People have been current in Florida by 14,000 years in the past, and till not too long ago, it was believed the Bahamas — positioned just a few miles away — weren’t colonized till about 1,000 years in the past. However new findings from a crew together with a Texas A&M College at Galveston researcher show that the realm was colonized earlier, and the brand new settlers dramatically modified the panorama.
Peter van Hengstum, affiliate professor within the Division of Marine and Coastal Setting Science at Texas A&M-Galveston, and colleagues have had their findings printed in PNAS (Proceedings of the Nationwide Academy of Sciences).
Researchers generated a brand new environmental document from the Blackwood Sinkhole, which is flooded with 120 ft of groundwater with out dissolved oxygen. That is vital as a result of it has pristinely preserved natural materials for the final three,000 years. Utilizing core samples and radiocarbon relationship, the crew examined charcoal deposits from human fires hundreds of years in the past, indicating that the primary settlers arrived within the Bahamas prior to beforehand thought.
“The Bahamas have been the final place colonized by folks within the Caribbean area, and former bodily proof indicated that it might have taken tons of of years for indigenous folks of the Bahamas — referred to as the Lucayans — to maneuver by the Bahamian archipelago that spans about 500 miles,” van Hengstum stated.
Whereas folks have been current in Florida greater than 14,000 years in the past on the finish of the final ice age, he stated, these folks by no means crossed the Florida Straits to close by Bahamian islands, solely 50 to 65 miles away. In the meantime, the Caribbean islands have been populated by folks migrating from South American northward. Van Hengstum stated the oldest archaeological websites within the southernmost Bahamian archipelago from the Turks and Caicos Islands point out human arrival probably by 700 A.D.
“However within the northern Bahamian Nice Abaco Island, the earliest bodily proof of human occupation are skeletons preserved in sinkholes and blueholes,” he stated. “These two skeletons from Abaco date from 1200 to 1300 A.D. Our new document of panorama disturbance from folks signifies that slash-and-burn agriculture probably started round 830 A.D., which means the Lucayans quickly migrated by the Bahamian archipelago in probably a century, or spanning just some human generations.”
The crew’s different findings present how the Lucayans modified the brand new land.
When the Lucayans arrived, Nice Abaco Island was largely coated with pine and palm forests, and had a novel reptile-dominated ecosystem of big tortoises and crocodiles. Elevated deforestation and burning allowed pine bushes to colonize and out-compete native palms and hardwoods.
Massive land reptiles started to vanish after 1000 A.D. A big improve in intense regional hurricane exercise round 1500 AD is assumed to have triggered appreciable injury to the brand new pine tree forests, as indicated by a lower in pine pollen within the sediment core.
“The pollen document signifies that the pre-contact forest was not considerably impacted earlier within the document throughout recognized occasions when intense hurricane strike occasions have been extra frequent,” van Hengstum stated. “In our present world the place the depth of the most important hurricanes is anticipated to extend over the approaching a long time, the present pine bushes within the northern Bahamas is probably not as resilient to environmental impacts of those adjustments in hurricane exercise.”
The examine was funded by the Nationwide Science Basis.