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

cies have been found on other islands, it is incredibly rare for one island to have remains from all of these species. Guinea pigs, for example, were previously unknown in this part of the Caribbean. The diversity is particularly surprising, given that Carriacou is one of the smallest settled islands in the Caribbean, though the number of remains is still not that large a pattern seen on other islands as well.

This combination of small geographical area and robust prehistoric animal diversity, along with evidence for artifact trade with other islands and South America, suggests that Carriacou may have had some significance in the pre-Columbian Caribbean as a nexus of interaction between island communities.

The animal remains are also significant because they were found in archaeological digs at well-documented prehistoric villages and the remains themselves were dated, as opposed to just the materials (such as charcoal) found near the remains.

"The fact that the dates established by radiocarbon dating are consistent with the dates of associated materials from the villages means the chronology is well established," says Fitzpatrick, who has been doing research on Carriacou since 2003. "In the future we'd like to expand one of the lesser excavated sites to get more information on how common these species may have been, which could shed light on the ecological impact and social importance of these species prehistorically."

The paper, "New records for prehistoric introduction of Neotropical mammals to the West Indies: evidence from Carriacou, Lesser Antilles," is published online in the Journal of Biogeography and was co-authored by Fitzpatrick, Giovas and LeFebvre. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation, NC State, the University of Washington and the University of Florida.


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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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