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GEOCHRONOLOGY AND PALEOENVIRONMENTAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE OLDEST ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE (7800–7900 cal BP) IN THE WEST INDIES, BANWARI TRACE, TRINIDAD

  • Kenneth Barnett Tankersley (a1), Nicholas P. Dunning (a2), Lewis A. Owen (a3) and Janine Sparks (a4)
Abstract

Banwari Trace, a well-stratified shell midden located in southeastern Trinidad, provides the oldest known archaeological evidence of human settlement in the West Indies and has been crucial to our understanding of the initial peopling of the greater Caribbean region. Detailed excavation profile descriptions, soil and faunal analyses, accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating, and stable carbon isotope analyses provide an accurate chronology and paleoenvironmental framework for the natural and anthropogenic depositional history of this significant archaeological site. Our findings support the recognition of three Middle Holocene strata at Banwari Trace, which represent significant periods of midden deposition and environmental change at: ~7800–7900 cal BP (Level 3); ~6900–7400 cal BP (Level 2); and ~5500–6200 cal BP (Level 1). Stable carbon isotope analyses show the landscape was dominated by C3 vegetation throughout the Middle Holocene with a possible drying episode near the end of the Middle Holocene climatic optimum. Cedrosan potsherds discovered in the uppermost 25 cm (Level 0) suggest that a Late Holocene radiocarbon age of ~2770–2200 cal BP for charcoal from this stratum is valid and possibly contemporary with an apparently intrusive human burial recovered in 1971 at a depth of ~20 cm.

Banwari Trace, un conchal ubicado en el sureste de Trinidad, proporciona las evidencias arqueológicas más antiguas conocidas hasta el momento de asentamientos humanos en las Indias Occidentales que son cruciales para entender el poblamiento inicial de la región caribeña. Las descripciones detalladas de perfiles de excavación, análisis faunísticos y de suelos, datación de radiocarbono por acelerador de espectrometría de masas, fechamiento de luminiscencia ópticamente estimulada y análisis de isótopos estables de carbono, tomados en conjunto proporcionan una cronología precisa y un marco paleoambiental para la historia deposicional de este sitio. Nuestros hallazgos confirman la existencia de tres estratos del Holoceno medio que representan períodos significativos de deposición cultural y de cambios ambientales en los periodos aproximados de 7800-7900 cal aP (Nivel 3), 6900-7400 cal aP (Nivel 2) y 5500-6200 cal aP (Nivel 1). El análisis de isótopos estables de carbono demuestra que el paisaje fue dominado por vegetación de tipo C3 a lo largo del Holoceno medio, aunque es posible la ocurrencia de un episodio seco cerca del fin del Período Óptimo Climático. El descubrimiento de unos pocos tiestos del tipo Cedrosan en los 25 cm superiores (Nivel 0) respalda la validez de la datación radiocarbónica del carbón de este estrato para el Holoceno tardío (alrededor de 2770-2200 cal aP) y sugiere su contemporaneidad con un entierro humano aparentemente intrusivo recuperado en 1971 a la profundidad aproximada de 20 cm.

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Corresponding author
(tankerkh@uc.edu, corresponding author)
References
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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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