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Department of Archaeology

Friday, 24 May, 2024 - 13:15
Event speaker: 
Sophie Rabinow, University of Cambridge

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Title: Molecular proxies for investigating Indigenous land use on Curaçao, Leeward Antilles (circa cal. AD 1227 – present)

Abstract: Caribbean is a globally significant biological hotspot whose terrestrial fauna and flora were shaped through land use and species introductions, starting with the earliest phase of human arrivals, around 4000 BC. On the island of Curaçao, located in the Leeward Antilles, archaeological investigations support an increase in the number of settlements and settlement persistence around AD 800, as well as the possible introduction of several continental mammals at this time. In AD 1499, Spanish colonizers arrived in Curaçao and developed ranching and logging activities; they were followed in AD 1634 by Dutch groups who exploited the land for agriculture, grazing, and salt production. Molecular proxies specific to certain organisms or processes (sometimes described as biomarkers in archaeology) can characterize human arrivals, change in plant species composition, and anthropogenic fire use. In this paper, I present the preliminary results for molecular proxies from a sediment core collected from Saliña Sint Marie (basal date circa cal. AD 1227), a lagoon on Curaçao’s western shore in proximity to pre- and post-Contact archaeological sites. Results advance understanding of the timing and evolution of land use strategies on Curaçao, which is crucial considering the challenging preservation conditions which characterize Caribbean archaeological sites. In addition to its cultural implications, this study contributes towards framing the impacts of Indigenous arrivals and activities on local ecosystems and therefore is valuable for establishing a longitudinal perspective for ecological research.


Contact name: 
Rosie Crawford
Contact email: 
Event location: 
McDonald Seminar Room
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