.
Initiatives were taken in collaboration with the Leiden National Museum of
Ethnology on studying the Penard’s lost Encyclopaedia, recently rediscovered in
the archives of the museum. This encyclopaedia gives insights into Amerindian
shamanism, and the life of the Jewish Surinamese family Penard, in the first
quarter of the 20
century. Actually it is a testimony of the encounter between
Indian indigenous life and beliefs, and those of individuals with a Western
cultural and religious background. Related to this documentation and archives on
the Amerindian languages in Suriname, research at Leiden University has to be
mentioned. A related topic is the perishable heritage of the Trio Amerindians of
Suriname, a study also initiated by The National Museum of Ethnology in
cooperation with archaeologists and linguists from Leiden University (PhD.
Jimmy Mans, Leiden University’s Faculty of Archaeology and Dr. Eithne B.
Carlin, Department Languages and Cultures of Native America, Leiden
University Centre for Linguistics). A study that comprises an inventory of the
museum collection, in the first place with regard to Trio or Kari’na Indians, and
consultations with representatives of the present Trio community in Suriname.
These consultations took place as well in Suriname as within the Leiden National
Museum of Ethnology. Another more private foundation archaeological initiative,
in collaboration with Leiden University’s faculty of archaeology (Dr. Menno
Hoogland), is concerned with retrieving the location of Ford Boekoe. A Maroon
(Escaped slaves of African origin) defensive bastion from colonial times.
Initiatives to crank up archaeological significance in Suriname have been
undertaken by Dr. Laura van Broekhoven, conservator of the Meso- and Southern
American collection of the National Museum of Ethnology and lecturer at the
Leiden University’s faculty of Archaeology, in 2009. These efforts were mainly
aimed at developing an academic structure on the field of history, archaeology,
museum and archival science (CIE/Directoraat Cultuur 2009, 14).
Cooperation between Suriname and Holland does not only exist on a bilateral
scale. There is also cooperation on Municipality level between several Dutch
cities and Suriname. Due to the growing number of international collaborations
between Dutch local governments and the Suriname government, a platform (The
Suriname Platform) was founded in 2001. This encourages more coherence and
coordination in the field of international collaboration with Suriname by Dutch
local governments. The participating municipalities are The Hague, Rotterdam,
Amsterdam, Arnhem, Spijkenisse and Lelystad. On the Dutch side the
municipalities provide concrete know how to their Surinamese colleagues.
Other agreements are on the level of foundations, and for example exist
between “SGES” (Stichting Gebouwd Erfgoed Suriname), founded in 1997, and
“Stichting Herstelling”. This communal development agreement dates from the
year 2002 and is a bilateral agreement that realized the above mentioned
restoration of the officers quarters in Fort Zeelandia which houses the Nola
Hatterman Institute. (Center for International Heritage Activities, 2011).
Cooperation since 2004 also includes the participation of “SAO” (Stichting
Arbeidsmobilisatie en Ontwikkeling). An organization that deals with
professionalizing the labor force.
From the Dutch side also the “AWAD” (The Atlantic World and the Dutch)
project was established. It was an initiative by the “Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal,
Land- en Volkenkunde” (The Royal Dutch Institute of Southeast Asian and
Caribbean Studies) in the city of Leiden, supported by the “Gemeente archief
Amsterdam” (Municipal Archive Amsterdam), the Dutch Royal Library, the
Dutch National Archive, the University of Rotterdam and Leiden, the “KITT”
(Royal Tropical Institute Tropical Museum) and the “NiNsee” (Slavery Institute).
It aims to preserve and study the mutual cultural heritage resulting from Dutch
contact with the peoples of both Africa and the Americas over a period of some
five hundred years.
The initial stage of the project began in February 2004 and was jointly
funded by the “NWO” (Dutch Organization for Scientific Research), and the
“HGIS” program (Dutch Culture Fund), for intensifying international cultural
relations of the Dutch ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education, Culture and
Science. A main objective is to identify relevant written sources held within
collections both in the Netherlands and abroad. A secondary element of the
project involves investigating current and future historical research projects, in
particular those pertaining to the tangible and intangible legacy of the Dutch
overseas presence, as well as initiatives regarding the management and
preservation of records. (awad.kitlv.nl/Introduction, 2012)
Within this program, both in Suriname and Holland, meetings take place on
frequent basis. Within these meetings subjects discussed relate to intangible but
also the tangible heritage (Menke, Eggers, Stripriaan and Willemsen, 2006). In
case of the latter, especially with regard to built heritage, the museum sector and
the archiving sector, as described in the Dutch-Surinamese governmental
The main objectives of the “AWAD” project are:
– Preservation, accessibility and study of cultural heritage formed over 500 years
of Dutch interaction with cultures in the Atlantic region;
– Creating an Atlantic Network of institutions, experts and projects relating to this
shared Cultural heritage;
– Developing joint projects and securing financial support.
Archaeologists who presented their efforts within this framework are:
Prof. Dr. Corinne Hofman, archaeologist of pre-Columbian period from Leiden
University, Faculty of Archaeology.
– Dr. Renzo S. Duin, former PhD at University of Florida, and at present a
postdoctoral researcher in Amazonian archaeology and anthropology at Leiden
University, Faculty of Archaeology.
– Dr. Jay B. Haviser, Archaeologist of colonial America, the Netherlands Antilles:
Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Martin. Working at the Bonaire Archaeological institute and
the St. Maarten Archaeological Center.
The studies they introduced were on the field of Wayana social-political
landscapes in Suriname (R. Duin), and the extent of archaeological work, its
significance, and concerns with heritage management in the Caribbean (C.
Hofman and J.B. Haviser).
3.3 UNESCO, Suriname and international Conventions on Protection of
World Cultural Heritage
To protect particular World Cultural Heritage the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1972 adopted the Convention
Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Suriname
at the moment has two sites on the World Heritage List. The Central Suriname
Nature Reserve (CSNR) and the historical city center of Paramaribo. Since 2007
also another site is nominated for the World Heritage List. The Jodensavanne and
its Cassipora graveyard. Until now this has not been realized.
In this chapter the main question is about how choices in management of the
cultural heritage are made.
Decision making at the level of international agreements with regard to
protecting cultural heritage started in 1993. On 5 October 1993 a Surinamese
Delegation to UNESCO’s 27th General Assembly submitted a resolution whereby
the importance of the Historic Inner City of Paramaribo for the World Heritage
was stressed. The UNESCO was asked for financial support to preserve the
unique historic city centre of Paramaribo. The Director General of the UNESCO
supported this resolution. However, it was important that Suriname should ratify
the World Heritage Convention (SGES, 2011. 8-9). This resulted in ratification of
the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural
Heritage. Paris, 16 November 1972., by the Surinamese government. It was
accepted on the 23rd October 1997. This started an extensive process to get the
inner city of Paramaribo on the World Heritage List. This would finally lead to
inclusion in 2002.
Fig. 10: Article 1. Definition of the cultural heritage in: Convention concerning the
protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. Adopted by the General
Conference at its seventeenth session Paris, 16 november 1972 .
In Article 1 of the convention (Fig. 10), archaeology is specifically mentioned.
Preservation of the historic city center and its inclusion in UNESCO’s World
Heritage List is considered as an international recognition, not only of the heritage
in question, but also of Suriname as an independent nation. The aesthetic value
also plays an important role. The heritage is regarded as prestigious, accords
status and has a special historical value (Van Maanen 2011, 184).
For the purpose of this Convention, the following shall be considered as “cultural
monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting,
elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings
and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the
point of view of history, art or science;
groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of
their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of
outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science;
sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including
archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical,
aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view.
Ratification of other UNESCO conventions with regard to the tangible cultural
heritage didn’t take place yet. These include the:
– Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed
Conflict with Regulations for the Execution of the Convention. The Hague, 14
– Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event
of Armed Conflict. The Hague, 14 May 1954.;
– Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import,
Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Paris, 14 November
– Protocol to the Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Materials, with Annexes A to H. Nairobi, 26 November 1976.;
– Second Protocol to the Hague Convention of 1954 for the Protection of Cultural
Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The Hague, 26 March 1999.;
– Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage. Paris, 2
– Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Paris, 17
– Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural
Expressions. Paris, 20 October 2005.
3.4 Problems and benefits of inclusion of Paramaribo as a World Heritage
In 2011 E. van Maanen presented his dissertation on Colonial Heritage and
Ethnic Pluralism. Three research questions were formulated to find out the socialpsychological
meaning of colonial heritage in a multiethnic community. The
focus was on the Surinamese capital Paramaribo and its inscription to the World
Heritage List. These questions were:
– To what extent do people with different ethnic backgrounds attribute different
socio-psychological meanings to heritage through their degree of involvement and
attitude towards colonial heritage?
– In what way there is a relation between different socio-psychological meanings
of heritage on the one hand and involvement and attitude towards colonial
heritage on the other, for the different ethnic population groups in a community?
– To what extent does colonial heritage act as binding factor between plural ethnic
population groups in a community?
(Van Maanen 2011, 169)
Differences in attitude between people from different ethnicity appeared in
this research more related to the process of attitude formation. Ethnicity didn’t
seem to lead to a different expression in socio-psychological meaning attached to
colonial heritage and the degree of involvement. Secondly it was found out that a
significant positive relation exists between involvement in heritage preservation
and a relatively positive socio-psychological meaning that is attached to colonial
heritage. The final question was most difficult to answer. The research revealed
that colonial heritage as such can act as a binding factor between the various
ethnic population groups. Nevertheless, there are differences in the extent to
which one ascribes this role to colonial heritage. Differences occurred within the
clusters of opponents, indifferent and proponents’. These differences were more
related to level of education. In this regard people with a lower level of education
were more indifferent towards colonial heritage. People with higher level of
education fell more within the clusters of opponents and proponents’. (Van
Maanen 2011, 168-169)
It is merely the physical presence of these resources which constitutes the
foundation for the emergence of a sense of involvement which contributes and/or
may lead to a sense of national unity or identity. The interpretation of these same
resources and the way in which this process leads to attitude formation, differs
across the various ethnicities. (Van Maanen 2011, 170)
The continuation of his dissertation makes clear that the burden that results
the inclusion of Paramaribo on the World Heritage List is related to finance but
even more to managing of the process. As a public authority, it is the primary task
of “SGES” (Stichting Gebouwd Erfgoed Suriname) or Built Heritage Trust
Suriname, to optimize the management of historic buildings in Paramaribo. This
means that, at the moment, the SGES performs a pivotal function in the creation
of an organizational structure aimed at accomplishing this task. It has an advisory
role towards the Ministry of Education and Community Development (MINOV)
and renders services in the area of laws and regulations. As official site manager
SGES occupies a key position where providing information and awareness to the
local community is concerned. Both make up strategic objectives in UNESCO
policy. Implementation of these tasks is proceeding slowly and with difficulties.
There is a shortage in physical managing capacity and finances. Besides available
government funds the foundation depends on foreign gifts and grants. Other
advisory offices concerned with demolition, renovation and alterations are the
“commissie monumentenzorg” (Commission Monument Caretaking) and
“bouwcommissie” (Building Commission) with respect to new building. The
distribution over more than one commission results in inadequate access to legal
framework in fulfilling SGES tasks. Task of the SGES confines itself as a result
mainly to informing the MINOV. Van Maanen concludes SGES should focus on
the very important task of awareness and information activities. The government
should take its responsibility in providing the right legal managing framework and
In addition Van Maanen concludes government policy should not be
sought in the context of the socio-psychological meaning. He proposes a factual
change in function of the city centre. This is reducing government presence in
favor of expanding recreational and tourism functions. Increased use value and
cohesion on political, social and economic grounds can lead to better conservation
of the colonial heritage of Paramaribo. It creates possibilities for the various
ethnic groups. The SGES may possibly assume a more prominent role in such a
Proofs of such use at present are the “De Waag” (Weighing House) in the
city center that functions as tourist centre, gallery, restaurant and grand café, plus
the numismatic museum of the Central Bank of Suriname at the Lim A Po-street
that besides tourists attracts students and school groups. (Van Maanen 2011, 237238)
Future research should, according to Van Maanen, be undertaken into the
deeper underlying dimensions as an explanation for differences in interpretation.
An even more important study he notes, is necessary on the level of discrepancy
between policy planning and implementation. The focus of attention should be on
awareness and involvement of the local community. How can the local residents
be involved in the process of heritage planning, management and preservation, in
such a manner that it results in a positive contribution without interfering with the
effectiveness and efficiency of this process? This also counts for the awareness of
the government, being one of the most important stakeholders. They are falling
short in a number of important aspects regarding heritage planning, management
In setting up follow-up research in these topics an interdisciplinary
approach should be followed. His research makes clear the complexity and
interwovenness within which heritage interpretation processes take place.
Government performance, local participation and involvement, NGOs and other
actively involved stakeholders, cannot be studied separate and isolated from each
other, if you want to fathom and possibly explain the process related to heritage
interpretation in a multiethnic society. (Van Maanen 2011, 241-242)
3.5 A conclusion with regard to heritage policy, cooperation frameworks and
Attention to preservation of listed built heritage in Suriname, already started in the
beginning of the 1960s. Since that time it was mainly of concern to a few national
and international professionals in the field of architecture (Van Maanen 2011,
215). The process for inclusion of the inner city of Paramaribo on the UNESCO
World Heritage List started halfway through the 1990s after a long period of
political instability from 1975 onwards. In the process, Suriname like other postcolonial
for which selected aspects of the past, understood as heritage, serve as
inspiration or foundation. When we look at the Surinamese Culture Policy this
process is still at full swing. The reassignment of the more intangible landmarks,
like names of streets and other public spaces, is already far behind us. The
interesting thing about Suriname is that its policy tried to revitalize the colonial
inner city of Paramaribo as cultural binding factor. Besides this, also an awareness
about cultural plural diversity by cultural experience should lead to forming the
nations new identity. In Surinamese policy making, the emphasis partly is on the
latter. Recapitulating policy with respect to Paramaribo and the UNESCO World
Heritage List, there can be concluded this policy fueled many initiatives on the
field of cultural research, discussions, cooperation (on national and international
level), recapitulation of identity, but also insights on policy making and public
The difficulty in Suriname is very much implicit in its level of cultural
diversity. No single group is over-represented. This can be interpreted as an
obstacle. It can be argued that it discourages assimilation and stifles integration.
As the Surinamese politicians noticed, it can also be seen as an enrichment and
ground for accomplishing mutual respect. Forming a nation is very much based on
cooperation and improving a collective standard of life. As concluded in Chapter
2 this might be achieved by reflection on the trajectory that is underlying present
day society. Not just by experiencing present cultural diversity but also by
studying and educating the process of socio-cultural formation in the past. This
includes the entry of different cultural identities in colonial times, seen within a
regional and world context, but especially by giving more time-depth to cultural
and natural origins within the country and the region. What is peculiar to country,
region and humanity should become clear to a broad audience within Suriname.
From this perspective choices within heritage management should be made. This
might be the implication of the word fostering or the Dutch word “veredeling”
that is used in the National Culture Policy. Pride should be sought in what the
country, region and its inhabitants have to offer, its uniqueness and in its
achievements until now. Further achievements in the first place can be realized by
political cooperation, also within heritage management.
The research by E. van Maanen stressed our earlier finding that significance
and value are primary related to physical presence and contemporary degree of
involvement (Chapter 2). The notion that significance and value within the field
of tangible cultural heritage should not primary be sought in present obvious
physical heritage and degree of material content, but perhaps more within degree
of involvement and information value, might open new perspectives for
Surinamese society. Especially on the field of archaeology and cultural
A socio-psychological meaning should be connoted to involvement and intrinsic
to the process of cooperation that results from the management and preservation
of cultural heritage. In this working together there still is progress to make. Also
in Suriname, policy making with respect to the cultural heritage is still happening
more on behalf of the public that policy makers serve, but not for them (Carman
2005, see chapter 2). As already mentioned in Chapter 2, and shown through more
thorough orientation in this chapter, it became clear that the inclusion of
Paramaribo at the World Heritage List not only fueled many cultural initiatives
but also results in financial and organizational responsibilities that seem to
overstretch Surinamese national capacity at present.
The contemporary state of the cultural heritage policy could be improved by
increasing use value and cohesion on political, social and economic grounds. A
shifting function of the city center and an interdisciplinary approach. Especially
with respect to this interdisciplinary approach deficiencies can be seen. In E. van
Maanens’ study, as well as in Surinamese policy regarding national tangible
heritage, the absence of the indigenous Indian population is striking. Within
policy formulation there is room for experiencing contemporary Amerindian
culture. This can be read in the goal to accomplish cultural encounters to let
people experience, see and feel cultural diversity. A vision that is very much in
line with the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the
Diversity of Cultural Expressions. That these cultures are embedded within
national natural environment and the landscape, so fundamental to the history of
the country and beyond, seems of minor importance within heritage projects and
forming national identity. Also Van Maanen doesn’t give Amerindians a voice.
Whatever his motivation may be to exclude them from further research, it gives
the impression that the country’s capital city center doesn’t belong within their
landscape or reference framework. Nor does it incorporate them in the onset to
future national awareness. The rise of this city occurred on their territory. The
center is built on shell ridges formerly occupied by lowland groups of Indians.
Since that time the city and its settlers maintained contact with these cultural
groups. In a positive as well as a negative sense. An important ethical question is,
what impact changing society had on Amerindian culture, especially within the
Surinamese lowland and what impact it has on remaining Amerindian cultures at
present. Heritage promotion does also happen within programs on Mutual
Cultural Heritage between the Netherlands and Suriname. Discrepancy does also
exist when we look at the three main chosen sectors of cooperation: the built
heritage, the museum and archiving sector. They all concentrate mostly on
historic times and follow the perspective of colonial past. Archaeology and preColumbian
only of concern to a limited
group of mainly Western scholars. They do ask attention for their subject within
the existing culture discourse and heritage management. That the scientific field
of archaeology should contribute starts to get a cautious hearing in Suriname
when we read the consultation draft of the Paramaribo World Heritage Site
Management Plan 2011-2015. Archaeological significance is mentioned in
paragraph 2.3 of this text that has been drafted by SGES (SGES Consultation
Draft 2011, 21-21). This probably will be the merit of UNESCO’s definition of
cultural heritage and enlisting of Paramaribo to the World Heritage.
In the next two chapters an overview will be given of past archaeological work
in Suriname, followed by recommendations for a future approach.
4. Archaeological heritage
This chapter recapitulates past and present policy concerning the cultural
archaeological heritage. First past and present researche programs within and
outside the country are discussed. Afterwards in politics. Central research
What is the present position of archaeology in Suriname?
– What archaeological work or work by archaeologists is being executed at
– How and why is this initiated?
– Who participate in these projects and where do they receive their funding?
4.1 Pre-Columbian Suriname
The Guianas, to which Suriname belongs, form an island bordered by the Amazon
and Negro rivers, the Orinoco Rivers and the Atlantic Ocean (Versteeg 2003, 23;
Rostain 2008, 279). This is a very useful geographic concept for archaeology
because it is a self-contained culture area. Much that occurred in pre-Columbian
times within this island can be related to events and cultures found in Suriname
during that time (Versteeg 2003, 23).
Surinamese pre-Columbian history starts with Sipalawini hunters of the southern
savannas (Teunissen & Wildschut 1970; Knook, 1979 in Versteeg 2003, 28).
Sipalawini hunters probably lived in small family groups in the border area
between forest and savanna. Here water was available and this also attracted game
for hunting. Archaeological proof of those camps has yet been found (Versteeg
2003, 57). According to A. Boomert, two phases may be distinguished: One phase
of older Pleistocene big game hunters and a younger phase of hunters of deer and
other smaller animals (Versteeg 2003, 54). Archaeological, human presence
appears in finds of four kinds of projectile points in the Sipalawini Savanna as
well as choppers, scrapers, knives and debitage (Versteeg 2003, 53-54). Thirty
sites with interesting archaeological information from this era are located on
Surinamese territory. The information they contain is unfortunately very limited.
In the Venezuelan savannas, belonging to the same belt as the Sipalawini
Savanna, the situation is different. Charcoal and bones of extinct large game have
been found there, associated with the tools, all datable using the ¹⁴C method
(Versteeg 2003, 54)
There is a huge gap in the Surinamese archaeological data-base between the
Sipilawini hunters and the first pottery making farmers. Evidence of groups of
Alaka shellfish-gatherers who lived for millennia in coastal Guyana, from 6000
BC till 1400 BC, is not found. The presence of open savanna areas from the last
Ice age onwards can only be explained by presence of people between 5000 and
2000 BC. These areas could only stay open when set on fire by man on regular
basis (Versteeg 2003, 62-63).
About 4000 BC a new development of the typical South American Tropical Forest
Culture takes place. Details, location and time span of this particular development
are not obvious. This culture is characterized by new economic activities:
agriculture and al that this development brought with it.
Many aspects of this period are related to life and presence of
contemporary Amerindians within the Amazon region. More knowledge about
this earlier period will contribute to insights about Amerindian dispersion within
the region and to the rest of the Caribbean.
Classification of pre-Columbian groups in the Guiana’s is done according to their
pottery. Certain aspects of pottery, especially decoration, remain unchanged over
long periods of time and over large distances. Pottery type and decoration are
important aspects related to cultural identity. Another classification according to
language groups as is done in classifying present day cultural groups is not useful
for pre-historic Indians. We have no idea how they expressed themselves
linguistically. From historical times we also know that Amerindians from
linguistic different groups also make use of the same kind of material culture.
Following classification by using pottery, in Suriname three main traditions are
– Saladoid on two sites.
– Barancoid on three sites. This is also called Mabaruma culture and is mainly
known from neighboring Guyana.
– Arauquinoid tradition on many sites. Within this tradition three distinctive
cultures are seen.
The Hertenrits culture in Western Suriname.
The Kwatta culture in Central Suriname.
The Barbakoeba Culture in Eastern Suriname.
The names of the three main traditions are derived from city names in Venezuela
(Saladero, Barancas, Arauquin) where this kind of material for the first time was
found 50 to 70 years ago (Versteeg 2003, 78-79).
New information about first encounters between Amerindians and Europeans and
its consequences to Amerindian populations could be derived from continuation
of archaeological research. This will tell more about influence on their lives and
material culture, but it can also teach us more about disappearance of certain
societies. The encounters first took place within the coastal region and the major
river deltas. The same knowledge increase is possible with respect to Amerindian
and Maroon communities in more recent history.
4.2 Archaeological research from the 1940’s up to the independence in 1975.
Interest in Surinamese pre-history started in the 19
century when petroglyphs
were first mentioned by C.H Schomburgk in 1841. Van Sypesteyn in 1859
describes hollows in rocks as being grinding marks of battle-axes. C.J. Hering
who was born in Paramaribo in 1829 had a sharp eye for pre-Columbian artifacts.
The first more serious contribution to encouraging archaeological work in
Suriname can be ascribed to him. He sent stone axes to Dr. C. Leemans, director
of the National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden between 1860 and 1880.
Leemans publications of those axes in 1877, 1879 were the first scientific writings
about artifacts from Suriname (Geijskes 1960-1961, 70; Versteeg 2003, 41-42).
Hering also describes archaeological excavations in the Coronie District in 1898
in the catalogue for the Colonial Exhibition of 1899 in Haarlem. This paper is
entitled De Oudheden van Suriname. In the beginning of the 20
initiatives instigated by governor C. Lely result in cartographic expeditions to get
a better picture of the Surinamese hinterland. During these expeditions also much
knowledge about inhabiting groups of Indians was acquired. Especially
ethnographic information by Navy officer C.H. de Goeje deserves mention.
During expeditions archaeological finds are occasionally reported. Many Indian
objects were collected. This all contributed to an increasing attention for the
Surinamese indigenous culture and its past in the first half of the 20
Much more ethnographic information can be read from reports and publications
following fieldwork and encounters with the Amerindian in this same period.
Examples are W. Ahlbrinck and W.E. Roth.
4.2.1 Stichting Surinaams Museum (SSM)
The Stichting Surinaams Museum was founded in 1947. A suitable building
for their expositions, library and other activities was found in 1954. The most
active during the early years were Dr. D.C. Geijskes, a Dutch entomologist and
ethnologist who had an international renowned collection of insects and much
ethnographical material on the Trio and Wayana, and Dr. J.H. Ferrier, a teacher
and politician. Dirk Geijskes had excavated archaeological material in sand ridges
in and around Paramaribo that were brought to light during sand quarrying for the
extension of the road system. In 1951 these artifacts were analyzed by Peter R.
Goethals, a student of Prof. C. Osgood of Yale University. Later those artifacts
were understood as being of the Kwatta and Coriabo Cultures. Goethals also did
some excavations in sites near Paramaribo and in the District of Coronie and
Marowijne but his report remained unpublished.
When the Stichting Surinaams Museum opened the doors of its museum in the
Comewijnestraat in 1954, little was known and even less published about preColumbian
times. D.C. Geijskes as first director of the museum tried to remedy
this situation. He got his chance when soil scientist Ir. H. Dost discovered an
artificial mound, the Hertenrits, in coastal Western Suriname. After failing to get
professional help from the Netherlands Geijskes began excavations himself in
October 1957 (Toebosch 2003, 85; Versteeg 2003). The excavated artifacts and
field drawings were catalogued in the museum and the artifacts were numbered.
Geijskes report on the excavations was never published. Following excavations, at
Commetewanekreek and Onverdacht, were published soon after the fieldwork.
These sites had yielded Coriabo pottery that could be compared to material
described by Meggers & Evens (1955). Some Hertenrits findings were discussed
in a paper that Geijskes presented at the first Archaeological Congress of the
Lesser Antilles, in 1961. Geijskes’s Hertenrits excavations drew the attention of
other scholars. This led to pollen sampling in charge of palynologist Prof. Dr.
Thomas van der Hammen and a resulting publication. J. Tacoma (1963) studied
human bone from the Hertenrits mound and also from the large Kwatta Tingihollo
site near Paramaribo. Geijskes’s archaeological efforts continued until his depart
to the Netherlands in 1965 (Versteeg 2003, 46-50).
4.2.2 Institutionalization of archaeology and ethnology
In 1964 Dr. P. Glazema, the director of the Dutch National Archaeological
Survey (ROB) in Amersfoort, visited Suriname to advise on the
institutionalization of archaeology and ethnology in Suriname. His visit just lasted
19 days, and was from his personal viewpoint just an orientation on the country,
but it resulted in a detailed report and advice. His ideas were intended to preserve
the archaeological heritage in the event of ongoing economic and cultural
development as well as they focused on archaeological and heritage use value
from an economic point of view (Glazema 1964, 3-4). In his report P. Glazema
advised the Surinamese Government to set up an Institute of Archaeology and
Ethnology. His visit was funded by STICUSA, the foundation for cultural
cooperation between Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands
(Glazema 1964, 1; Toebosch 2003, 94; Versteeg 2003, 50). As a result of
Glazema’s report an Archaeological Institute was founded as part of the Stichting
Surinaams Museum (SSM) in 1965 (Versteeg 2003, 50).
During the first half of the 1960s, Geijskes was assisted by Mr. P.
Bolwerk. In these years the infrastructure of Suriname expanded considerably.
This revealed important archaeological sites. Especially during the construction of
airfields, as more often happens within the Caribbean. Apart from Hertenrits,
Geijskes largest and most excavations were at Kwatta Tingiholo, near Paramaribo
and Moengoe-Bushmanhill. After D.C. Geijskes left Suriname in 1965, his
archaeological work was formally continued by P. Bolwerk who left Suriname in
1970. Actually it was continued by forester F.C. Bubberman, often assisted by a
geologist J.J. Janssen. These two boards of the SSM found numerous
archaeological sites, collected artifacts and considered sites within their ecological
In 1970 advisory tasks of Glazema (ROB) were taken over by P.J.R.
Modderman, at the time also a professor of prehistoric archaeology at Leiden.
STICUSA sent one of his graduate students, E.J.H. Boerstra , to the Netherlands
Antilles. Modderman and Boerstra visited Suriname in 1972. Subsequently two
more students from Leiden came to Suriname. Benjamin S. Mitrasingh to write a
Master’s thesis on the Kwatta Tingiholo site and artefacts excavated by Geijskes,
and Mrs. B. Heldring to report on Geijskes’s Moengoe-Bushmanhill material. In
1972 the restored Fort Zeelandia was donated to the SSM. The building at Zorg en
Hoop remained available. Here the archaeological laboratory as well as the
museum library remained. J. Douglas became the museum’s new appointed
Director. (Versteeg 1998, 219-221)
As a result of the activities of Douglas, Bubberman, Janssen and Modderman
on a decision-making level, supported by political concern of F.E.M. Mitrasing
(Boomert, personal communication, February 2012), Minister of Education and
Peoples Development in 1972-1973, and financial support from STICUSA, the
first professional archaeologist Arie Boomert arrived in 1973 ( Boomert, personal
communication, February 2012; Versteeg 1998, 221). A. Boomert was confronted
with a large number of archaeological material that had not been published
adequately. He reported on these collections and did additional field excavations.
He presented a paper on Suriname’s raised fields at the International
Archaeological Caribbean Congress in Guadeloupe and returned to Leiden in
1975 to prepare his Ph.D. thesis. Later on he published several papers about
Suriname’s archaeology, mostly based on artifacts and information collected by
Geijskes, Bubberman and Janssen (Versteeg 1998, 221).
4.3 Archaeology in a new country from 1975 onwards.
After Surinamese independence in 1975, A.H. Versteeg was appointed as the new
archaeologist of the SSM. He was paid from the Dutch development funds that
came available after the independence. This appointment lasted from 1975 until
1981. Versteeg and Boomert agreed upon their working fields. A. Boomert would
publish about the ‘old’ material. A.H. Versteeg would try to collect new
information in the field. Also two assistants were appointed, Mrs. A. Soedhoe and
M. Sheombar, and received field training. (Versteeg 1998, 222-223)
During the time at the SSM, Versteeg used results from his fieldwork in
several publications. Information on the western Suriname coastal sites was
retrieved in twelve months of fieldwork campaigns from 1978 till 1980. After his
return to Leiden, Versteeg wrote his Ph.D. dissertation, financed by WOTRO
(Dutch Organization for Tropical Research), on the sites of the western Suriname
coastal plain, published by the ROB in 1985 (Versteeg 1985; 1998, 225).
At the end of 1980, Versteeg was succeeded by the third archaeologist
B.S. Mitrasingh. At the same time the Archaeological Institute became a separate
institute as part of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The role of the SSM in
archaeology as such almost ended. In the economically difficult 1980’s
Mitrasingh started a program oriented on education. Together with a physical
anthropologist M.R. Khudabux, he excavated the Kwatta Tingiholo site (19831986).
After 1981, due to the political instability, Dutch payments from the
development funds came to an end. During the political and economic arduous
eighties, attention to archaeology diminished. This also counts for the overall
heritage concern. The present author couldn’t find any significant information
related to heritage or archaeological research from this period. The only
publication from these years comes from Versteeg. As he writes in 1998, most of
the current archaeological data was supplied from fieldwork in the periods 19571963
the Surinamese cultural heritage lasted almost a decade. Revitalizing of heritage
concern started in 1993, as was mentioned in chapter 3.3. This can be interpreted
as an effect from the restructuring of society and search for a new government
identity. The election of Ronald Venetiaan as the new president in 2000, signaled
the start of a new period of intensified political relations between Suriname and
the Dutch and renewed multilateral concern and initiatives with regard to the
4.4 Archaeological work and standards in the 21
At present, after the first twelve years of the 21
century, we still see
archaeological initiatives. These initiatives are both more archaeological and on
the anthropological level.
In the last ten years A. Versteeg has remained more or less connected to the
SSM. He wrote an overview on archaeological work in Suriname, Suriname
Before Columbus, that was published in 2003 by the SSM , sponsored by the
companies: Staatsolie (State oil), Suralco L.L.C. (Surinam Aluminum Company
L.L.C.), BHP Billiton (World’s largest natural resource company), Self Reliance
(Surinamese insurance company) and the Dutch OCW (Dutch Ministry of
Education, Culture and Science). Another scientific publication is still
forthcoming. This publication is a scientific report about his research on the
Werephai archaeological site, a site in south-western Suriname, discovered by the
Trio Indian Kamanja. After discovery this became a project of the SSM and CIS
(Conservation International Suriname). Fieldwork took place in August/
September 2005. Within this research Versteeg has been working in close
cooperation with Dr. Abelardo E. Sandoval of the Smithsonian Institution. Also
the strong support of the Trio indigenous population has to be mentioned. The site
revealed a great number of petroglyphs. This discovery increased the amount of
known pre-Columbian petroglyphs in Suriname from 192 up to 505. An
exhibition on the result of the research is being expected, as well in Paramaribo as
Kwamalasumutu. Financial support is provided by the SSM, CI, Smithsonian
Institute and BHP Billiton. (Versteeg 2007)
Other archaeological work currently is being undertaken by Dr. Cheryl White.
She is an American archaeologist of Jamaican origin. She works especially on the
subject of Maroon sites in Suriname and Jamaica. She is a member of the Maroon
Heritage Research Project led by Dr. E. Kofi Agorsah, a professional
archaeologist from the Volta Region of Ghana. Cheryl White is also looking into
possibilities to develop an archeological institute in Suriname. Her special interest
on the Maroon from Suriname can be explained by the fact that of all the Maroon
communities throughout the Caribbean and circum-Caribbean, Suriname’s
Maroon communities are the most uniquely maintained (Abeng Central 2011;
White 2010). She presented on the 24
AIAC congress at Martinique that the
Maroons from Suriname are considered tribal people under the United Nation
convention 169. In 2007 The Inter-America Court of Human Rights (IAHCR)
adjudicated that environmental and social impact assessments are to be done prior
to the extraction of natural resources in the Maroon territory of Suriname. Being
designated tribal means that the Maroon can benefit from UN regulations on tribal
people as well as IAHCR proceedings in favor of Maroon management of their
socio-cultural identity vis-à-vis traditionally occupied Amazonian territory. S.
White explained she tries to implement a strategy to preserve material culture
relevant to preservation of Maroon ancestral land and government interest (White
Related historical, but until now less specific, archaeological fieldwork has
been undertaken recently in cooperation with the Dutch Leiden University. Since
1997 four expeditions have been undertaken by the ‘Boekoe foundation’ in an
effort to retrieve the location of the fortress Boekoe site, a defensive structure of
escaped Black African slaves or Maroon. The last expedition took place in august
2011. These expeditions didn’t end up in a substantial archaeological excavation
yet, but are being expected to continue until this goal is achieved. The project
tried to secure participation of the Anton de Kom University Suriname, but wasn’t
able to involve students or personnel in their jungle expeditions. Disadvantage and
risk to travel and camp in a tropical swamp environment are considered to be
main reasons (Klomp, Pel & Pel 2008; Hoogland, March 2012, personal
communication). This can also be concluded reading the interview with Cheryl
White by Abeng Central. Physical circumstance are similar for those expeditions.
Finally I will give a broad overview of present research work in the field of
cultural and physical anthropology, by archaeologists in relation to Suriname.
Most of them are from Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology and mostly
have a western Dutch background. This is likely to be an incomplete overview.
There will be more researchers concerned with Suriname but they are more
difficult to track.
Within sight of Leiden University are the following researchers. First to be
mentioned is Dr. Renzo S. Duin. His field of interest is especially the deep-time
cultural history of the frontier zone of Suriname, French Guiana and Brazil with
the contemporary Wayana indigenous people (Duin 2010, personal webpage UF).
Since 1996, Dr. Duin has conducted fieldwork among the Wayana in Guiana.
Renzo Duin obtained his doctorate at the University of Florida, the United States
of America, in 2009 (Duin 2012, archaeology.leiden.edu).
A second scientist, doing Ph.D. research on Suriname at Leiden University, is
Jimmy L.J.A. Mans. He elucidates the perishable in pre-colonial Caribbean
material culture and investigates mobility within a Trio Amerindian village in
Suriname. He is conducting fieldwork in the Guyana’s in which material culture is
bound up in an Amerindian social framework. Reasoning will start from the
ethnographic data, and a dialogue will be created between ethnography, ethno
historical sources and scarce archaeological evidence (Mans 2012,
archaeology.leiden.edu). Other work performed in cooperation with Leiden
National Museum of Ethnology is on the inventory of the museum collection and
the Penard encyclopedia (see also chapter 3.2). This work is executed under
supervision of Dr. Laura N.K. van Broekhoven, Curator of Middle- and South
America at this museum and also a researcher lecturer on Amerindian
archaeology at Leiden University.
Another Ph.D. of importance is by Anne van Duijvenbode. Her Ph.D. research
proposes to investigate aspects of identity among the pre-Columbian and early
colonial societies of the circum-Caribbean by analyzing the practice of intentional
cranial modification (ICM). This will provide insight into the formation and
expression of social identities among the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and
the relations between different circum-Caribbean communities. The Ph.D. project
Facing Society is funded by the NWO program for Ph.D.s in the Humanities (Van
Duijvenbode 2012, archaeology.leiden.edu). This study among other things will
look at skeletal material and cranial modification of the Surinamese Tingiholo
Finally Irene Meulenberg deserves to be mentioned. In her Masters she also
spent time doing ethno-archaeological research in Suriname. In 2012 she wrote
her thesis named: Calabashes and bottle gourds from Suriname: A comparative
research between Maroons and Amerindians, with a case-study in Konomerume,
a Kari’na village (archaeology.leiden.edu).
4.5 Current archaeological heritage perspective
In this chapter an overview of archaeological work was presented. Within this
overview, much work that was done in the first half of the 20
The earliest inhabitants were last Ice Age Sipilawini savannah big game
hunters, followed by a long period of absence of visible human presence, until
coastal mound builders and first European contact. Early archaeological interest
from the 19
century preceded ethnographic work at the beginning of the 20
century. This was followed up by first archaeological excavations by Geijskes and
others and the museum establishment of the SSM in the late 1940s. With the rise
of institutionalized archaeology in the Netherlands, more official interest
commenced. The main trigger still was D.C. Geijskes. His important work
preludes the archaeological institutionalization in Suriname. Institutionalized
archaeology was funded from a Dutch Caribbean foundation STICUSA. After the
independence of Suriname in 1975 archaeology was paid by the Surinamese
government from postcolonial development fees.
In the early up to middle 1980s the in The Netherlands educated Surinamese
B. Mitrasingh is appointed and the post of archaeology moves from the SSM to
the Culture Directorate. Shortly hereafter Mitrasingh’s attention shifts away from
archaeology. In the early 1980s the political system and its legal framework
collapses. International financial support comes to an end. With respect to
archaeology the situation remains unchanged. A culture organizational framework
and also the division of archaeology only exists on paper within the Cultural
From this overview we can see that archaeology in Suriname is very much
connected to colonial and post-colonial politics. In 1993 when Suriname is
restructuring politics, culture starts to become topic again. The focus during this
time is on culture and heritage as a tool in new nation building, exemplified by the
nomination of the city center of Paramaribo for enlisting the UNESCO World
Heritage List. This project started to attract funding for preservation of
Suriname’s heritage. The subject already has been discussed in chapter 3. From
the year 2000, and the election of Ronald Venetiaan as new president, this process
continues and political focus starts to be more on the intangible heritage. The
whole UNESCO nominations process in combination with a more stable political
climate leads to a boost in cultural perception and intensified cooperation between
Suriname and the Dutch, especially in the field of common heritage between the
countries but also within an Atlantic and Caribbean context. On many fields of
cultural experience and development, revitalizing and discussion takes place.
When we look at archaeology we have to conclude that the subject almost
receives no significant attention, at least not from the administration. There is no
budget available. This situation is in the first place a result of the choices the
government makes within its political goals and international cooperation. Scarce
finances are in the first place invested in intangible heritage like creative arts and
industry: music, literature, theater, modern arts; national celebrations; Carifesta
(Caribbean festival) and also on UNESCO nominations. Within these projects the
government has to overcome serious financial but also organizational problems
like finding a proper legal framework. At the same time there is emerging
consensus within one of the organizations concerned with conservation of built
cultural heritage, the SGES (see chapter 3.5). Implementing archaeology is
mentioned in their consultation draft of the World Heritage Site Paramaribo.
Regrettably the SGES doesn’t have legal executive power. They have to share
their task with the administration that is not capable enough to take responsibility.
As well as for responsibilities on preserving the built heritage are not clear, there
also is no consensus on the organizational structure of archaeology. Individuals
who want to do research in Suriname have to notify the Culture Directorate. The
official archaeological chair also resides at the Culture Directorate but is unfilled.
At the same time the director of the museum Fort Zeelandia (SSM, an
independent trust since 2007 ), Laddy van Putten, outlines his view on the field of
archaeology. He works in close connection with former official archaeologist A.
Versteeg who lives in Holland and until recent was still appointed to the SSM.
From their publications it can be noticed that they know how to manage funding.
They make use of financial sponsoring by big multinationals that are exploiting
natural resources in Suriname. Examples are: ALCOA-SURALCO L.L.C., BHP
Billiton and SuriOil, strong market leaders that all propagate sustainability and
social responsibility. These organizations advertise with supporting projects of
safety, health care, environment and communities within their exploitation area.
This funding of the SSM will cost these companies relatively little compared to
the profits they make. The SSM approach needs research at a time of developing
new legislation for heritage management. It creates more perspective on
sustainable national development, especially with respect to heritage of the
indigenous people of Suriname.
4.6 Conclusion on Cultural Heritage Management and efforts in the field of
archaeology in Suriname
When we look at the overall archaeological work in Suriname, we can
conclude that current initiatives take place. Although there have been very critical
moments, especially at times of political instability, research did never totally
stop. Concern with the subject is, and has been most of the time, initiated by
individuals that in some occasions or because of certain fate came into contact
with the Surinamese indigenous culture and its archaeological record. Those
people, in times already relatively far behind us, were mostly well educated and
socio-culturally interested. They came from outside the field of archaeology and
had diverse professional backgrounds. Because of the colonial ties between the
Guyana’s and Europe, the Dutch and the Surinamese, most of them received their
education in Holland and carried out their profession in Suriname. When the
profession of archaeology emerged, also people educated within the field of
archaeology set foot on shore. At present the professional archaeologist not only
comes from Holland or Europe. They are also educated within the US and have a
Caribbean or South-American background, take part in projects concerned with
people from African origin or native to the America’s. The present question is:
Where is the archaeologist with a primary Surinamese background? The few that
took initiative seem to have been discouraged. A young generation of
archaeologists, still from abroad, sees the potential of the country and the subject
of archaeology. They do their research partly funded by their universities. Most of
them are self funded. They are eager and motivated for taking initiatives to reinstitutionalize
With respect to the research questions we can draw the following conclusions:
1. How does Suriname at present deal with the subject of Cultural Heritage
A closer look into policy making of the Surinamese government in the period
2006-2011 and a re-evaluation of research by E. van Maanen and bilateral
cooperation regarding the Surinamese cultural heritage and Dutch Surinamese
mutual heritage provides insights into the question of how Suriname at present
deals with Cultural Heritage Management.
From the retrieved information it can be concluded that Surinamese policy
in the first place focuses on economic progress and the establishment of stronger
cultural bonds between its citizens. The intention focuses on the intangible
cultural industry: tourism, music production, expressive arts and literature. At the
same time also the tangible heritage provides a feeling of a national bond and is
used to attract tourism for economic progress.
The influence that UNESCO World Heritage listing of Paramaribo has on
finances and management can be seen in the reorganization of the administration.
This needs to become more effective.
2. What is the present position of archaeology in Suriname?
The conclusion of this research is that archaeology does not get sufficient official
attention. An awareness of its relevance within Cultural Heritage Management
still exists. This is clear from the fact that the department still exists as a name on
paper within the organization chart of the Culture Directorate.
There also is awareness about importance of giving researchers access to
the country but the government does not give research an active role in achieving
progress for its inhabitants. There is no sufficient understanding of how
archaeological research could be used for peoples cultural benefit. Archaeology is
not a priority due to limited finances.
3. What could be the future of Cultural Heritage Management and archaeology in
Archaeology still has international and national relevance. From the fact that there
is research going we can conclude that archaeology in Suriname has a future. This
future cannot be realized without participation and awareness of its benefits
within Surinamese society.
Many important questions remain for representatives of the Surinamese
people, the government of Suriname. Where is the legal framework? Who takes
responsibility for institutionalizing Surinamese archaeology? There is no
consensus in Suriname about the relevance of the profession and its field of
concern. How can relevancy within society be experienced when application of
the profession does not appear within the physical landscape that makes up
Surinamese perception? In the mean time vital scientific information disappears in
the process of economic development. What is the developmental trajectory that
the government follows with regard to experiencing people’s diversity, creating
national identity, giving time depth to the country’s natural and cultural existence
while ignoring certain peoples and the physical landscape’s past? Isn’t
Surinamese identity not just its past process of construction and its right of self
determination within the framework of its present territorial borders? What do the
Surinamese people teach their children about Surinamese diversity? Exploitation
is for the present, sustainability for the future. In the first place it is all about
finding the best way of managing. The intention of the last chapter is to provide
some recommendations in finding a strategy.
5 Continuation of archaeology within Surinamese heritage management
What could be the future of Cultural Heritage Management and archaeology in
5.1 Recommendation with respect to politics and archaeological research in
With respect to the political agenda Some targets for present day government can
To do right to the future of its citizens, the government could create more
possibility of choice. This would create the space for people in Suriname to take
part in multifarious discourse on the field of defining concepts about their own
society and its construct. This means: reflecting, constructing past, restructuring
present, managing and planning the future.
This can be achieved by offering possibilities for experiencing own history
and pre-history, especially within education. The experience of the country’s
diversity is already being made possible by many initiatives on the field of
cultural perception, especially: feasting, music, oral transfer, drama, religion, etc.
Public awareness of creation of the present day shared landscape can’t be optimal
as long as insights on its construct are not offered in education. This because
knowledge isn’t a static matter but a matter in evolution. Education doesn’t just
mean that the construct is being taught by means of books. It also has to be made
visible by experience and study versus research. The only way to do this is, by
bringing the past and the practice of research within physical experience. Because
the research on written sources just can give some vision on the past, also in
Suriname the science of archaeology should be made use of . This particular
science creates opportunities to learn to know or understand the past of the
common person, indigenous people and of people that preceded in more ancient
In practice this means the government needs to:
1. give archaeology a place into cultural heritage legislation with respect to its
protection and preservation;
2. give archaeological heritage management a functioning legal framework with
respect to execution;
3. define standards within heritage legislation for societal feedback of archaeological
4. orientate on financial possibilities and execute legislation for persistent
fundraising to ensure long term research investment.
These principals can be realized within the already existing heritage
framework. The government has to manage or facilitate archaeological work by
task distribution and cooperation between the SSM, Culture Directorate section
Archaeology and the SGES. Within these it has to be defined who is responsible
for planning and executing archaeological work, advisory work, fund-raising and
preservation or archiving of an archaeological collection.
To ensure a healthy scientific discourse, the archaeological and anthropological
researchers should be more aware of their societal responsibilities. Their focus
should not only be on the research but also on the establishment of their science
within society. The awareness of benefits and relevance of their work makes it
possible to uphold their scientific presence. A healthy scientific discourse can
only exist in close relation to the polychromatic society that is finally its own
To ensure awareness, of necessity and quality of its work, the archaeological
research in Suriname should:
1. increase its efforts on the field of public archaeology;
With respect to Suriname, important gain can be made from establishment of
historic archaeology in relation to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the inner
city of Paramaribo. Other archaeology within the more populated areas could also
concentrate on the archaeology of former plantations. Besides obtaining extra
knowledge about daily life in historic times this creates more possibility to inform
ordinary people and especially the young generation about importance of
archaeology. Main goal should be to bring the profession within Surinamese
young peoples’ perception.
With respect to the indigenous Amerindian and Maroon populations,
feedback already occurs within their societies. To bridge the gap between
Amerindian past, especially pre-Columbian past, and mutual colonial past, first
awareness of archaeological significance has to be established. Especially the
Amerindian pre-Columbian past is significant to give more time depth to regional
connectedness of the Surinamese landscape with respect to the rest of the
Caribbean. Surinamese politics and their efforts, do point in the direction of
integration within the regional context.
2. from the last point of view, the presence of archaeological Amerindian sites
within the confines of close populated areas be seized for their public function and
applied in campaigns of extracurricular peoples education;
3. strong multilateral funding should be established to embraced archaeology in the
Caribbean region and Suriname. This by virtue of its ability to provide time depth
to human existence and reconstructing awareness of being, within plural complex
4. ensure a healthy scientific discourse by means of archaeological debate with
scientists from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds and their subject
matter, to be said “the common person”;
5. couple back the results of findings to Surinamese society;
6. be aware that periods of les visible archaeological deposits doesn’t represent less
interesting human behavior. In the case of Suriname within the Caribbean region
this means that there is still an enormous deficit in knowledge about a very long
period of time, especially between 5000 and 2000 B.C.. Research needs to trace
more information about regional connectedness and movements of populations
trough time, following a more landscape oriented approach. . The recent Werephai
findings (5000 – 4200 B.P.) are proof that there is good possibility to encounter
more evidence about this long unknown period.
For so far these recommendations. More insights into proper execution should be
the result of future research. In this future research the contribution and practicing
of archaeological research in the region will be theme of most importance. Very
thorough comparative research on this subject will benefit legislation design.
This thesis is written as an orientation on heritage management and archaeology
in Suriname. To be able to draw conclusions on this subject, the discussion first is
on theoretical insights about heritage management. The theoretical discussion
emphasizes the western scholar perspective in heritage management as well as
archaeology. This western progressivist evolutionary perspective also has its
consequences for policymaking in Suriname. Decisions from the past are of
influence in the present. As a result UNESCO World Heritage enlisting of the
Paramaribo city centre has led to many initiatives on the level of cultural
perception but also is basic to a quite heavy financial and organizational
responsibility for Surinamese society. Further heritage policy making must take
notion of the existing commitments but also needs orientation on what fits the
market economy of the country. Both building a sense of national consciousness
and responsibility for the countries vulnerable Indigenous inhabitants and their
culture should be taken care of within future policy making.
From the before mentioned point of view archaeology and heritage
management opens new possibilities. Revitalization of archaeology within
Suriname could lead to an awareness of the processes that created present day
society and give greater time depth to human presence in Suriname. It has the
ability to set Surinamese history stronger within the regions communal past and to
create mutual understanding. To emphasize the possibilities of the discipline there
should be looked at better implementation of archaeology within existing
management frameworks. Also should be undertaken a better societal
advertisement of archaeological work. This can only be reached by making
archaeology more public within the country. In this manner valuable
archaeological information will be spared and cultural perception will increase.
De voor U liggende scriptie is geschreven als oriëntatie op de rol van archeologie
in erfgoedmanagement te Suriname. Om antwoord te kunnen geven op de vraag
wat de rol van archeologie in Suriname is en zou kunnen zijn, wordt in eerste
instantie gekeken naar hedendaagse erfgoed theorie. Hierin komt naar voren dat
erfgoedbeleid in het algemeen, ook in Suriname, sterk geworteld is in de westerse
academische denkcultuur. Wat betreft Suriname zal bij het nader ontwerpen van
beleid gekeken moeten worden welke strategie het best past bij land, inwoners
met een zeer diverse culturele achtergrond, financiële middelen plus sociaal en
organisatorisch vermogen. Het ontwerpen van nieuw beleid zal moeten aansluiten
op lopende internationale verplichtingen. Het Wereld Erfgoed, de binnenstad van
Paramaribo, trekt in dit opzicht een zware wissel op de relatief kleine financiële
markt. De bijschrijving van Paramaribo op de Wereld Erfgoed Lijst heeft tot op
heden wel geleid tot veel nieuwe initiatieven op het gebied van cultureel erfgoed
en haar beleving. Het resulteerde alleen niet in een versterking van de positie van
archeologie in Suriname. Het vakgebied is nooit helemaal weggeweest in het land.
Initiatieven worden, zo blijkt, tot op heden met name genomen door
geïnteresseerde personen van buiten Suriname die op eniger wijze met het
Surinaamse verleden in aanraking komen. Surinamers van geboorte, lijken echter
Beleidsmakers in Suriname spreken de wens uit identiteitsgevoel van het
land en haar inwoners te willen versterken. Het beoefenen van archeologie kan
daartoe bijdragen. Het is een tak binnen erfgoed management die ook binnen een
kleinschalige economie mogelijkheden geeft. Een aandachtstoename lijkt zowel
voor het nationaal bewustzijn als de wetenschap perspectief te bieden.
Archeologie kan meer tijdsdiepte geven aan verleden van het land. Het biedt
aanknopingspunten in regionaal opzicht. Het voorkomt dat verleden van
inheemse groepen wordt buitengesloten en vergroot culturele belevingswaarde
binnen Suriname. Om dit te realiseren is beter inkaderen binnen bestaande
organisatorische structuren noodzakelijk. Voor archeologen en beleidsmakers lijkt
het een taak het vakgebied duidelijker onder het voetlicht te brengen van de
Surinaamse bevolking. Dit ondermeer door een betere maatschappelijke
List of abbreviations
AWAD The Atlantic World And the Dutch
CARICOM Caribbean Community
CI Conservation International
CIE Centrum Internationale Erfgoed Activiteiten
(Center for International Heritage Activities)
CSNR Central Suriname Nature Reserve
GCE Gemeenschappelijk Cultureel Erfgoed
HGIS-C Homogene Groep voor Internationale Samenwerking
IACHR Inter-America Court of Human Rights
ICM Intentional Cranial Modification
KITT Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen Tropenmuseum
MINOV Ministerie van Onderwijs en Volksontwikkeling
MOP Meerjarig Ontwikkelings Plan
NiNsee Nattionaal instituut Nederlands slavernijverleden en erfenis
NWO Nederlandse organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
OCW Dutch Ministry of Education Culture and Science (Onderwijs
Cultuur en Wetenschap)
ROB Rijksdienst Oudheidkundig Bodemonderzoek
SGES Stichting Gebouwd Erfgoed Suriname
STICUSA Stichting voor Culturele Samenwerking
SSM Stichting Surinaams Museum
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
WOTRO Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek voor de Tropen (Dutch Organization
for Scientific Tropical Research)
List of Figures
Fig. 1: The Guyana’s (upper) 8
Fig. 2: Position of Suriname within South America (lower) 8
Fig. 3: Suriname,disputed territory excluded 8
Guiana_Suriname/Map_Of_Suriname/ (March 2012)
Fig. 4: Darvill’s value systems for archaeology 16
Source: Carman J.,
The trajectory of archaeology in Britain, 2005.
Fig. 5: Model of societal change and construct. 20
Fig. 6: The national escutcheon of the Republic of Suriname. 25
Fig. 7: The national flag of the Republic of Suriname. 25
Fig. 8: The National Culture Policy of Suriname. 26
Fig. 9: Organization chart of the Cultural Directorate. 30
Fig.10: Article 1. Definition of the cultural heritage in: 38
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