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Plants, People, and Culture in the Prehistoric Central Bahamas: A View from the Three Dog Site, an Early Lucayan Settlement on San Salvador Island, Bahamas

  • Mary Jane Berman (a1) and Deborah M. Pearsall (a2)

Abstract

Paleoethnobotanical remains from the Three Dog site (SS-21), an early Lucayan site located on San Salvador, Bahamas, are presented and compared to data from other prehistoric Caribbean sites. Flotation, in situ, and screen recovery (1/16", 1.58 mm) revealed six taxa of fuelwood and charred Sapotaceae seed fragments. Preliminary SEM analysis of six chert microliths revealed possible evidence of the Caribbean aroid, Xanthosoma sp. (cocoyam, malanga, yautía) or Zamia sp. The presence of Sapotaceae and possibly Xanthosoma sp. or Zamia sp. in the archaeobotanical record can be attributed to a number of alternative explanations. The site"s inhabitants may have transported these plants from their homelands and transplanted them to home gardens. An alternative view is that they exploited or managed wild representatives or created disturbed habitats that encouraged the spread of wild or cultivated forms. The pollen data from two Bahama cores, one from Andros, the other from San Salvador, reflect anthropogenic disturbance during the prehistoric occupational sequence. The increasing frequency of Sapotaceae pollen in the San Salvador sequence is consistent with the occurrence of Sapotaceae at the Three Dog site. Finally, preservation- and recovery-related issues are discussed. The study suggests that multiple means of data recovery must be employed to gain a more representative picture of prehistoric Caribbean plant use and floristic environment.

Resumen

En este estudio se presentan los restos paleobotánicos del sitio Three Dog (SS-21), un asentamiento doméstico Lucayano temprano que se localiza en San Salvador, Bahamas, y se comparan los datos con otros sitios prehistóricos del Caribe. Las muestras recuperadas mediante flotación, in situ, y en cribas (malla de 1.58 mm), representan seis taxa de madera empleada como combustible y fragmentos de semillas quemadas de Sapotaceae. Mediante el análisis preliminar con microscopio de barrido de electrones de seis microlitos de pedernal, se definieron evidencias probables de aroides caribeños, Xanthosoma sp. (cocoyam, malanga, yautía) o Zamia sp. La presencia de Sapotaceae y posiblemente Xanthosoma sp. o Zamia sp. en el registro arqueobotánico, puede atribuirse a una serie de explicaciones alternas. Los habitantes del sitio tal vez transportaron estas plantas desde su lugar de origen y las transplantaron en sus huertos domésticos. Una interpretación alterna es que explotaron o manipularon las plantas silvestres o generaron habitats alterados, que promovieron la dispersión de formas silvestres o cultivadas. Los datos polínicos de dos núcleos en Bahama, uno de Andros y otro de San Salvador, reflejan la alteraciones antropogénicas durante la secuencia ocupacional prehistórica. El incremento en la frecuencia de polen de Sapotaceae en la secuencia de San Salvador es consistente con la aparición de Sapotaceae en el sitio Three Dog. Por último, se discute la conservación en relación con temas asociados con la recuperación de polen. En este estudio se plantea que deben emplearse diferentes métodos para recuperar datos, de manera que se logre una imagen más representativa del uso de plantas y del ambiente florístico en el Caribe en épocas prehistóricas.

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Plants, People, and Culture in the Prehistoric Central Bahamas: A View from the Three Dog Site, an Early Lucayan Settlement on San Salvador Island, Bahamas

  • Mary Jane Berman (a1) and Deborah M. Pearsall (a2)

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