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Archaeologists find new evidence of animals being introduced to prehistoric Caribbean
Date:12/1/2011

An archaeological research team from North Carolina State University, the University of Washington and University of Florida has found one of the most diverse collections of prehistoric non-native animal remains in the Caribbean, on the tiny island of Carriacou. The find contributes to our understanding of culture in the region before the arrival of Columbus, and suggests Carriacou may have been more important than previously thought.

The researchers found evidence of five species that were introduced to Carriacou from South America between 1,000 and 1,400 years ago. Only one of these species, the opossum, can still be found on the island. The other species were pig-like peccaries, armadillos, guinea pigs and small rodents called agoutis.

Researchers think the animals were used as sources of food. The scarcity of the remains, and the few sites where they were found, indicate that the animals were not for daily consumption. "We suspect that they may have been foods eaten by people of high status, or used in ritual events," says Dr. Scott Fitzpatrick, an associate professor of anthropology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research.

"Looking for patterning in the distribution of animal remains in relation to where ritual artifacts and houses are found will help to test this idea," said Christina Giovas, lead author and a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington.

The team, which also included Ph.D. student Michelle LeFebvre of the University of Florida, found the animal remains at two different sites on the island, and used carbon dating techniques to determine their age. The opossum and agouti were the most common, with the latter remains reflecting the longest presence, running from A.D. 600 to 1400. The guinea pig remains had the shortest possible time-frame, running from A.D. 985 to 1030.

These dates are consistent with similar findings on other Caribbean islands. However, while these spe
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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