Date of this Version
Published in Environmental Archaeology, 2018 VOL. 23, NO. 1, 36–46.
This research documented the history of landscape transformation on the island of Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles, Caribbean through cross-disciplinary research approaches. Excavations confirmed a human presence for the seasonal exploitation of conch meat and other mollusks during the Archaic Age (c.3000–500 BC), but more substantial impacts to terrestrial ecosystems likely began during the Ceramic Age (c.500 BC–AD 1500). Our combined sedimentary and charcoal records revealed that human-induced environmental transformations began with Ceramic Age peoples as they cleared vegetation for settlements and gardens with intentional burning. Sedimentary charcoal indicated a dramatic decline in fire during post-Ceramic Age abandonment, continuing through the Colonial Period, as the dominant human activities shifted to herding, farming, and selective wood harvesting. Historical sources showed that during the Colonial Period (post-1492), the island was intermittently settled until the mid-seventeenth century, while the Codrington family of Antigua held the lease to the island from 1681 to 1870. They used the island for farming and stock-rearing, exporting meat and draught animals along with lime, timber, and subsistence crops. Macrocharcoal recovered from Colonial Period archaeological sites reflect the use of a variety of local species and wood imported to the island or harvested from shipwrecks.