No Boundaries: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Documenting Two Millennia of Landscape Transformation on Barbuda, Lesser Antilles

Authors: Lisa Kennedy*, Virginia Tech, Allison Bain, Université Laval, Quebec, Allison R LeBlanc, Virginia Tech, Anne-Marie Faucher, Université Laval, Quebec, Michael J Burn, The University of the West Indies, Rebecca Boger, City University of New York, Sophia Perdikaris, City University of New York
Topics: Paleoenvironmental Change, Biogeography, Physical Geography
Keywords: paleoenvironment, archaeology, charcoal, sediment, Caribbean
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: Download


Using a cross-disciplinary approach, we documented the history of landscape transformation on the Caribbean island of Barbuda over the past 2000+ years. Barbuda, having not been affected by Colonial plantation agriculture common on many other islands, has retained much of its archaeological and paleoecological potential. We combined paleoecological, archaeological, historical, and geographical methods and data with the aim of unraveling the nature and extent of human-environment interactions especially during the Ceramic Age (~500BC–1300AD) and Colonial occupations. Excavations revealed seasonal exploitation of conch during the earlier Archaic period (~3000–500BP). Charcoal from both archaeological contexts and a sediment core, Freshwater Pond (FP2), point to increased land changes during the Ceramic Age. The presence of charcoal >125µm in most FP2 sediment samples dating to before 1650AD, combined with archaeological evidence, suggested regular biomass burning by Ceramic, and possibly Archaic Age, inhabitants to clear vegetation for settlements and gardens. The sedimentary charcoal record highlighted dramatic decline in burning after Ceramic Age peoples abandoned the island (~1300AD). Low charcoal continued as Europeans colonized the island and activities shifted to herding and wood harvesting. Wood macrocharcoal recovered from four archaeological sites representing both Ceramic and Colonial cultures revealed important information on selective use of woody plant taxa through time and across cultural shifts. The presence of charcoal of the endangered hardwood, Guaiacum officinale, suggests that the now-rare tree was more abundant in the past. Our interdisciplinary study provided a clearer picture of the spatial and temporal patterns of human-environment interactions than possible through single-discipline research.

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