Relive the Past

Small Islands Given Short Shrift In Assembling Archaeological Record

We’ve written history based on the bigger islands,” said Bill Keegan, a University of Florida archaeologistWorld Florida museum in historical whose study is published online in the journal Human Ecology. “Yet not only are we now seeing people earlier on smaller islands, but we’re seeing them move into territories where we didn’t expect them to at the time that they arrived.”

Early Ceramic Age settlements have been found in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Montserrat, for example, but are absent from all of the larger islands in the Lesser Antilles, Keegan said. And all of the small islands along the windward east coast of St. Lucia have substantial ceramic artifacts — evidence of settlement — despite being less than one kilometer, or .62 mile, long, said Keegan, who is curator of Caribbean archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus.
But small islands had coastlines rich with fish, and the absence of dense woodlands made them more suited to farming and hunting small prey such as iguanas, tortoises and hutias, a cat-sized rodent, he said.

“In the short term, small islands often are superior to larger islands, and for a variety of reasons, they were actually people’s first choice,” Keegan said. “They had better wind flow, fewer mosquitoes and more plentiful marine resources. With sufficient water and a relatively small amount of land to grow certain kinds of crops, they had everything one would need.”
In another case, pottery remains were found on an extremely tiny island in the Turks and Caicos that had little soil and was accessible only by a sand spit.

December 3rd, 2008 at 9:26 pm


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