Native West Indian plant use


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Native West Indian plant use
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Newsom, Lee A
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
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    Table of Contents
        Page viii
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    List of Tables
        Page xi
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    List of Figures
        Page xvi
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    Chapter 1. Introduction
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    Chapter 2. Background and problem formulation
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    Chapter 3. Methodological approach
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    Chapter 4. Results of archaeobotanical analyses: Lesser Antilles and Bonaire
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    Chapter 5. Results of archaeobotanical analyses: Puerto Rico
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    Chapter 6. Results of archaeobotanical analyses: Hispaniola
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    Chapter 7. Summary and discussion
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    Appendix A. Systematic list of plant species identified in Caribbean archaeological sites
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    Appendix B. Plant identifications from En Bas Saline, Haiti: Seeds and non-wood remains
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    Appendix C. Wood identifications from En Bas Saline
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    Biographical sketch
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Full Text






To Woodrow

Copyright 1993


Lee Ann Newsom


Principal funding for various aspects of this research was provided by the National Science Foundation, grant numbered BNS 8903377, awarded to Dr. Elizabeth S. Wing. Additional funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, grant numbered BNS 8706697, the National Endowment for the Humanities, grant no. R02093585, the Organization of American States, and the National Geographic Society, all awarded to Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan. Additional support was provided by the Anthropological-Archaeological Institute of the Netherlands Antilles of Curacao, Proyecto Maisabel, the Ballaja Archaeological Project, Marisol Melendez, the National Park Service, Garrow and Associates, Inc., and the University of Florida. At the University of Florida, support from the Division of Sponsored Research, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Botany, and the Florida Museum of Natural History, is also gratefully acknowledged. Receipt of the Dickinson Award in Tropical Agriculture, and several research and teaching assistantships, was indispensable.

The members of my committee provided vital assistance

and contributed to the betterment of my research. First and foremost is Elizabeth Wing, my chair, whose abilities are myriad and who has greatly inspired my research in


ethnobiology. Liz shares freely of her time, ideas, and expertise, always with gentle words of guidance and encouragement.

My committee also includes Kathleen Deagan, whose enthusiasm is boundless. Kathy has been extremely supportive of paleoethnobotany, and has greatly helped to further the program directed by Elizabeth Wing in ethnobiologjy and environmental archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History. Bill Keegan has willingly shared his thoughts about prehistoric economies and human adaptation; I have benefited immensely from our discussions. Michael Moseley pointed the way to South American archaeology and issues centered on the origins of agriculture.

I can not convey enough thanks to the two botanists on my committee. Bill Stern initiated and nurtured my love for wood anatomy and economic botany, very graciously providing complete access to his extensive library. I will always cherish our discussions about the origins of Latin names, including the trick questions, and hearing stories behind some of the "greats" in wood anatomy. Jack Ewel is ever welcoming, frank, a great mentor, and friend. He has been an inspiration, helping me to direct my thinking and approach to my research.

Even though not formally on my committee, Dick Ford, Barbara Purdy, and Margie Scarry may as well have been


committee members. Throughout my graduate career they have provided guidance, sound advice, and encouragement.

I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from my

interactions with various Caribbean archaeologists. I would like to thank Louis Allaire, Annie Cody, Peter Drewett, Jay Haviser, Marisol Melendez, Bruce Nodine, Kees Schinkel, Carlos Solis Magana, Mike Roca, Peter Siegel, Virgina Rivera, Aad Versteeg, Guy Weaver, Ken Wild, and Sam Wilson, all of whom had the foresight to include paleoethnobotany in their Caribbean research. I appreciate their enthusiastic support of my endeavors. Peter Siegel, in addition, very graciously reviewed and commented on certain of my Caribbean manuscripts. Thanks also to Emily Lundberg, Yvonne Narganes Storde, Jose Oliver, Jim Petersen, Holly Righter, Marcio Veloz Maggiolo, and Dave Waters for their kind words of encouragement.

Ann Cordell, Bill Marquardt, Mike Russo, Donna Ruhl, Sylvia Scudder, and Karen Walker have been especially valuable friends and great sounding boards for ideas. Ann, Donna, and Sylvia, in particular, have been endlessly kind and supportive with ideas, old burnt seeds, xeroxes, road trips, great cooking, and parties. Thanks also to Susan DeFrance, Laura Kozuch, Betsy Reitz, Bruce Smith, Ann Stokes, Corbett Torrence, and Jenna Wallace for their support and friendship. I owe a debt of gratitude to Merald Clark for his fine maps and illustrations, and to Robin Brown for photographs of the maize specimens.


Finally, I extend my appreciation to friends and family. My parents and sisters have been immensely encouraging and unwavering in their support. My son, Woodrow, has earned this degree along with me: excavating on Grenada, sorting seeds, studying Columbus, and generally experiencing all of the ups and downs. He deserves a great deal of credit for his patience, perseverance, and good humor.




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ....... ................... iv

LIST OF TABLES ....... ................... xi

LIST OF FIGURES ....... ................... xvi

ABSTRACT ......... ...................... xvii


1 INTRODUCTION ........ ................ 1


Culture History .......... ....... 9
Models Centered on the Human Migrations
and Settlement of the Caribbean Islands. 11
The Basis for Previous Inferences
about Plant Use ................ 19
Pertinent Details from Ethnohistoric
Documents about Taino Plants and
Agriculture ..... ............... .. 28
Previous Archaeobotanical Research on
Caribbean Sites ... ............. 30
Research Questions ... ............. 34


Site Descriptions ... ............. 36
Wanapa, Bonaire ... ............. 36
Pearls, Grenada ... ............. 41
Heywoods, Barbados ... ........... 42
Twenty Hill (PE-19) and Jolly Beach
(MA-3, MA-4), Antigua .. ......... 43
Hichmans' Shell Heap (GE-6), Hichmans'
Site (GE-5), and Indian Castle
(GE-I), Nevis ... ............. 44
Golden Rock, St. Eustatius ....... .. 45
Hope Estate, St. Martin .. ......... 46
Beach Access Site and Trunk Bay, St.
John, United States Virgin Islands . 48


Calle Cristo, Puerto Rico .. ........ .. 48
Maisabel, Puerto Rico ... .......... 49
El Fresal, Puerto Rico .. ......... 51
El Parking Site (PO-38), Puerto Rico . 52
Barrio Ballaja, San Juan, Puerto Rico . 53
En Bas Saline, Haiti .. .......... o. 54
Isabela, Dominican Republic .. ...... .. 56
Archaeobotancial Methods .. .......... o. 56
Site Comparability ... ........... o. 56
Sample Preparation ... ........... 57
Plant Identification .. .......... ... 61
Comparative Measures .. .......... 64


Windward Islands and Bonaire .. ........ .. 69
Wanapa, Bonaire ... .. ........... 69
Pearls, Grenada ... ............. 78
Heywoods, Barbados ... ........... 88
Leeward Islands .... .............. 90
Twenty Hill (PE-19) and Jolly Beach
(MA-3; MA-4), Antigua .. ......... 90
Hichmans' Shell Heap (GE-6), Nevis . 99
Hichmans' Site (GE-5) and Indian
Castle (GE-l), Nevis .. ......... 104
Golden Rock, St. Eustatius .. ..... o.109
Hope Estate (SM-026), St. Martin .... 122
Beach Access Site, St. John,
United States Virgin Islands ..... ..125
Trunk Bay, St. John, United States
Virgin Islands ... ............ 131
Summary of Results from Lesser Antilles
Sites ....... .................. 135
Plant Foods ..... ....... ..... ...136
Wood Identifications from the
Lesser Antilles ... ........... ...146

PUERTO RICO ..... ............... 150

Puerto Rico Sites .... ............. 153
Calle Cristo, San Juan, Puerto Rico . o 153
Maisabel, Puerto Rico ... .......... 157
El Fresal, Puerto Rico .. ......... 180
El Parking Site (PO-38), Puerto Rico . 191
Barrio Ballaja, San Juan, Puerto Rico . 201
Summary of Puerto Rico Archaeobotanical
Assemblages .................. 221


HISPANIOLA . . . . . . . . 228

Hispaniola . . . . . . . . 230
En Bas Saline, Haiti . . . . . 230 La Isabela, Dominican Republic . . 304
Summary of Plant Data from Hispaniola . 308


Plant Exploitation by Caribbean Indians . 311 Concluding Remarks . . . . . . 333





BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH . . . . . . . . 392



Table 3.1 Caribbean Sites Analyzed for
Archaeobotanical Data ... .......... 39

Table 4.1 Archaeobotanical Samples from the
Wanapa Site, Bonaire .. .......... 72

Table 4.2 Plant Identifications from the
Wanapa Site .... ............... 74

Table 4.3 Plant Identifications from Wanapa,
Bonaire (by count) ... ........... .. 75

Table 4.4 Archaeobotanical Samples from Pearls,
Grenada ...... ................. .. 79

Table 4.5 Plant Identifications from Pearls,
Grenada ...... ................. .. 81

Table 4.6 Plant Identifications from Pearls,
Grenada (by count) ... ........... .. 82

Table 4.7 Sapotaceae seed measurements (mm) . . 87

Table 4.8 Archaeobotanical Samples from Heywoods
Site, Barbados ... ............. 89

Table 4.9 Plant Identifications from Heywoods,
Barbados ..... ................ 91

Table 4.10 Plant Identifications from Heywoods,
Barbados (by count) .. ........... 92

Table 4.11 Archaeobotanical Samples from Twenty
Hill (PE-19) and Jolly Beach (MA-3,
MA-4), Antigua ... ............. 94

Table 4.12 Plant Identifications from Twenty Hill
(PE-19) and Jolly Beach (MA-3,-4),
Antigua ..... ................ 95

Table 4.13 Plant Identifications from Twenty Hill
and Jolly Beach, Antigua (by count) . 96

Table 4.14 Archaeobotanical Samples from Hichmans'
Shell Heap (GE-6), Nevis .... ........ 100

Table 4.15 Plant Identifications from Hichmans'
Shell Heap (GE-6), Nevis .. ........ 102


Table 4.16 Plant Identifications from Hichmans'
Shell Heap (GE-6), Nevis (by count) . 103

Table 4.17 Archaeobotanical Samples from Hichmans'
Site (GE-5) and Indian Castle (GE-i),
Nevis ....... .................. ..106

Table 4.18 Plant Identifications from Hichmans'
Site (GE-5) and Indian Castle (GE-i),
Nevis ....... .................. ..107

Table 4.19 Plant Identifications from Hichmans'
Site (GE-5) and Indian Castle (GE-I),
Nevis (by count) .... ............ 108

Table 4.20 Archaeobotanical Samples from Golden
Rock, St. Eustatius ..... ........... 110

Table 4.21 Plant Identifications from the Golden
Rock Site, St. Eustatius .. ........ 113

Table 4.22 Plant Identifications from Golden Rock
Deposits (by count) ... ........... ..115

Table 4.23 Archaeobotanical Samples from Hope
Estate (SM-026), St. Martin ........ ..123

Table 4.24 Plant Identifications from Hope Estate
(SM-026), St. Martin ... .......... 124

Table 4.25 Plant Identifications from Hope Estate,
St. Martin (by count) ... .......... 126

Table 4.26 Archaeobotanical Samples from Beach
Access Site (Lameshur Bay), St. John 127

Table 4.27 Plant Identifications from the Beach
Access Site, St. John ... .......... 129

Table 4.28 Plant Identifications from the Beach
Access Site, St. John (by count) . . 130

Table 4.29 Archaeobotanical Samples from Trunk
Bay, St. John ..... .............. 132

Table 4.30 Plant Identifications from Trunk Bay,
St. John ...... ................ 133

Table 4.31 Plant Identifications from Trunk Bay,
St. John (by count) ... ........... 134


Table 4.32 Seeds and Nonwood Plant Remains from
Sites in the Lesser Antilles ...... 137

Table 4.33 Wood Identifications from Sites in
the Lesser Antilles .... .......... 138

Table 5.1 Archaeobotanical Samples from Calle
del Cristo, San Juan, Puerto Rico . . 154

Table 5.2 Plant Identifications from Calle del
Cristo, San Juan, Puerto Rico ....... ..155

Table 5.3 Plant Identifications from Calle del
Cristo (by count) .... ............ 156

Table 5.4 Maisabel, Puerto Rico: Samples
Analyzed for Archaeobotanical Data . 159

Table 5.5 Archaeobotanical Samples from Maisabel,
Puerto Rico ..... ............... ..162

Table 5.6 Plant Identifications from Maisabel,
Puerto Rico ..... ............... ..164

Table 5.7 Plant Identifications from Maisabel,
Puerto Rico (by count) .. ......... 166

Table 5.8 Archaeobotanical Samples from El
Fresal, Puerto Rico ... ........... 181

Table 5.9 Plant Identifications from El Fresal,
Puerto Rico ..... ............... 183

Table 5.10 Plant Identifications from El Fresal
features (by count) ... ........... 188

Table 5.11 Archaeobotanical Samples from El
Parking Site (P0-38), Cerrillos River
Valley, Puerto Rico ... ........... 193

Table 5.12 Plant Identifications from El Parking
Site (P0-38), Cerrillos River Valley,
Puerto Rico ..... ............... 195

Table 5.13 Carica papaya Seed Measurement (mm)
Statistics for Modern Accessions . . 197

Table 5.14 Plant Identifications from El Parking
Site (PO-38) (by count) .. ......... ..200


Table 5.15 Barrio Ballaja: Samples Analyzed for
Plant Remains ................203

Table 5.16 Overview of Flotation Samples from
Barrio Ballaja...............204

Table 5.17 Plant Identifications from Barrio
Ballaja, Historic San Juan, Puerto Rico .205

Table 5.18 Plant Identifications from HistoricPeriod Samples, Barrio Ballaja (by

Table 5.19 Carica paay seed measurements (mmu),
Ballaja Archaeological Project .......215

Table 5.20 Lycoversicon (tomato) seed measurements
(mm), Ballaja Archaeological Project ..220

Table 5.21 Seeds and Nonwoody Plant Remains from
sites in Puerto Rico ...........222

Table 5.22 Wood Identifications from Sites in
Puerto Rico .................223

Table 6.1 En Bas Saline, Haiti: Samples Analyzed
for Archaeobotanical Data. .........232

Table 6.2 Archaeobotanical Samples from En Bas
Saline, Haiti ................238

Table 6.3 Plant Identifications from En Bas
Saline, Haiti ................249

Table 6.4 Plant Identifications from En Bas
Saline, Seeds and Other Nonwood
Remains (by count).............260
Table 6.5 Wood Identifications from En Bas
Saline (relative frequency). .......264

Table 6.6 Zea mays from En Bas Saline, Haiti . 274

Table 6.7 Zea mays measurements (mm) for En Bas
Saline, Haiti ................278

Table 6.8 Descriptive Data for West Indian Races
of Maize..................282

Table 6.9 General Morphological Characteristics
of Kernels from West Indian Races
of Maize..................284


Table 6.10 Morphometric Data from Panicoid Grass
Collections, Archaeological and Modern
Populations (mm) .... ............ 298

Table 6.11 Oenothera sp. (Primrose) Seed
Measurements (mm) .... ............ 303

Table 6.12 Archaeobotanical Samples from La
Isabela, Dominican Republic ........ ..305

Table 6.13 Plant Identifications from La Isabela,
Dominican Republic ... ........... 306

Table 6.14 Plant Identifications from La Isabela,
Dominican Republic (by count) ....... .307

Table 7.1 Crop, Homegarden, and Other Plants with
Food or Medicinal Value from Caribbean
Archaeological Sites (presence in
macroremains ..... .............. 313

Table 7.2 Wood Remains from Caribbean
Archaeological Sites ... .......... 318



Figure 3.1 Location Map of Caribbean Sites
Analyzed for Archaeobotanical Data . 38
Figure 4.1 Locations of Lesser Antilles Sites . 70

Figure 4.2 Sapotaceae Seed Hyla from Pearls

Figure 5.1 Locations of Puerto Rican Sites . . 152 Figure 5.2 Relative Dimensions of Papaya Seeds ..198 Figure 5.3 Relative Dimensions of Papaya Seeds,
Including Barrio Ballaja Seeds. ......214 Figure 6.1 En Bas Saline Site Map. .........236

Figure 6.2 En Bas Saline Feature 11. .........244

Figure 6.3 En Bas Saline Feature 4-6-8 ........247

Figure 6.4 Trianthema seed from En Bas Saline,

Figure 6.5 Pinus sp. wood from En Bas Saline,

Figure 6.6 Zea mays kernels from En Bas Saline,

Figure 6.7 Zea mays cob fragment from En Bas
Saline, Haiti...............281

Figure 6.8 Carbonized tubers from En Bas
Saline, Haiti...............289

Figure 6.9 Panicoid Grass Seeds from En Bas
Saline, Haiti...............296

Figure 6.10 Qenothera sp. (Primrose) Seeds from
En Bas Saline, Haiti. ..........301


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Lee Ann Newsom

August 1993

Chair: Elizabeth S. Wing
Major Department: Anthropology

This is an archaeological study of the plant component of diet and human adaptation in the Caribbean islands. Archaeobotanical data from Caribbean sites, which form the basis of this research, have been largely unstudied to date. Nevertheless, plants play a central role in models that attempt to explain how Ceramic Age migrants from South America adapted to the insular environment.

Nineteen sites were tested archaeologically to provide the first comprehensive view of plant use in the region. The collective archaeobotanical data from Archaic and Ceramic Age occupations form profiles of plant use that correspond with early, later, and the final stages of migration, settlement, and social organization in particular island groups. The results indicate that plant resources were an integral part of prehistoric West Indian economies,


and that gardening may have been initiated in the Caribbean Archaic Age. Native plant food resources were used in combination with important homegarden trees that originate in mainland areas. Several of these species appear to have been transported to the islands by Archaic Age people, and the evidence for plant introductions from the Central American/Yucatan region is just as compelling as from South America.

Root-crop horticulture may have been introduced in conjunction with the Saladoid settlement of the Lesser Antilles, even though evidence of domesticated plants is without substantiation by plant remains until relatively late in the sequence of human occupation. The presence of prehistoric maize is confirmed only at En Bas Saline, Haiti, in deposits dating between approximately A.D. 1250 and 1500. Maize cultivation in the West Indies may have been overshadowed by the primary system of root-crop horticulture. The plant remains themselves, combined with the presence of plant-processing artifacts and ethnohistorical observations, are beginning to suggest a uniquely West Indian pattern of plant use.




American Indian groups inhabited the Caribbean Islands for several thousand years prior to the fateful entry of Europeans into the region, and during all that time, plant foods and products were essential to their survival and successful adaptation. Plants provided food and medicine, and fuelwood was essential for cooking and heating. The local vegetation was also the source of raw materials for building construction, transportation, weapons, tools, fiber industries, and products such as gums, resins, tannins, paints, and fish poisons.

Few primary data bases exist, however, with which to

profile the plant component of prehistoric economies in the Caribbean. The paucity of data is largely a reflection of the fact that only recently has systematic archaeobotanical research been undertaken in the region. Nonetheless, plants play a central role in models that attempt to explain Caribbean Indian life, and, in particular, how Ceramic Age migrants from northern South America adapted to the drastically different environment of the West Indies.

Early cultures in the Caribbean are typically portrayed as practicing generalist, foraging economies (Armstrong 1980; Davis 1988; Rouse 1992:58; Veloz Maggiolo 1976:2571


258). The transition to gardening and the manipulation of local floras, either intentionally or otherwise, have essentially gone without consideration. Gardening and other more deliberate means to procure plant food items are generally thought to be phenomena that coincide with the migration of Amazonian root-crop horticulturists into the Lesser Antilles. The later emergence of complex, socially stratified societies in the Caribbean appears to be linked to the development of subsistence economies based on more intensive forms of plant production, including agriculture (Rouse 1992; Wilson 1990). However, the development of these systems is at best poorly understood.

Changes in subsistence and general economic patterns have long been a preoccupation of Caribbeanist archaeologists. Apparent shifts in emphasis on different food items or categories of foods appear to occur in the archaeological record, based primarily on the presence of zooarchaeological remains and on changes in settlement pattern (cf. Seigel 1990). For example, the "crab-shell" dichotomy (Jones 1985; Keegan 1989) is broadly defined to theoretically indicate a dietary shift on some islands from a diet based on land crabs and terrestrial fauna to one emphasizing marine foods, including shellfish. Changes in plant food production are generally believed to have coincided with the shifts in protein capture and settlement patterns; nevertheless, any shift in the use of plant foods is without direct documentation (i.e., by the identification


of archaeobotanical remains). Despite the widely held belief that change occurred in the subsistence realm and that developing economic patterns represent a growing familiarity and adaptedness to the island environment, our understanding of the types of plant foods and the nature of their use is rudimentary.

This research is designed to help remedy this situation and address some of the deficiencies in interpreting Caribbean Indian economies by investigating the types and intensity of plant use in the region. This study incorporates and synthesizes paleoethnobotanical data excavated from 23 archaeological sites that effectively span the full temporal and geographic range of human activity in the region, excluding only the earliest, Lithic Age (Rouse 1989; 1992) occupations. Changes that occur between the earliest Archaic Age and later-aged Taino occupations are examined to address the issue of adaptation to the insular environment and the ease with which colonists might have adjusted to the insular setting. The plant data track the development of a uniquely Caribbean Indian pattern of plant use. Archaeological, archaeobotanical, artifactual, and ecological data are used to address questions about the first appearance of gardening and arboriculture in the region, when dependence on cultivated plants seems to have intensified, and identify source areas for important cultigens and fruit trees.


The sites producing archaeobotanical data have

components variously attributable to Archaic and the later Ceramic Age occupations of the Caribbean islands, except that the Lucayan Taino of the Bahamas Island group are not included. The data are necessarily weighted toward the Ceramic Age sites, which tend to have undergone more extensive testing and more often have had paleoethnobotany integrated into the overall plan of research for the site. Moreover, the number of samples and the amount of data collected necessarily varies from one site to the next, and data from the Lesser Antilles sites in particular are minimal. To overcome sampling discrepancies and problems inherent in comparing such vastly differing data sets, the plant remains are examined in a generalized, regional perspective, rather than by a more quantitative approach. The identifications from each archaeological site and subregion are discussed and quantified by individual site, then viewed on a presence/absence basis in regard to the particular subregion, e.g. the northern Lesser Antilles. Particular attention is paid to plants whose presence is documented across spatial and temporal boundaries. There is enough information cumulatively to begin to question the Caribbean migration models and to address assumptions about plant use and Caribbean Indian adaptation.

In combination, the plant data from the Caribbean sites clarify plant use and the dynamic relationships between Indians and their local flora. The collective


identifications form profiles of plant use that correspond with early, later, and final stages of migration, settlement and social organization in particular island groups. Thus Archaic Age sites in the Leeward island group provide glimpses of wood selection and evidence that gardening was practiced prior to the migration of Saladoid horticulturists from northern South America. Clearly, fruit-bearing trees, like native mastic-bully, were an important part of early Saladoid subsistence; plant evidence from later Saladoid and Ostionoid sites on Puerto Rico show that gardening and arboriculture became increasingly more important. Finally, Classic Taino sites on Hispaniola provide the first evidence verifying the presence of the root-crop and maize production system described in the historic accounts.

Because this is one of the first archaeological

attempts to detail the nature of plant use by Caribbean Indians, the questions asked are broad and relate to fundamental issues of adaptation and subsistence change. The immediate objective is to contribute to an understanding of plant use in the Caribbean by refining our information about indigenous subsistence economies. This research establishes a foundation for a better-informed understanding of the dynamic relationship between Caribbean Indians, including the Taino who represent the final stages of the migration events, and the island environments they inhabited. The resulting model of plant use provides finer resolution with which to examine the colonization effort in


particular, and human adaptation to insular environments in general. In addition to clarifying the role of plant resources to Caribbean Indian existence, broader applications of this study are to island biogeographic theory and the theoretical understanding of the development of complex chiefdoms.

The format of this study is as follows. In Chapter 2 background information critical to an understanding of the general context of this research is presented. First, the sequence and nature of human occupations in the Caribbean region are summarized. Next, briefly outlined are several current models of adaptation and subsistence change, including a discussion of the basis for propositions about the types of and changes in the plants used by various Caribbean peoples. Then, the history of archaeobotanical research on West Indian sites is reviewed and the questions addressed by this study are formulated. In Chapter 3, the sites incorporated in this study are briefly described, with emphasis on the types of depositional contexts from which were recovered the plant remains. Following the site summaries is a brief description of the methods used to analyze and interpret the archaeobotanical data. The results of the archaeobotanical analyses are presented in chapters 4, 5, and 6. First discussed (Chapter 4) are data from the Lesser Antilles sites, beginning with sites located in the southernmost part of the region and ending with the Virgin Islands at the northern extent. By presenting the


data from south to north, they appear roughly in the correct temporal and spatial context of the human migrations. The data from five sites in Puerto Rico are analyzed in Chapter 5. Finally, in Chapter 6 is presented the analyses for two sites on Hispaniola. Chapter 7 is a summary of the results of this research, centering on three themes. One is the definition of a uniquely Caribbean pattern of plant use. Second is the advent of gardening in the region and the first appearance of domesticated forms. The last issue is the recognition of a broader pattern of plant use, one that is shared with cultures located in other American lowland tropical areas.



The basic chronology of human occupation in the

Caribbean Islands is summarized in this chapter, without entering into too much detail about local or subregional culture series. The general cultural-historical summary is followed by a brief discussion of the various theories and models archaeologists have developed to interpret human existence in the islands from the perspective of food production and human adaptation. Next, the foundations for ideas about important plant foods are reviewed, beginning with certain references in historic documents, then on to what has been inferred from the presence of artifacts associated with food production, osteochemical data from human skeletal material, and, finally, pollen analytical data. These sections are followed by a short summary of details from ethnohistoric documents about particularly important plants, including manioc. Information gleaned from the documents about these plants is potentially significant to the archaeobotanical data presented in later chapters. The chapter concludes with an overview of previous paleoethnobotanical research on sites in the West Indies, setting the stage for my research.



Culture History

The earliest documented human presence in the Caribbean islands dates to approximately 6000 years ago, comprising what Caribbeanist archaeologists refer to as the "Lithic Age" (Rouse 1989, 1992). The lifestyle of these early Casimiroid people, who originated in Middle America, is only vaguely understood. These early sites are identified primarily on the basis of the exclusive presence of flakedstone tools (Rouse 1992). Later Casimiroid sites on Hispaniola, Cuba, and Puerto Rico are marked by the addition of ground-stone implements, bone and shell artifacts, and a more diverse array of animal food remains. The presence of ground-stone tools marks the beginning of what Caribbeanists refer to as the Archaic Age.

Beginning approximately 4000 years ago another

preceramic group(s) of people migrated into the Caribbean islands from northern South America. These people developed the Ortoiroid series of cultures in the West Indies, which also belong to the Caribbean Archaic Age (Rouse 1992). Thus the earliest Lithic and Archaic Age cultures in the Caribbean migrated from two directions, one from the Yucatan region of Central America and moving as far east as western Puerto Rico, and the other from northern South America, expanding north through the island arc as far as the northern Lesser Antilles and eastern Puerto Rico (Rouse 1992:69). Archaic Age sites in general are marked by a greater diversity of artifact types than that which


characterizes sites attributed to the preceding Lithic Age. Flaked-stone and ground-stone implements appear in Archaic Age deposits, as well as bone and shell artifacts. A general consensus among Caribbean archaeologists holds that the human populations comprising the Caribbean Archaic Age were generalist-foragers, who subsisted on a variety of terrestrial and marine fauna, and wild plant foods (Armstrong 1980; Davis 1988; Rouse 1992:58; Veloz Maggiolo 1976:257-258). Davis (1988:181), however, insightfully commented that at least some of the historically known cultivated plants in the West Indies possibly were transported by human groups to the islands prior to the entry of the Ceramic Age horticulturists. The data that will be presented in subsequent chapters suggest that Davis was correct in his assumption.

By at least the middle of the first millennium B.C.,

ceramic-producing horticulturists from lowland South America started to settle in the West Indies (Haviser 1988, 1991b; Siegel 1991a). The first wave of Ceramic Age CedrosanSaladoid people advanced relatively rapidly through the Windward and Leeward islands, temporarily halting their migration in western Puerto Rico. Later, descendents of the original Saladoid migrants moved on to settle Hispaniola and other islands of the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas island group. During this time (after approximately A.D. 500 [Rouse 1992]), the Saladoid culture series developed into what is termed the Ostionoid series in the Leeward Islands

and Greater Antilles (except western Cuba) and the Troumassoid/Suazoid series in the Windward Islands. Each of the later series has local variants and subseries, the description of which is beyond the scope of this discussion.

It is clear from the increasing number, size, and

placement of sites and by changes in the material culture, that Saladoid Indians and their descendents flourished in the insular environment, apparently successfully adapting to the unique climate and array of available resources. By the time Europeans arrived in A.D. 1492, the Taino, who represent the final stage in the continuum of migration and human adaptation in the region, were highly specialized agriculturists and fisher people with a complex and hierarchical social structure (Wilson 1990).

Models Centered on the Human Migrations and Settlement of the Caribbean Islands

The Lithic and Archaic Age people of the Caribbean have been traced to homelands in Central and South America. Beyond the efforts to define their origins, very little research has been undertaken seeking to interpret and explain the reasons behind these early migrations. In contrast, the Ceramic Age migrations have been the focus of quite a few studies, some examining the impetus for the move, others the progress and nature of the migrations through the island system.

The expansion into the Caribbean of ceramic-producing

horticulturists from lowland South America began by at least 400 B.C. (Haviser 1988; Siegel 1991a, b). Archaeological


sites along the migration route have the prominent marker of Cedrosan Saladoid ceramics, the first ceramics series to appear in the West Indies (Rouse 1986; Rouse and Allaire 1978). The migrants themselves are referred to as Cedrosan Saladoid, after their distinctive ceramic tradition. Early Saladoid people are generally believed to have practiced a tropical-forest horticultural economy based on root crops and the animal protein procured from rivers and forests (Roosevelt 1980; Rouse 1986, 1989; Wilson 1990). Later Saladoid occupations placed a strong emphasis on marine resources (Haviser 1988). The timing and details of the apparent change in focus from a subsistence strategy based primarily on terrestrial foods to one emphasizing marine and terrestrial resources has been the subject of much debate by Caribbean archaeologists (see below).

A number of models have been proposed to explain the

motivations for movement into the islands, and/or the nature of expansion once it began (e.g., the pace, placement of settlements, resource base). Most researchers are in agreement that human population levels neared saturation in the floodplain of the Orinoco in the first millennium B.C. This population density resulted in fierce competition for scarce resources, specifically, prime alluvium for plant cultivation coupled with access to the abundant aquatic resources of the lowland riverine environment (Roosevelt 1980; Rouse 1986). This pressure of competition hypothetically was the prime motivation behind the radiation


of Saladoid people into the West Indies (Keegan n.d.; Siegel 1991a). The pace of migration, at least to as far as Puerto Rico, midway up the island arc, is believed to have been rapid, perhaps taking place within 2-3 generations (Haviser 1988, 1991b; Keegan 1985, 1992, n.d.; Rouse 1986, 1989; Siegel 1991b). By 600 A.D. descendents of the original Saladoid populations had moved throughout Hispaniola and into Jamaica and eastern Cuba; by at least 800 A.D. the migration encompassed central Cuba and the Bahamas (Rouse 1989).

At least two scholars have attempted to go beyond the impetus for the original emigration, to try and explain the process of migration, once underway, in the insular setting. Keegan (1985, 1992) has theorized the population front as proceeding in advance of the point where population pressure would exceed the carrying capacity of individual islands. Thus, as necessary resources became less readily available, Saladoid groups would have shifted settlement to the next available large island to begin exploiting its array of resources. This is one alternative to deal with the problem of economic shortage.

Roe (1989), on the other hand, hypothesized a "push" situation that basically is an extension of the original thrust out into the archipelago--migration fueled by overpopulation and an increasingly inadequate resource base. In Roe's model each successive island was colonized as groups were forced to create new settlements to maintain


population levels under the constrictions of the insular environments and under the demands of the primary system of manioc horticulture.

Beyond the motivating dynamics for inter-island

movement and the pace of migration, a number of researchers have attempted to closely examine early and later Saladoid modes of survival at the level of diet and food production using primarily settlement pattern and zooarchaeological data. Most researchers characterize food production in the early stages of settlement on individual islands as an attempt on the part of the colonizers to replicate as closely as possible their mainland existence (Davis 1988; Goodwin 1980; Jones 1985; Petersen and Watters 1991; Roe 1989; Rouse 1989). Therefore, optimal site selection is said to have focused on larger islands with microenvironments suitable for crop production. Manioc and probably other root crops, plus all the accoutrements of cultivation and whatever else it took to replicate subsistence in the homeland, purportedly were carried into the islands at the outset of migration (Jones 1985). What was required to successfully implement this transplantation of the earlier economic system in the vastly different environment of the West Indies however, has not generally been considered.

A construct that is widely known as the "crab/shell

dichotomy" (Goodwin 1980; Keegan 1989) is an expression of this scheme in which there is a focus on interior,


terrestrial resources by early Saladoid groups. The crab/shell dichotomy defines an apparently typical progession of settlement pattern and subsistence change in the northern Lesser Antilles and eastern Puerto Rico (Carbone 1980; Davis 1988; DeFrance 1988, 1989; Goodwin 1980; Haviser 1988; Jones 1985; Keegan 1985; Petersen and Watters 1991; Rainey 1935, 1940; cf. Siegel 1991a, b; Wilson 1989). In its most developed formulations (Davis 1988; Goodwin 1980; Jones 1985), the attributes of the complex are as follows. Generally, earlier sites were located in interior settings near water sources and on soils hypothetically better suited to crop production. There was concomitantly a reliance on large, easily procured fauna, especially species of land crab. The archaeological record seems to demonstrate that later sites were removed to the coasts of islands or away from "better" soils and nearer marine resources (cf. Siegel 1991 a, b, c). The locational change hypothetically occurred in conjuction with diminished crop production and depleted populations of terrestrial vertebrate and invertebrate fauna. At the same time, the human population was rapidly increasing as indicated by the correspondingly greater densities of sites with later occupations.

The trend in protein capture described in the

crab/shell construct--from essentially land crabs and land vertebrates like hutia, to marine fish and molluscs--is at least partially correct, having been demonstrated at a


number of sites (DeFrance 1988:103; Goodwin 1980; Haviser 1988; Jones 1985; Keegan 1989; Wing 1989). Nevertheless, Wing (personal communication 1991) points out that the shift in emphasis to maritime resources may be more apparent than real. Specifically, greater consumption of marine resources during the later phases of occupation would effect a relative increase in the marine food items recovered and documented from shell midden deposits, but it does not follow that terrestrial resources went less utilized. Similarly, Siegel (1991a, b) points out that the purported accompanying change in settlement placement and density (Goodwin 1980; Wilson 1990) needs to be more firmly documented. To the same point, the hypothesized simultaneous effects during the tenure of the crab/shell dichotomy on plant production systems (Davis 1988; Goodwin 1980), and by extension, the landscape in general, or the interaction with introduced captive animals (Peterson and Watters 1991; Wing 1989), have not been documented and require detailed analyses.

Jones (1985:523-524) made the interesting case that local elimination or depletion of rice rat and land crab populations may have directly resulted from human predation and indirectly from habitat destruction caused by the clearance of woodland for swidden plots. He proceeded to estimate the amount of cleared.acreage needed to produce enough manioc to support the human population (estimated from shell midden materials). Despite this interesting


effort to understand the dynamics operating on the subsistence system, Jones did not extend his interpretation to consider the long term effects of a slash and burn system of planting on the local environment in general, or the sustainability of crop production at the aboriginal level of technology.

It is a generally held (but only indirectly documented, see below) assumption of all of the models that the Cedrosan Saladoid colonists entered the island environment with their familiar complement of cultivated plants and the tools of crop production and consumption (Davis 1988; Jones 1985; Rouse 1986, 1989; Wilson 1990). Davis (1988:179), without citing the basis for his information, gives a list of eight cultigens in addition to manioc that purportedly were introduced by Saladoid people. The implication is that the gardening system previously established in lowland South America, which included domesticated plant staples as the primary source of dietary calories, was implemented in the islands.

In spite of whatever forces drove the Saladoid from one island to the next, it is likely that adjustments to the subsistence infrastructure had to be made. In one way or another, economic choices made by the colonists appear to have resulted in an unstable resource base. If the crab/shell dichotomy is at least partially true on some islands, then temporary collapses in protein sources, e.g., the local elimination of land crabs and terrestrial


vertebrates, were a problem with which island inhabitants had to contend. Two archaeologists (Davis 1988; Goodwin 1980), as mentioned above, also implicate the problem of localized crop failure as a partial explanation for the apparent shift in Saladoid settlement patterns from inland to coastal locations. However, explanations of the basis for or proofs of crop failure have not advanced beyond conjecture. The insular environment--quite distinct from the lowland tropical American areas where the horticultural system(s) originally was established--may have necessitated modifications to plant cultivation. Presently, the question of how and whether Saladoid colonists could have successfully transported their crop-production system to the insular setting has not been critically addressed. Nor have the actual types of plants and their uses been identified.

More recently, Wing (1989), DeFrance (1989) and Siegel (1991a, b, c) emphasized a more dynamic picture of settlement and adaptation on the part of Cedrosan Saladoid colonists (see also Keegan n.d.). These researchers hypothesize a growing familiarity with the insular environment that began with the initial entry of Saladoid people into the West Indies. In this view, migrants almost immediately began adding marine and other local resources to what was transported of the previously established subsistence system. Siegel (1991a:86) suggests that the Saladoid colonists were "preadapted" to the insular setting by virtue of their earlier familiarity with the aquatic


resources of the Orinoco River system and canoe travel. This second view of Saladoid existence emphasizes more immediate and direct adaptation to the insular environment, rather than the narrowly focused and probably unrealistic imposition of a mainland economic system in the island setting. Prior to the initiation of the research developed in this dissertation, inquiry into the flexibility of Saladoid adaptation has been confined to zooarchaeological data.

A final point to be made is that all of the models concerning Saladoid-Taino movement into and around the Caribbean archipelago emphasize the roles, either explicitly or implied, of plant and animal resources as central to human survival. Nonetheless, while the faunal aspect of subsistence is fairly well understood, particularly in regard to the crab/shell dichotomy (DeFrance 1988, 1989; Goodwin 1980; Jones 1985; Petersen and Watters 1991; Wing 1989, 1990; Wing and Reitz 1982; Wing and Scudder 1980, 1983; Wing et al. 1969), plant use by Caribbean Indians is only vaguely outlined.

The Basis for Previous Inferences about Plant Use

Assumptions about plant resources in the migration

models are built primarily on two sources of information: the ethnohistoric record and artifacts believed associated with food production. Pollen data sometimes also are considered, and a few researchers (Keegan 1985; Keegan and DeNiro 1988; Van Klinken 1991) have recently introduced


osteochemical techniques into Caribbean dietary reconstructions.

Early historic chronicles describe Caribbean Indian

agriculture and a few other forms of plant use, primarily in reference to the islands of the Greater Antilles (Dunn and Kelly 1988; Las Casas 1971; Oviedo 1959; and see Sauer 1966, and Sturtevant 1969). Much discussion centers on manioc, and additional mention is made of other root crops and maize. The Taino of the Greater Antilles seem to have practiced slash and burn cultivation (Oviedo 1959:13-14; Sauer 1966:51; Sturtevant 1961). In certain areas more labor-intensive forms of agriculture were practiced, including irrigated ditch networks and bench terracing (Krieger 1929; Las Casas 1909, ch.5:15, ch. 60:154; Ortiz Aguilu et al. 1991). While these descriptions of important plants, and how they were used and cultivated, are helpful, it is difficult or impossible to sort out whether individual chroniclers were describing plant production in the islands of the West Indies or on the nearby mainland. Oviedo (1959:14-15), in particular, wrote generally of Indian life in the New World, obscuring differences in plant consumption practices between groups living in the islands and those of the mainland. In addition, the early historic accounts provide no insight into the historical development of plant cultivation systems and how they were adapted to the insular setting.


The presence of tools and artifacts used to render plant foods into edible form has been used to infer indirectly the presence of cultivated plants (Davis 1988; Rouse 1986, 1992). Similarly, bone chemistry has been employed to infer diets based on certain cultivated plants (Keegan 1989). Both lines of evidence have the disadvantage, however, of not being able to point with certainty to the actual species used. Preserved plant parts are essential to solve this problem.

Various types of grinding stones have been recovered from Caribbean sites. Mortars and milling equipment are known from at least as early as the preceramic Archaic Age (ca. 4000 B.C.-A.D. 500) (Harris 1973; Rouse 1982; Veloz Maggiolo and Ortega 1976). Thus, many of these tools that often are interpreted as evidence that maize was grown (see, for example, Bullen 1964:22) and consumed predate the entry of maize into the Amazon (Roosevelt 1980; Sanoja and Vargas 1983; van der Merwe et al. 1981) and the movement of South American horticulturists into the archipelago. Moreover, since direct associations between grinding equipment and wild or semi-domesticated panicoid grass have been demonstrated for other regions of tropical America in premaize contexts (Callen 1965, 1967a,b; Farnsworth et al. 1985; C.E. Smith 1967; see also Newsom 1991a; Sanoja 1989), the extrapolation from grinding tools to maize and its introduction into the West Indies is not secure.


Likewise, clay griddle fragments are very common

markers of Saladoid age and later sites (beginning in the first millenium B.C.) (Bullen 1964; Davis 1988; Rouse 1986, 1992). Ceramic griddles, as well as small lithic chips that may have functioned as grater-board teeth, routinely are interpreted as evidence that the Saladoid migrants began their occupation of the island environment with manioc cultivation supplying their primary source of dietary calories (see, for example, Allaire 1989; Rouse and Alegria 1990:65). While this association of griddles and grater boards with manioc may be valid, without the direct evidence of preserved plant parts, the possibility that wild indigenous roots and grains were ground, grated and processed into flour for bread or tortillas (DeBoer 1975) is just as likely. Therefore, the hypothesis that Cedrosan Saladoid immigrants entered the island chain with manioc as their primary staple is still in need of clarification.

Keegan and DeNiro (1988; Keegan 1985, 1987) used human bone chemistry as a reflection of diet to examine the relative importance of plant foods in prehistoric West Indian economies. Their stable isotope analysis of one Taino individual from Puerto Rico (A.D. 200-600) and 17 Lucayan Taino from the Bahamas (A.D. 600-1200) resulted in the definition of three basic dietary schemes. Four individuals, including the single Puerto Rican burial and three of the Lucayans, produced isotopic signatures strongly suggestive of a general reliance on C3 pathway foods,


probably root crops and terrestrial animal resources (Keegan 1987; Keegan and DeNiro 1988). Eleven Bahamian skeletons

showed that marine-13C-enriched f oods were being integrated with the earlier C3-based diet. Finally, three of the Lucayan Taino (post A.D. 1200) skeletons yielded osteochemical data indicative of a diet derived primarily from plants with the C4 carbon pathway. The latter dietary signature could have resulted from heavy reliance on maize or other C4 plants and/or CAM plants, such as prickly pear cactus, which can mimic maize's isotopic signature (Shoeninger 1990; and see Farnsworth et al. 1985).

Van Klinken's (1991) isotopic analysis of human

skeletal material from four locations in the Caribbean revealed the presence of three basic dietary profiles that are very similar to the patterns identified by Keegan and DeNiro. Ten individuals from Maisabel, Puerto Rico, produced carbon and nitrogen isotope values that corroborate Keegan and DeNiro's (1988) results for the Taino individual from Puerto Rico mentioned above. Specifically, Van Klinken's data indicated a diet that emphasized C3terrestrial foods. A second group of skeletal samples consisted of ten Ceramic Age individuals (A.D. 450-980) from the closely situated islands of St. Eustatius and Saba. The isotopic data from the second sample group showed that terrestrial C3 foods, probably land crabs and root crops, were utilized, but also demonstrate that shallow marine organisms, including shellfish and reef fishes, were


regularly consumed. Van Klinken estimated that reef foods comprised between 25% and 31% of the St. Eustatius/Saba diets and that consumption of maize or other C4-pathway plants is not indicated. Similarly, Van Klinken's results for 12 individuals from the Surinam coast suggest that a balance existed in the human diet between terrestrial-C3 foods and items procured from coral reefs and sea-grass meadows. Finally, Van Klinken's fourth skeletal population-including 29 preceramic individuals from Aruba and a group of 11 Ceramic Age skeletons from Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire--produced distinctive isotopic signatures characterized by relatively high delta-13 values (means ranging between -9.4 0/00 and -11 0/00) that approach those of extreme C4 consumers, for example, maize agriculturists. While maize production by Ceramic Age inhabitants of Curacao has been suggested based on the presence of grinding implements (Haviser 1987:52), maize is not considered to have been a part of preceramic diets. Since the isotopic values for the Archaic Age (presumably non-agricultural) skeletons and the ceramic Age individuals from ArubaCuracao-Bonaire are nearly identical and essentially unchanged over the broad time span (ca. two millennia), maize consumption in the Ceramic Age must have been either very limited or is not the reason for the high delta-13 values in either population. Alternatively, Van Klinken suggests that the maize-like isotope ratios probably reflect extensive consumption of shellfish and sea turtles. This


alternative to maize consumption is corroborated by the zooarchaeological remains. Thus, while osteochemical data from Caribbean sites are highly enlightening, evidence of plant and animal remains is needed to clarify isotopic signatures and further detail the dietary reconstructions.

Keegan (1985, 1987) also used pollen evidence (see

below) to try and discern more detail about Ceramic Period plant use in the West Indies. At least five palynological studies of prehistoric sites on Hispaniola and Puerto Rico have been completed (Fortuna 1978, n.d.; Garcia Arevalo and Tavares 1978; Higuera-Gundy 1991; Nadal et al. 1991; Rouse and Alegria 1990). Pollen of cultivated and otherwise useful plants were documented in some of the profiles, but the temporal placement for virtually all of the identifications is tenuous and can not be definitively attributed to prehistoric occupations. For example, maize and manioc pollen appear in sediment samples from the Hacienda Grande village site, but the pollen grains appear only in the uppermost, disturbed levels of the excavations (Fortuna n.d.; Rouse and Alegria 1990). Pollen of useful plants is absent in clearly Hacienda Grande-style deposits (Rouse and Alegria 1990:65). Simlarly, Fortuna (1978; Garcia Arevalo and Tavares 1978:34-35) identified guava, papaya, Zamia sp. (la guayica), and tobacco pollen, among others, in samples from the site known as Sanate, eastern Dominican Republic. However, there is no direct association between the reported radiocarbon date of A.D. 1050 (Fortuna


1978:125; Garcia Are'valo and Tavares 1978:32) and the pollen samples. A similar assemblage of pollens was identified from La Caleta, Dominican Republic (Fortuna n.d.); unfortunately the temporal placement of the pollens is not verified. At El Jobito, located near Sanate, maize pollen was recovered purportedly dating to ca. A.D. 1020 (Garcia Are'valo and Tavares 1978:36). This identification and relatively early date needs to be corroborated with additional data. Maize pollen was identified in samples from another location on the island (bottom sediments from Lake Miragoane, Haiti [Higuera-Gundy 1991]), dating somewhere between approximately A.D. 1000 and 1500. Sanoja (1989:532) mentions an additional pair of archaeological sites in the Dominican Republic, both with maize pollen reputedly dating to ca. 1450 B.C. To reiterate, this date for maize is early and predates the first millennium B.C. migration (Siegel 1991a, c) of horticultural people into the archipelago. Nevertheless, the dates for early maize in the tropical lowlands continue to be pushed back (Miksicek et al. 1981; Pearsall 1990; Piperno 1989; Rust and Leyden 1990)--as early as 5000 B.C. for Panama--but maize is still considered to be a rather late (ca. first millennium B.C.) introduction into northeastern South America. Thus, although a second millennium B.C. date for maize in the West Indies is not unthinkable, efforts should be made to corroborate this record for the earliest presence of maize in the Greater Antilles with additional radiocarbon dates


and pollen data, as well as macrobotanical and phytolith studies. Actual maize macro-remains (cobs and kernels) have not been recovered previous to the investigations at En Bas Saline, Haiti (Chapter 6) and these date to no earlier than A.D. 1250. A previous report of maize kernels (Davis 1988) is incorrect. Large mineralized seed-like specimens from a Saladoid deposit (ca. fifth century A.D.) at the Sugar Factory site on St. Kitts were tentatively identified as maize and subsequently reported as such (Davis 1988; and see Siegel 1991b). In fact, the Sugar Factory specimens are gastroliths from the large land crabs (identified by Dr. E.S. Wing, Florida Museum of Natural History).

Nadal et al. (1991:145) have recovered compelling

evidence for important plants in the pollen data from the site of Manoguayabo, near Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. This is a relatively late site with Chicoid series ceramics (ca. A.D. 1200-1500 [Rouse 1992:107]). The pollen data indicate the presence of manioc, guava, and mombin (Spondias sp.). Macrobotanical remains (tubers, wood) of manioc and guava were recovered from another Chicoid site, En Bas Saline, dating to as early as A.D. 1250 (discussed in Chapter 6).

To summarize, Caribbean archaeologists have developed models that attempt to explain and understand Ceramic Age migrations, and the colonization efforts of Indians from lowland South America. The migration and settlement in the islands by earlier human groups has been documented, but


research has not progressed much beyond description of the sites. All of the migration models directly or implicitly invoke the importance of plant resources to the survival of the migrants. Historic documents, artifact assemblages, bone chemistry, and pollen data each have produced tantalizing, but largely ambiguous results as to the exact nature, scale, and timing of plant use. Questions remain concerning why and when the transition from subsistence based on foraging and gardening to a predominance of domesticated plants and field agriculture, as demonstrated by contact-era Taino, occurred. Moreover, the roles of indigenous wild plants, protodomesticates (e.g., primrose, as detailed in Chapters 4 through 7), and housegarden species also need definition.

Pertinent Details from Ethnohistoric Documents
about Taino Plants and Agriculture

Early historic chronicles describe Caribbean Indian

agriculture and plant use primarily in regard to the Taino who inhabited the Greater Antilles. Columbus's diary (Dunn and Kelley 1988) contains references to manioc and possibly also to maize. For example, on 6 November 1492 Columbus wrote: "The earth was very fertile and planted with those manes [manioc, Manihot esculenta] and bean varieties very different from ours, and with that same millet" [possibly maize] (Dunn and Kelley 1988:139). Oviedo (1959:80) related that manioc and Indian corn were important foods, but his statement applies generally to Indian life in the New World,


obscuring differences in consumption between the islands of the West Indies and nearby mainland areas.

Infrequent references to maize in historic documents pertaining to the West Indies, in conjunction with the few descriptions of its planting and use, has led to an overall impression that maize played a minor role in Caribbean Indian subsistence (Keegan 1987; Sauer 1966; Sturtevant 1961, 1969). Sauer (1966:9) summarized Taino agriculture as follows: "the main tillage is of starchy root crops which were vegetatively reproduced . Manioc, by all accounts, was the principal staple and bread in the West Indies. Seed crops, including maize, do not seem to have been important to the island cultures.

The Taino of the Greater Antilles seem generally to have practiced slash and burn cultivation (Sauer 1966:51; Sturtevant 1961). Oviedo (1959:13-14) wrote:

The Indians first cut down the cane and trees
where they wish to plant it [corn] . . After
the trees and cane have been felled and the field
grubbed, the land is burned over and the ashes are left as dressing for the soil, and this is
much better than if the land were fertilized.

Small earthen mounds known as I'montones" (Sauer 1966:51-52) were constructed on cleared plots to provide a suitable growing platform, particularly for root crops. The mounds were circular, approximately 30 cm high and a meter in diameter. Manioc, sweet potato, beans, squash, maize, peanuts, and at least five additional rootcrops were cultivated on the mounded plots (Sauer 1966:51-54). The rootcrops are discussed in more detail in Chapter 6.


Planted tracts of montones were known as "conucos." Homegarden or "yard plants" (Sauer 1966:56-57) also are listed as having been important to Taino existance, among them are fruit trees, including mamey (Mammea americana), manzanillas (identity unknown, possibly Euphorbiaceae, used as a purgative), and other useful plants, including tobacco, cotton, achiote or anatto (Bixa orellana), calabash (Crescentia cuiete), jagua (Genipa americana, the juice colors the skin black), and cohoba (Piptadenia peregrina, used as a narcotic snuff).

In limited areas more labor-intensive forms of

cultivation were employed, including the use of ditch networks for field irrigation in arid southwestern Haiti (Las Casas 1909 chapter 5:15, chapter 60:154) and bench terraces in Puerto Rico (Ortiz Aguilu et al. 1991). The crops grown by means of these more intensive systems of cultivation are not known with certainty. Previous Archaeobotanical Research on Caribbean Sites

Research with preserved plant material that could

further elucidate plant use in the Caribbean is a recent enterprise in West Indian archaeology, having begun in the early 1980s. Consequently, prior to this study few data beyond what could be gleaned or inferred from historic documents and the presence of artifacts believed associated with food production were available to interpret the interaction between Caribbean Indians and their local flora.


Previous archaeobotanical studies of prehistoric West Indian deposits are limited to five sites. Pearsall analyzed material from Krum Bay, St. Thomas (1983), El Bronce, Puerto Rico (1985), and the Three Dog Site, San Salvador, Bahamas (1989a). Krum Bay, the most intensively tested of the five sites, is the only locality from which an appreciable quantity of macrobotanical remains was recovered. All three of the sites analyzed by Pearsall, however, provide good comparative wood data that can be used to examine patterns of tree selection for fuel and construction materials. I analyzed two additional sites on Puerto Rico in 1988 and 1989-1991 (El Fresal and El Parking Site, respectively [Newsom 1988, 1992a]). The preliminary analyses of the two sites have been supplemented with additional data and are incorporated in Chapter 5.

The settlement at Krum Bay (Lundberg 1989) dates to the Archaic Age, specifically the Ortoiroid occupation on the northern Lesser Antilles. A total of 2678 seeds and fragments was recovered (Pearsall 1983), 89% of which (2330 specimens) belong to two genera of the Sapotaceae that bear edible fruit--false mastic (Mastichodendron foetidissimum) and Manilkara sp. The remainder of the seed identifications from Krum Bay are primarily from weedy annuals (e.g., purslane [Portulaca sp.]) representative of ruderal vegetation.

At least 20 types of wood were identified from the Krum Bay deposits. The most ubiquitous are buttonwood


(Conocarpus erecta), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), cupey (Clusia rosea), fig (Ficus sp.), cedar or roble (Tabebeuia sp.), and acacia (Acacia sp.).

Few seed remains were recovered in samples from El

Bronce, Puerto Rico (Pearsall 1985), or from the Three-Dog site, San Salvador (Pearsall 1989a). Eighteen seeds representative of ten individual plant genera or families were identified from El Bronce deposits. The seeds of weedy annuals predominate, none of which is definitively associated with the prehistoric settlement. Flotation samples from the Three Dog site produced 11 fragments of plant remains with a nut-like hard seed coat. Based on the presence of whole specimens recovered with faunal samples that were analyzed at the Florida Museum of Natural History (Newsom and E. Wing, laboratory data), the seed coat fragments probably belong to mastic-bully (Mastichodendron foetidissimum).

Five woods were identified from the Three Dog site:

buttonwood, lignum-vitae (Guaiacum sp.), pepper bush (Croton sp.), yellow torch or West Indian quinine bark (Exostema sp.), and false coca (Erythroxylum sp.). Twenty four different woods were recovered in flotation samples from El Bronce, including four of the same woods from Three Dog site: lignum-vitae, pepper bush, yellow torch, and false coca. Also identified in the El Bronce wood remains were what seem to be two separate species of Annona (pond-apple, soursop), sea grape/pigeon plum (Coccoloba sp.), and a caper


(Capparis sp.). Besides possibly having been used as fuel, several of the woody species identified have potential food or medicinal value (Little and Wadsworth 1964:344; Record and Hess 1943).

In addition to the work with systematically recovered plant remains described above, several isolated finds of plant materials and/or identifications from work of a more limited nature have been reported. From old domestic deposits inside a cave in the Dominican Republic, Veloz Maggiolo and Vega (1982) recovered leaf tissue of Zamia debilis, the roots of which may have been an important source of dietary starch (Sturtevant 1969), and seeds of Clusea rosea (an exudate from capsules of this plant reportedly have been used as a glue to set manioc graterboard teeth [Lewenstein and Walker 1984]). In addition, Veloz Maggiolo and Ortega (1976) report their recovery of carbonized hard seed coats, probably from palm seeds, in samples from at least three separate Archaic Age sites in the Dominican Republic.

Limited previous plant data are known from other

islands in the Caribbean. Van der Klift (1985) identified cockspur (Celtis sp.) seeds in midden samples from the Golden Rock site, St. Eustatius, and Cutler (in Rouse and Alegria 1990:23) identified seeds of avocado (Persea americana) and yellow sapote (Lucuma salicifolia = Pouteria salicifolia = Pouteria campechiana [Standley and Williams 1966]) in material excavated in 1948 from the Maria de la


Cruz cave in Puerto Rico. Leaf-impressed pot sherds from Pearls, Grenada were donated to the Florida Museum of Natural History in 1985 (L. Wilder collection); the wellpreserved venation and outlines of the leaf margins suggest the Melastomataceae in one case, and possibly Cordia sp. (aloewood, prince-wood; Ehretiaceae) in another.

Research questions

In this chapter background information was presented

that provides the context for this research. In the course of my discussions, six broad questions were developed.

1. What types of plant resources were integrated

into the subsistence patterns of Archaic Age and

later inhabitants in the West Indies and how

were they integrated?

2. If exotic plant resources were imported by

Archaic and/or Ceramic age cultures, what is

the source area(s) for these subsistence items.

3. When and where were gardening and

arboriculture undertaken by Caribbean Indians?

4. What is the nature of the interaction between

Archaic Age inhabitants of the islands and the

Cedrosan Saladoid colonists, and did Archaic Age

people facilitate Saladoid adaptation to the

insular environment?

5. When, in the transition from the Saladoid to the

Ostionoid culture series, did the emphasis in

subsistence systems shift from extensive rootcrop


horticulture to more intensive forms of crop

production, including lengthier field preparation,

irrigation, and terracing?

6. How were homegardens integrated with crop

production and the overall subsistence system, and

did the shift to crop production entail additions

or deletions from the original set(s) of plant

(and animal) foods used?

7. Was the increased reliance on cultigens such as

maize and rootcrops accompanied by changes in the

proportions in which other plant resources were


The results of the research discussed in the following chapters will be used to attempt to answer (or at least lend some insight into) these questions. Archaeological, ecological, and archaeobotanical data are employed in my analyses. The results of this endeavor provide a more informed understanding of the development of Caribbean Indian subsistence and social complexity. Nevertheless, the products of this research have implications for the broader issues raised here and in Chapter 1.



The data f or this study were drawn from one site on the island of Bonaire, eleven sites in the Lesser Antilles, five sites on Puerto Rico, and two sites on Hispaniola (Figure

3.1). General information about the sites is presented in Table 3.1 and each is briefly described in the paragraphs that follow. Three additional sites--Macabou (Martinique), Krum Bay (St. Thomas), and El Bronce (Puerto Rico)--are shown on the map (Figure 3.1) because archaeobotanical data from the three are discussed in subsequent chapters, even though they are not part of the analyses incorporated in this dissertation.

Site Descriptions

Wanava. Bonaire

Bonaire is culturally and spatially independent of the other sites in this study (Figure 3.1), being outside, and isolated from, the primary migratory flow of human groups from the Orinoco region into the main Caribbean Island arc. Nonetheless, the Wanapa Site is included in this dissertation because of its pertinence from a general cultural perspective and because the environment and vegetation of the island are similar enough to arid areas of


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the Lesser Antilles to provide comparative information on resource use.

Research on the Wanapa site was directed by Jay

Haviser, of the Archeologisch-Antropologisch Instituut Nederlandse Antillen (AAINA), Curagao. The site was excavated as part of a comprehensive survey and assessment of prehistoric cultural resources on Bonaire (Haviser 1991a). Wanapa is the location of a small prehistoric settlement. The site is situated on the southern arm of the island, immediately north of Lac, the largest bay on Bonaire. The terrain is a low limestone terrace, with vegetation having a characteristically dry aspect (Stoffers 1956:18). Annual rainfall is low, averaging 500 mm, with a markedly uneven annual distribution.

Items of material culture from Wanapa have been

assigned to the Dabajuroid series (Haviser 1991a). The archaeological deposits at the site are rather homogeneous, lacking clear evidence of stratification. Thus, according to Haviser, even though the radiocarbon dates range widely (from ca. A.D. 470 to A.D. 1450), a single continuous occupation is suggested. A steady accumulation of refuse was produced by the site's inhabitants, including the remains of plant resources. All plant remains from Wanapa probably represent secondarily deposited materials, such as fuelwood remains and hearth sweepings that were removed from primary contexts and subsequently incorporated in the midden-refuse areas. Nothing that could be definitively


identified as a cooking area or hearth was encountered during excavation.

The plant remains were recovered from ten 2 x 2 meter excavation units that were placed in two separate locations at the site. Area A is a general midden or refuse deposit (eight excavation units), and excavation Area B includes the floor of a circular house and an associated concentration of dense midden on its southwestern perimeter. Several archaeobotanical samples were recovered from the houseassociated midden.

Pearls. Grenada

Pearls, on the island of Grenada at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles (Figure 3.1), is the site of a large Cedrosan Saladoid village estimated to have originally covered at least 25 to 100 acres (Bullen 1964:18-22; Cody 1990, 1991; Keegan 1993; Keegan and Cody 1990). The site is located on the northeast coast of the island on a flat plain near the mouth of the Great River. Grenada is a volcanic island with good agricultural soils and abundant rainfall.

Recent test excavations (1988-1990) at Pearls were

conducted by William F. Keegan (Florida Museum of Natural History) and Annie Cody (University of California, Los Angeles). Archaeobotanical samples from Pearls derive from the rather extensive shell midden deposits (Keegan 1993; Keegan and Cody 1990).

An unfortunate circumstance is that the site has suffered much disturbance to what otherwise were well-


preserved deposits with good organic preservation. The modern intrusions have resulted not only in the loss of important contextual information, but plant remains were undoubtedly negatively impacted by disruption of the burial environment.

Archaeobotanical samples from Pearls come primarily from two excavation units, designated West 195.5 and West 196, that were placed in an undisturbed area of the site. Both units penetrated intact shell midden with abundant, well-preserved faunal remains. The ceramics and other artifacts from West 195.5 and West 196 are exclusively Saladoid; in particular, ceramic griddle sherds and undecorated pottery were frequent, suggesting that the area was the location of common domestic activities (household deposits unassociated with ceremonial areas of the site). Heywoods, Barbados

Heywoods site is located on the western side of

Barbados, a flat coral island in the southern Windward Islands, and the easternmost of the Caribbean islands. Rainfall on Barbados is ample, at about 1500 mm annually (Mohlenbrock 1988), but the soils are generally poor for plant cultivation.

Shell midden deposits at the Heywoods site accumulated during the Suazoid and earlier Troumassoid occupations of the island (ca. A.D. 600-1400). Excavations at Heywoods were conducted under the direction of Peter Drewett (Institute of Archaeology, University College London,


England) in cooperation with the Barbados Museum. The archaeobotanical samples consist of shell midden deposit from general excavation levels (Table 3.1), collected in excavation screens of 1.8 mm (1/16 inch). Twenty Hill (PE-19) and Jolly Beach (MA-3, MA-4). Antigua

Antigua is a sedimentary (as opposed to volcanic) island located midway up the Lesser Antilles, in the southern Leeward islands (Figure 3.1). Two sites on Antigua attributed to the Archaic Age Jolly Beach culture (Ortoiroid culture series, ca. 1000-2000 B.C. [Rouse 1992]) have yielded limited archaeobotanical data. Twenty-four sites attributed to the Jolly Beach culture have currently been documented on Antigua; all are situated along the coast, primarily on the northern half of the island, where, according to Rouse (1992:65) fishing and shellfishing are more readily undertaken.

Recent excavations at the two sites that produced the archaeobotanical samples analyzed below were carried out by Bruce Nodine in conjunction with research directed through Brown University. Radiocarbon dates from the Twenty Hill deposits place the occupation of the site between approximately 500 B.C. and 3000 B.C. (Nodine, personal communication, August 12, 1989). However, inconsistencies in the radiocarbon dates and the presence of deeply buried historic artifacts indicate that the site is disturbed. Nevertheless, Nodine (personal communication, ibid.) feels certain that the carbonized plant specimens discussed in


Chapter 4 are indeed associated with the prehistoric occupation. As with Heywoods and Wanapa, samples from the Antigua sites represent general excavation fill (5 cm arbitrary levels) that was sieved through 1/16 inch sceens. Hichmans' Shell Heap (GE-6), Hichmans' Site (GE-5), and Indian Castle (GE-I). Nevis

Shell midden samples from three sites on Nevis were

analyzed for the presence of plant remains. The excavations and research at the sites were part of an intensive settlement survey directed by Samuel M. Wilson, University of Texas, Austin. The current archaeobotanical analysis is limited, with the objective of assessing the potential for paleoethnobotanical research on the island.

Nevis is a volcanic island centrally located in the Leeward island group (Figure 3.1). Rainfall is adequate, ranging from 1000 mm on the windward coast to approximately 2500 mm on Nevis Peak (Wilson n.d.). All three sites are located on the southeast coast of the island, near the most extensive series of coral reefs (Wilson n.d.).

Human groups inhabited Nevis at least as early as the Caribbean Archaic Age, and essentially the whole range of prehistoric human occupation on Nevis is represented by the three sites analyzed for archaeobotanical data. Hichmans' Shell Heap (GE-6) is a preceramic Ortoiroid site dating to the last millennium B.C. (radiocarbon age: 540+60 B.C. (2490+60 B.P., Beta-19328) (Wilson n.d.). Nearby Hichmans' Site (GE-5) represents an early Saladoid people, based on the presence of Zone-Incised-Crosshatched-decorated ceramics


(Wilson n.d.). The third site, Indian Castle (GE-l), was occupied during the subsequent Ostionoid period (approximately 600 A.D. to the time of European contact). Indian Castle is the largest Ostionoid site on Nevis; a single radiocarbon date of 670+60 A.D. (1280+60 B.P., Beta19327) was obtained for the site (Wilson n.d.).

Archaeobotanical samples from the Nevis sites are primarily from the refuse deposits; three samples from Indian Castle come from a pit feature and pair of post molds. All samples from the sites were processed by means of water flotation.

Golden Rock, St. Eustatius

Golden Rock is a large early Saladoid settlement (80

cal B.C. to 980 cal A.D.) centrally located on the volcanic island of St. Eustatius (Versteeg and Schinkel 1992). St. Eustatius is near Nevis (Figure 3.1) and has a similar rainfall regime, averaging between 1100 mm and 2000 mm annually. There are no permanent sources of freshwater on St. Eustatius (Boldingh 1909).

Recent excavations at Golden Rock were directed by Aad Versteeg and Kees Schinkel of the Rijks Universiteit, Leiden, with the support of the St. Eustatius Historical Foundation and the AAINA, Curaqao. Careful excavation produced the first complete floorplans of prehistoric houses in the Caribbean Islands. In addition to discerning the outlines and floors of at least five Saladoid houses and other wooden structures, the excavations revealed the


presence of associated large midden accumulations and a plaza area.

Plant remains are exceptionally well preserved in the Golden Rock deposits. Carbonized wood from the house posts and archaeobotanical samples from the shell midden deposits provided information about wood use and plant foods (Chapter 4). Materials from this site were recovered by means of dry sieving through fine meshes (see below) and by direct collection of larger-sized wood remains. Hope Estate, St. Martin

Ongoing excavations at Hope Estate are being carried

out under the direction of Jay Haviser (AAINA, Curaqao), and Corinne Hofman and Menno L. P. Hoogland (Rijks Universitat, Leiden), with the support of the Association Archeologique "Hope Estate." St. Martin is partially volcanic, associated with the outer (northeastern) arc of uplifted sedimentary formations in the northern Lesser Antilles. The Hope Estate site is located approximately 2 km inland in a major drainage valley with a semi-permanent flow of fresh water (Haviser 1988). The island receives about 1000 mm of rainfall annually.

Like Hichmans' Site and Golden Rock, Hope Estate is an early Ceramic Age settlement. Radiocarbon dates range from approximately 560-350 B.C. (251040; 3200+55 B.P., University of Pennsylvania) at the earliest, to approximately A.D. 435-460 (151535, 1490+35 B.P., University of Pennsylvania) (Haviser 1988). Haviser (1988)


has suggested that three separate prehistoric cultural groups may have occupied the site, the first being an early ceramic-bearing group who produced zoned-punctated and curvilinear-incised ceramics. This first group of people are believed responsible for a small shell midden deposit (designated XXII T20-T21, see Chapter 4) and the earliest portion of a second (Haviser's "primary" midden) shell midden (designated XVII A1-A5). The second possible culture to appear at the site is identified with the Cedrosan Saladoid series; typically red-painted, white-on-red, and red-and-black painted ceramic wares were recovered in association with levels attributed to this second occupation, along with some Huecan-Saladoid decorative elements (Haviser 1988). The second occupation continued to deposit materials on the primary shell midden. Haviser refers to the third cultural unit tentatively recognized for Hope Estate as "modified Saladoid" people; they are believed to have ties to the mainland Barrancoid tradition (Haviser 1988).

Archaeobotanical samples from Hope Estate were obtained from shell midden deposit by stratigraphic excavation using 2.8 mm excavation screens. The samples represent excavation levels, rather than specific features or other more discrete deposits. Currently only two such samples have been completely analyzed (Chapter 4), both come from the earliest occupation of the site (Haviser's Early Ceramic group).


Beach Access Site and Trunk Bay. St. John. United States Virgrin Islands

The island of St. John occurs in the Virgin Island

group at the northern and western most extent of the Lesser Antilles. Salvage operations at the Beach Access Site (also known as Lameshur Bay) and at Trunk Bay were conducted by Ken Wild of the National Park Service, Southeast Archaeological Center. The material culture assemblage from the Beach Access Site indicates the presence both of the Archaic Age Ortoiroid and the later Huecan Saladoid culture series. Radiocarbon dates from the site range from approximately 730 B.C. to the first centuries A.D. (Ken Wild, personal communication, 17 December 1992). The Trunk Bay deposits represent a later occupation(s), with the presence of Cedrosan Saladoid and Ostionoid ceramics series.

Limited archaeobotanical analysis of samples from the two prehistoric sites was undertaken. Nevertheless, data useful to this dissertation research were gathered. Samples from the Beach Access Site derive from a pair of burned areas that may have functioned as hearths. Trunk Bay samples come from general or undifferentiated refuse (shell midden) deposits.

Calle Cristo. Puerto Rico

Archaeological research at Calle del Cristo, San Juan, was conducted during 1989-1991 by the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office under the direction of Carlos Solis Magana and Virginia Rivera. The prehistoric site is located beneath present Calle del Cristo and extends to an


area adjacent to Calle Norzagaray. Ceramics and other artifacts indicate that the deposits at Calle del Cristo belong to the period associated with the Cuevas/Cedrosan Saladoid subseries. Several midden strata were analyzed for the possible presence of preserved plant structures. Maisabel, Puerto Rico

Maisabel is located on the north coast of Puerto Rico west of San Juan near the town of Vega Baja (municipality Manati). The site was intensively investigated during the latter part of the 1980s under the auspices of the Centro de Investigaciones Indigenas de Puerto Rico, Inc. and with the direction of Peter Siegel.

Maisabel is a large prehistoric village that appears to have been continuously occupied for an extensive period, spanning at least several centuries. Radiocarbon dates for good cultural contexts from Maisabel range from at least as early as 100 B.C. to approximately A.D. 1100 (see Siegal 1990 for an in depth discussion of radiocarbon calibrations for Maisabel). The coastline forms the northern boundary of the site and a small pond is situated on its southern perimeter; immdediately to the east is a large mangrove swamp, and one kilometer further east is the Rio Cibuco.

Archaeological research demonstrates that Maisabel is structurally and culturally complex. Particularly salient features of the site include a series of five mounded midden areas that encircle a large central plaza and burial area; located between the two largest mounded middens is an area


where a substantial Ostionoid structure stood (Siegel 1989; 1990). Burials were also confined within the large Ostionoid building. Mounded Midden 1, from which was analyzed the greatest number of archaeobotanical samples, dates exclusively to a Hacienda Grande-Saladoid occupation. Other samples came from Mounded Midden 2 and the large central plaza and burial area; these portions of the site seem to have been used continuously from Hacienda Grande to Ostionoid times. Immediately south of the plaza/burial area is the large, circular Ostionoid-aged house or ceremonial building; the structure was circumscribed by a curving, discontinuous ditch feature (Siegel 1989, 1990). At least five archaeobotanical samples are associated with the Ostionoid building and ditch feature.

Two types of archaeobotanical sample were recovered from Maisabel deposits. One group of samples consists exclusively of collections of carbonized wood. These represent either concentrations of wood fragments that were collected directly as batch samples as they were observed in situ, the same procedure as was employed for large wood remains from Golden Rock, or wood collected by the excavation screens. Most of these separate wood collections, referred to as "carbon samples", derive from general-level deposit (screened material); seven were recovered directly from features, e.g., hearths, or possible postholes, or other distinctive types of deposit.


The second group of samples from Maisabel are

volumetric soil samples. These were processed initially by water flotation. Like the carbon samples described above, some volumetric samples represent general-level deposit while others derive from more specific contexts. Siegel's sampling strategy included the routine collection of ca. 10 liter volumetric samples. Whenever possible, at least one such sample was recovered from each excavation level or context (Siegel 1987), including features and other more specific contexts that may have been enountered within a given 10 cm excavation level. El Fresal, Puerto Rico

El Fresal is an Ostionoid series site located in southcentral Puerto Rico, barrio Cuyon, municipality of Aibonito. Excavations and research on the site were directed in 1988 by Marisol Melendez for the Rural Development Office of the Agriculture Department.

The site is situated approximately 30 kilometers inland at the northern edge of the southern dry coastal region (Ashton 1985), bordering the lower cordillera forest. El Fresal seems to have been the location of a small prehistoric settlement. A single radiocarbon date of A.D. 116060 (790+60 B.P., Beta-26326) is consistent with items of material culture from the site (Melendez 1988); the ceramics and other artifacts are indicative of the Ostionoid series, including the Ostiones and Santa Elena complexes,


and also the later Esperanza, Capa, and Boca Chica styles of eastern and western Puerto Rico (Rouse 1992).

Several fairly large hearth-like burned deposits were

excavated by Melendez, and samples from three of the hearthlike deposits were analyzed for plant remains. All such archaeobotanical samples were initially processed by water flotation.

El Parking Site (PO-38), Puerto Rico

Deposits at the El Parking site (PO-38) belong to a late Saladoid, specifically Cuevas, to early Ostionoid occupation located in south-central Puerto Rico in the Cerrillos River Valley (Sector Los Fondos, barrio Maraguez, Municipio Ponce). Excavations at the site were conducted during 1989 and 1991 by Guy G. Weaver of Garrow and Associates, Inc., Memphis, Tennessee.

The El Parking site is situated at the north end of an alluvial terrace at the base of the steep western valley wall, and approximately 15 kilometers north of the southern coast of Puerto Rico (Weaver 1992). Physiographically, the site is situated in a transitional zone between the Cordillera Central and the low Coastal Plain (Weaver 1992).

Old living floors and hearth-like deposits were

uncovered in the course of excavations; several of these features were tested for the presence of archaeobotanical remains. All samples were initially processed by means of water flotation. Features 14, 17, and 34--samples from which are included in the analyses presented in Chapter 5--


have corrected radiocarbon ranges (1 sigma) of A.D. 652-851, A.D. 541-666, and A.D. 656-855, respectively. Barrio Ballaj6. San Juan. Puerto Rico

Archaeobotanical samples from nineteenth-century deposits in Old San Juan, barrio Ballaja, contain exceptionally well preserved plant remains. Despite the considerably later age than most of the plant assemblages included in this study, the Ballaja materials are incorporated here due to the fact that several of the plant identifications currently represent the earliest record for the presence in the Caribbean of the particular genera.

Phase II and subsequent investigations in the barrio by the Puerto Rico State Historic Preservation Office (under the direction of Carlos Solis Magana and Virginia Rivera) established the existence of substantial, intact deposits and features dating primarily to the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries. Among the significant cultural deposits were refuse pits, buried barrel wells filled with refuse, former latrines, preserved floors, and architectural remains. Most of these deposits and structures could be associated by documentary evidence with individual households (Solis Magana, personal communication, March 1992).

Portions of ten features that variously originated with nineteeth-century households were analyzed for archaeobotanical data. Among these is Feature 25 which functioned as a latrine for a relatively high status family.


Additional archaeobotanical samples derive from Feature 57, a hospital disposal area and latrine. Plant materials from barrio Ballaja were recovered primarily by means of water flotation; archaeobotanical data from the flotation samples are augmented, however, with identifications of plant materials that were captured in excavation screens. En Bas Saline, Haiti

En Bas Saline is located about one kilometer inland

from the beach-side village of Limonade Bord de Mer, Haiti, and about 15 kilometers east of present-day Cap Haitien. Kathleen A. Deagan of the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida has carried out six field seasons of excavation at the site (1983-1988) in collaboration with the Bureau National D' Ethnologie D' Haiti.

En Bas Saline is believed to have been the town of the Taino cassique Guacanacaric, who provided Columbus with assistance and refuge after the wreck of his flagship, the Santa Maria, in 1492. It was at the town of Guacanacaric that Columbus established the fortification known as La Navidad (Deagan 1986, 1987). Upper levels of the site contain small quantities of European artifacts and fauna (Sus scrofa and Rattus rattus) that together with other data support arguments for its identifification as the town of Guacanacaric.

Radiocarbon dates, pottery thermoluminescence dates,

and the position of the European materials indicate that En


Bas Saline was first occupied at about A.D. 1250 (cal AD 1270+-80) and abandoned within a decade of A.D. 1500. The aboriginal materials are exclusively Carrier, a style characteristic of the fully developed Taino Indian culture (Rouse 1986, 1992). The site is an oval-shaped village, described by a wide, raised earthen embankment around its northern perimeter, and a band of concentrated midden debris around the southern half. The center of the site is relatively free of debris and apparently functioned as a plaza. A small raised mound in the center of the plaza area contained the remains of what was a large and substantial structure that burned in the Fourteenth Century. By all ethnohistoric accounts, such structures were occupied by Taino chiefs.

With an area of nearly 200,000 square meters, En Bas

Saline is one of the largest prehistoric towns reported from the Caribbean. Documentary accounts, as well as the site's size, its configuration around a plaza, the central mound and the richly ornate material remains, all suggest that it represents the town of a Taino chief.

Archaeobotanical samples from En Bas Saline were taken from various deposits representative of the full temporal range of occupation at the site. Additional details about the cultural contexts and the nature of the archaeobotanical samples are fully detailed in Chapter 6.


La Isabela. Dominican Republic

A limited number of samples were analyzed from La Isabela, the last of the sites incorporated in this dissertation. Isabela, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, is the location of the colony established in 1494 by Columbus on his second voyage to the West Indies (Deagan 1988). Recent excavations at the site were carried out by Kathleen A. Deagan (Florida Musem of Natural History) and Jose M. Cruxent (Venezuela). Most of the samples from Isabela are from the floor of a single house; two additional samples come from the floor of another structure and from a Spanish burial.

Archaeobotanical Methods

Sample Comparability

Archaeobotanical samples from the various Caribbean sites differ in the ways in which the materials were originally deposited and subsequently recovered by archaeologists (Table 3.1). Moreover, the inherent durability or lack thereof of the various types of plant tissues, along with specific factors of the local preservation environments combine to affect long-term preservation.

This situation makes it difficult to compare sites and individual samples. Nevertheless, to search for patterns of plant use in the Caribbean assemblages, I examined the distribution of seeds, wood, and categories of plants (e.g., ruderals, fruit trees, homegarden species) by sample, by


site, and by chronological context. Probably the most notable characteristic of the overall sample assemblage is a lack of consistency from one sample to another in both the types of plants present and the relative abundances of those plants. Some samples had no seeds; others had seeds but no identifiable wood; some yielded isolated specimens of a single seed or wood type; and others had large quantities of wood or of a particular seed type or category (e.g., seeds of ruderals). Still other samples yielded an array of potentially edible or useful plant types. It is possible in this early stage of archaeobotanical research that the general disparity in the distributions of seeds and wood is a result of the lack of redundancy in the data, or an artifact of sampling. Despite these problems and regardless of the vagaries of preservation and the need to analyze more material, it was possible to detect some spatial and temporal patterns within and between subregions. Sample Preparation

Upon excavation archaeobotanical samples were either

sent directly to me for further processing and analysis, or they underwent preliminary separation and sorting by the archaeologists prior to my receiving them. All samples from the Puerto Rico sites were processed by water flotation, and in most cases large wood fragments were extracted in situ. The treatment of samples and materials is less uniform for the Lesser Antilles sites (Table 3.1), samples from some sites having undergone flotation, while those from others


were sieved with meshes ranging from 2.3 mm to 0.4 mm. Golden Rock samples were collected either directly, in situ, or fine-sieved through 0.4 mm mesh. Several separation procedures were experimented with in regard to En Bas Saline and Isabella, and dry sieving though fine meshes (4.0 mm to

0.4 mm) appears to have been most appropriate to recover plant remains. Given the overall disparity in sampling and separation procedures among the site assemblages, quantative measures of relative importance, including counts, relative frequencies, and ubiquity (see below) were employed on an individual site basis only. Broader comparisons are based on presence/absence and general spatial and temporal distributions.

Samples from most of the sites were preliminarily

processed, either by flotation or sieving procedures, prior to sending the materials to the laboratory at the Florida Museum of Natural History for analysis. Sites for which the archaeobotanical samples were preprocessed include Wanapa, Heywoods, Hope Estate, the Nevis sites, Beach Access, Trunk Bay, and all the Puerto Rico site assemblages. Samples from Pearls, Twenty Hill, Jolly Beach, Golden Rock, En Bas Saline, and Isabella were bagged upon excavation and not otherwise processed prior to arrival in the laboratory in Gainesville.

The sorting and analysis of preprocessed samples began immediately. Any samples that were forwarded to me unprocessed, that is, without having undergone prior sorting


and separation procedures, were first evaluated as to their general condition, soil type, and the durability of the plant materials contained within. This preliminary assessment is necessary to assess the appropriateness of flotation or other types of sample preparation. Initially all samples were weighed and the volume recorded, even if the samples were recovered by standardized volume. Flotation at the Florida Museum was carried out using a SMAP-type flotation machine (Watson 1976) and tap water. In most cases, light and heavy fractions from the flotation procedure were examined and sorted directly, without additional sample preparation. Alternatively, light and heavy fractions from samples that yielded greater quantities of plant remains were sieved through 4 mm, 2 mm, and 1 mm meshes (with bottom pan) to size-grade the materials (partitioning the samples by particle size facilities sorting and analysis).

Samples from some sites, especially those found in more arid environments, were judged unsuitable for water flotation due to the prevalence of wood remains and/or the friability of plant specimens. In any situation, samples with clayey soil matrix were generally always water-floated. Samples that did not undergo flotation were sieved directly through a nested sieve series, resulting in four mesh-size components per field sample: 4 mm, 2 mm, I mm, and 0.4 mm. The mesh sizes are generally consistent with standard archaeobotanical technique (see for example Greig 1989).


The sieving alternative to flotation was done either dry or with a fine spray of water depending on the moisture content of a given sample. Moderately moist to wet soil matrix was processed with water; dry to very dry samples were sieved dry. These procedures facilitated sieving and the size partitioning of sample components while maintaining the sample moisture content as near equal as possible, thus avoiding the additional stress upon fragile plant remains of total immersion and subsequent drying (see Vaquer et al. 1986). (Carbonized plant remains from dry or alternately wet/dry deposits quickly fragment along linear planes into numerous pieces when exposed to water, even from percolation across a damp towel (laboratory observations].)

In several cases, e.g., Golden Rock and Maisabel,

carbonized wood specimens were collected directly, without subjecting the specimens to further sample preparation and possible breakage. Archaeobotanical samples that underwent water-sieving or flotation were allowed to dry slowly in a sheltered area prior to analysis.

The sample fractions from the sieving or flotation

procedures were further sorted and categorized with the aid of a dissecting microscope. Materials from the 4 mm and 2 mm size fractions were completely sorted. Residues from the finer sample components (1 mm and 0.4 mm meshes) were scanned under the microscope for seeds and other identifiable plant material, but were not otherwise sorted. The 0.4 fraction proved generally unproductive of useful


plant data; generally, only fungi spores (e.g., wood rotting fungi, for example, Polyporous spp.) were observed in this sample fraction. Other than wood charcoal and occasional seeds or fragments, virtually all plant remains from the Caribbean sites were recovered in the 1 mm sieve fraction. Plant Identification

Seeds and non-wood remains

Seed identifications were made with the aid of

pictorial guides (Chase 1964; Landers and Johnson 1976; Martin and Barkley 1973), local floras (Little and Wadsworth 1964; Little, Woodbury, and Wadsworth 1974; Liogier and Martorell 1982), and by reference to specimens in the collections of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Seed measurements were made using a dissecting microscope with either a Manostat manual-dial caliper or a Fowler Ultra-Cal II digetal caliper. Maize remains were measured and analyzed following Bird (1990) and King (1987). Tubers were classified and/or identified on the basis of morphology and anatomy using comparative specimens and literature such as Esau (1977), Hather (1991), Hayward (1938), Jackson and Snowdon (1990), and Onwueme (1978). On occasion, modern seed specimens were carbonized for comparative purposes. Identifications were made to the nearest recognizable taxon. In some cases individual archaeological specimens were described, but not further identified because of insufficient material or the lack of suitable comparative specimens. The category "unidentified soft tissue" refers


to burnt, amorphous bits of material that in some cases may represent wood exudate, and in others, unrecognizable fragments of parenchymatous tissue.

Modern seeds were routinely identified to help define the Caribbean weed flora and to anticipate which seed types might be expected to occur in association with human activity. Moreover, the identification of modern specimens is occasionally helpful to interpret the presence in a site of questionably ancient seeds (Miksicek 1987). In other words, if a particular seed type from a given site occurs in both carbonized and in fresh form, it is probable, though not certain, that the charred specimen also is relatively fresh and intrusive into the deposit (and see below). It does not follow, however, that the lack of a corresponding non-carbonized specimen at a site is evidence that a particular carbonized seed or seed type is archaeological. Wood identification

Wood was identified on the basis of three-dimensional anatomy under magnifications ranging between 40x and 100ox. Individual charcoal specimens were prepared for anatomical inspection by fracturing each along three surfaces (cross, radial, and tangential). Following this, the cellular structure of the charred wood fragments was observed and documented with the aid of a dissecting microscope with enhanced magnification (200-80ox). Similarly, waterlogged wood from En Bas Saline was prepared for identification by mounting thin sections onto glass slides, which then were


observed using light microscopy. Scanning electron microscopy occasionally was employed for difficult identifications.

Wood identification proceeded with the use of keys to anatomical structure (Newsom, laboratory key for Caribbean woods; Record and Hess 1942-1948; Urling and Smith 1953; Wheeler et al. 1986). Wood types were further narrowed by direct comparison of the cellular structure in carbonized form with the anatomy observed in wood thin-sections from modern specimens housed in the Florida Museum of Natural History. All identifications were pursued to the closest recognizable taxon. Usually this was to the level of genus, since wood anatomy tends to provide insufficient information to perform identification to the level of species.

A dissecting microscope also was used to observe growth rings on wood specimens from the Golden Rock site. Ring width measurements were made on the microscope with a Manostat dyal-type caliper. Angle of growth-ring curvature and stem diameters were estimated with a rim-diameter template (commonly used for ceramics analysis).

Following identification, floras and vegetation studies were consulted for geographic distribution and other ecological and taxonomic details. Among the treatises used were Boldingh's (1909) and Stoffers's (1956) studies of the vegetation of the Netherlands Antilles, along with Broeders' (1967) handbook on the vegetation of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, and Coomans and Coomans-Eustatia (1988) on St.


Martin. Ewel and Whitmore (1973), Little and Wadsworth (1964), Little and Woodbury (1976), Little, Woodbury and Wadsworth (1974, 1976), Liogier and Martorell (1982), and Woodbury and Little (1976) were consulted for the vegetation of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and generally the northern Lesser Antilles. Beard (1942, 1949), Howard (19741989), Holdridge (1947, 1967), and Record and Hess (1943) provide regional perspectives on the native flora. The entire spectrum of plant identifications from this research is listed in Appendix A by taxonomic level. Comparative Measures

Minimum number of wood specimens identified

Previous research has demonstrated that a minimum number of at least 30 fragments of wood identified per sample is necessary before the relative importance of individual wood types in a given provenience can be estimated (Newsom 1991a; Scarry and Newsom 1992; and see below). Ideally, the minimum-identified figure should be determined separately for each site and context under study. Generally, plots of wood (the ordinate) from sites in South Florida and the Caribbean level out and become redundant as to new species added when between 20 and 30 specimens (the abscissa) is reached. However, the relative frequencies of different woods in a given sample tend not to stabilize, and thus do not function as reliable indicators of relative importance, until a count of about 30 to 40 specimens per provenience is established (see Scarry and Newsom 1992).


The objective of 30 wood fragments minimum identified was followed here, but many samples did not contain 30 fragments of identifiable wood.

Counts and ratios

Whenever possible seed counts were based on whole specimens; otherwise, fragment counts are reported and indicated as such. Whenever possible, fragments count reports include also an estimated minimum number of specimens, based on the presence of seed placental scars or hila (one per individual seed), is also reported.

In most cases, total seed counts were standardized by

sample volume. The resulting ratio is useful to examine the overall seed densities in site deposits and for comparisons between proveniences. Similarly, wood gram weight per liter of sample is used to compare wood densities from one sample to the next. The ratios valuable also to compare the relative importance of species within and between sites, at least on a rudimentary level. Using volume as the standard, however, necessitates that the ratios are suitable only for sites with good preservation, because poor preservation of organic remains could potentially skew the data. An additional consideration in this regard is that the original, pre-flotation sample volumes are not available for Ballaja or Calle del Cristo. Instead, the sample volumes recorded for these two sites are the light fraction volumes, subsequent to flotation. Thus, in the case of these two sites, the seed counts reported in Chapter 5 are actually


measured against the volume or density of carbonized wood remains, which comprise the bulk of the plant materials. Since the amount of wood can vary greatly among samples, depending on the nature of the deposit, preservation, and other factors, these ratios should be regarded judiciously and can not be used in comparison with data from the other sites.

Archaeobotanical ubiguity

ubiquity is a measure used by archaeobotanists to

interpret the relative importance of different plants among inter- and intrasite plant assemblages (Pearsall 1989b; Popper 1988). This method expresses the number of samples in which a given plant identification appears as a percentage of the total number of samples. Each wood type, for example, is scored as being present or absent for each sample provenience regardless of how many individual fragments of the wood occur. By applying the same emphasis on one as on ten fragments, for example, the problem of interpreting species importance in light of differential breakage and preservation is avoided. Wood types or seeds that are more prone to break into numerous pieces may appear deceptively more important in a given sample; archaeological ubiquity overcomes this difficulty of interpretation by directing attention away from actual counts to overall representation at the site or sites.


Preservation Biases

Another means by which plant remains from

archaeological sites are considered and classified is in terms of which plant types actually appear in the deposits as the result of past human activities or otherwise occurred at the time the deposits formed, versus those seeds and plant fragments that are modern and of no consequence to archaeological interpretation. Geeal, archaeobotanists working with terrestrial deposits use the condition of carbonization--whether or not a given specimen is carbonized--to help interpret the seed's or wood's validity as an archaeological specimen. An underlying assumption is that only biologically inert carbonized seeds/wood could survive lengthy periods and thus may be attributed to the period of site formation and deposition (Miksicek 1987). Uncarbonized specimens, on the other hand, tend to be classified as recently intrusive into the archaeological sediments and thus not pertinent to archaeololgical interpretation. Nevertheless, this rule must be applied with latitude, particularly for younger deposits such as were tested by the Ballaja Archaeological Project. Furthermore, conditions exist under which non-carbonized seeds and plant parts may endure longer, particularly where anerobic deposition occurs (for example, in the bottom of a well or pond), under extremely arid conditions, and/or where mineralization of seeds is possible.


very moist sediments were encountered in the deeper

excavations of latrine deposits at Ballaja and at the water table during excavations at En Bas Saline. In both cases, plant remains were preserved in uncarbonized form by means of waterlogging (anaerobic environment). Seed preservation by mineralization, perhaps in conjunction with soil chemistry and varying moisture conditions (Green 1979), seems also to have occurred at several Caribbean sites. Therefore, in terms of this research, attention was directed not only toward whether or not plant materials were carbonized, but also carefully considered was the general state of preservation and association with other plant materials. Modern, very recently intrusive seeds were subjectively recognized on the basis of how fresh and intact seed coats and other parts appeared, and, on occasion, also by sectioning seeds to inspect for presence and the condition of embryos and other seed contents (which rapidly undergo diagenesis and decay in the burial environment).



The results of research with collections of plant

remains from archaeological sites in the Lesser Antilles are described in the following sections. Discussed are collections from three sites located in the Windward Island group, including one site on the geographically isolated island of Bonaire, and from nine sites in the Leeward group of the Lesser Antilles (Figure 4.1).

Windward Is lands and Bonaire Wanava. Bonaire

Although Bonaire is outside the general flow of

migratory prehistoric human groups through the islands of the West Indies (Rouse 1986, 1989, 1992), the Dabajuroid Wanapa site is the first of prehistoric settlements located in the small western island group of Curaqao, Bonaire, and Aruba to be subjected to paleoethnobotanical scrutiny. Thus the analyses of plant materials are included here. Moreover, the data are relevant to a general understanding of prehistoric adaptation and human influence in the region.

Because plant remains from the Wanapa Site were

isolated from the archaeological deposits using 2.8 mm-mesh screens, archaeobotanical specimens recovered consist



Hichmans' Shell Heap /--Hichmans' Site C Indian Castle

Krum Bay (St.Thomas) La- BaTwenty Hill
Trunk Bay (Antigua)
Trunk~i Bay- /Jolly Beach


Hope Estate (St.Martin)

Golden Rock (St.Eustatius)


Heywoods (Barbados)


Figure 4.1. Locations of Lesser Antilles sites
analyzed for plant remains.


exclusively of carbonized wood. Seeds and other non-wood remains are lacking, with the exception of a single modern seed. The lack of ancient seeds among the Wanapa materials is probably because techniques designed to recover small seeds and fragments were not employed at this site.

Of the 45 Wanapa samples analyzed, 34 yielded

identifiable plant material (Table 4.1). Nine woods were identified, including at least six genera: strong bark (Bourreria sp.), boxwood (Bumelia sp.), caper tree (Capparis sp.), geelhout (Casearia sp.), buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus), and lignum-vitae (Guaiacum sp.) (Table 4.2). Two additional wood types are assigned to the families Bignoniaceae and Flacourtiaceae, but could not be otherwise identified. The wood designated cf. Capparis sp. (Table

4.2) possibly represents a separate species of caper tree, but further identification was impeded by poor preservation of the individual specimens. Finally, three additional wood types are recognized and preliminarily described by anatomy (Wanapa types 1-3; Table 4.2), but each is represented by insufficient material with which to proceed further with identification.

Plant identifications for individual proveniences from the Wanapa site are shown in Table 4.3. On a sample by sample basis, species diversity is narrow, with fewer than six wood types appearing in a given sample. Lignum-vitae is prominent among the samples from Wanapa, comprising the bulk (56%) of the identifications. Lignum-vitae is also most


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Table 4.2. Plant identifications from the Wanapa site,



Bignoniaceae, cf.
Tabebuia (chrysantha) cedar (roble amarillo) wood
Bourreria (succulenta) strong bark (roble de guayo) wood Bumelia (obovata) boxwood (lechecillo) wood
Capparis sp. caper tree (palinguan) wood
cf. Capparis sp. caper tree wood
Casearia (tremula) geelhout (cafefllo cimarr6n) wood Conocarpus erectus buttonwood (mangle bot6n) wood Flacourtiaceae, cf.
Xylosma (arnoldii) roseta wood
Guaiacum sp. lignum-vitae (guayacin) wood
Uniden. wood-type 1 Wanapa-l, diffuse porous, vessels solitary, parenchyma diffuse to diffuse-in-agg.* wood Uniden. wood-type 2 Wanapa-2, diffuse porous, vessels solitary and in short radial series, parenchyma paratracheal; cf. Cupania sp. (guara) or Canella (wild cinnamon; barbasco)* wood
Uniden. wood-type 3 Wanapa-3, diffuse porous, vessels solitary and in short radial series, parenchyma paratracheal-sparse* wood

Modern seeds:

Fabaceae-Mimosoideae tamarindo, bayahonda seed

*Wanapa unidentified wood types 1-3 are further described in Newsom 1991b. Specific names in parentheses indicate that they are the probable species based on geographic range or on anatomical characteristics.


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frequent in terms of occurrence, having been identified in 28 (84%) of the 33 samples with identifiable wood. Bignoniaceae (probably Tabebuia sp.), caper tree, buttonwood, and strong bark are well represented, with ubiquity values of 51%, 42%, 39%, and 24%, respectively. The seven remaining woods--boxwood, cf. Capparis, geelhout, Flacourtiaceae, and Wanapa types 1-3 (Table 4.2)--are restricted to few proviences (15% or less of the samples), and are represented by minimal material (fewer than ten fragments each).

Pearls, Grenada

Pearls, Grenada, is the first of the Ceramic Age

Saladoid sites that underwent archaeobotanical analysis as part of this research. Six proveniences from Pearls were selected for intensive study, with emphasis on areas of the site that appeared to have suffered minimal damage from looters and other forms of post-depositional disturbance. Particular samples were chosen for analysis based on initial field observations confirming that burnt plant material had survived intact, and on the simultaneous presence of abundant, well preserved bone and shell.

Samples of 3-6 liters from the six proveniences were processed by means of water flotation (Table 4.4). Nylon mesh with 0.5 mm openings was used to capture light fractions, and, in addition, lined the bottom of the heavy fraction in the flotation machine. Data from volumetricflotation samples were supplemented with identificatons of


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plant specimens recovered in situ during excavation, and with a single specimen from the excavation screens (Table


Archaeobotanical identifications from Pearls are

exclusively of seeds and endocarp fragments. Carbonized wood is present as well, but all wood fragments are undersized and/or too friable to undergo anatomical analysis.

Five plants were identified from among the various

samples from Pearls (Table 4.5). Two taxa have no direct association with the archaeological deposits. They include a nutmeg (Mvristica fraczrans) seed and 4 tentatively identified specimens of European chick pea (Cicer sp.). The two seed types are indisputably modern, since the five specimens obviously are fresh. But more to the point, both nutmeg and chick pea derive from old World regions (Willis 1973:253, 771) and could not have been present on Grenada in Precolumbian times. Chick pea presently is cultivated directly on portions of the archaeological site, and nutmeg trees grow nearby. Since the chick peas occur in the uppermost levels of test units West-198 and West-233 (Table

4.6), they undoubtedly represent unsuccessful plantings (seeds that did not sprout). Unit C deposits, which yielded the single nutmeg seed, are heavily disturbed throughout.

The status of two cockspur (Celtis iciuanaea) seeds from the Pearls samples is necessarily ambiguous. The seeds do not appear to have undergone carbonization, as might effect their extended preservation, but the seed coats are worn and


Table 4.5. Plant identifications from Pearls, Grenada.



Celtis iquanaea* cockspur (azufaifo) seed
Palmae palm family seed
Mastichodendron mastic-bully,
foetidissimum (tortugo amarillo) seed
Unidentified hardwood wood

Modern seeds:

Fabaceae, cf. Cicer cf. chick pea (Old World) seed Myristica fragrans nutmeg (Old World) seed

*Celtis seeds are mineralized.


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