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The legacy of 1300 years of land use in Jamaica

Elliott, S, Maezumi, SY, Robinson, M, Burn, M, Gosling, WD, Mickleburgh, HL, Walters, S and Beier, ZJM (2022) The legacy of 1300 years of land use in Jamaica. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. ISSN 1556-4894

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Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/15564894.2022.2078448 (Published version)


Despite decades of archaeological research on Jamaica, little is known about how settlers influenced landscape change on the island over time. Here, we examine the impact of human occupation through a multi-proxy approach using phytolith, charcoal, and stratigraphic analyses. White Marl was a continuously inhabited village settlement (ca. 1050–450 cal yrs BP) with large mounded midden areas, precolonial house structures, and human landscape management practices. We have shown that the local vegetation at White Marl was directly affected by human settlement through the use of agroforestry and burning, and suggest that fire was used to modify vegetation. Manioc phytoliths were found throughout human occupation and are broadly associated with increases in evidence for burning, suggesting fire was used to modify the landscape and clear vegetation for crop cultivation. The phytolith assemblages relate to three distinct temporal vegetation phases: (1) the earliest occupation dominated by arboreal vegetation (pre-ca. 870 cal yrs BP); (2) a transition to palm-dominated vegetation (ca. 870–670 cal yrs BP); and (3) the latest occupation representing European colonization associated with a more open, grass-dominated landscape (after ca. 670 cal yrs BP). These transitions occur independent of changes in paleoclimate records, suggesting humans were the dominant driver of vegetation change.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Archaeology; 2101 Archaeology
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2022 11:42
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2022 11:45
DOI or ID number: 10.1080/15564894.2022.2078448
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/18124
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