The Island Anthropocene

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The colonization of islands has generated significant research interest in archaeology. Islands have long been thought of as laboratories for biological evolution and as important case studies for the development of social and political processes. Though the colonization of islands is often viewed in regional and even macro-regional frameworks, this session takes stock of the state of archaeological knowledge on the impetus, timing and nature of island colonizations at the global scale. This session explores whether island colonization is inherently different from the colonization of mainlands due to the fact that islands are circumscribed, often small and have vulnerable environments. This session further considers variations in colonization processes occurring on a diverse array of islands, including large and small islands, oceanic and continental islands, and islands that experienced multiple waves of colonization. Papers that explore the unique nature of the colonization of islands in a biogeographic, spatiotemporal, or social sense are welcome. Important themes for discussion are anthropogenic changes in the landscapes and biotic communities of islands, islands as nodes within networks of trade and interaction, and the impact of climate on ancient island communities and archaeological sites.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-12 of 12)

  • Documents (12)

  • The Anthropocene of Madagascar: Reviewing Chronological Evidence for Madagascar’s Colonization (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristina Douglass. Henry Wright. Robert Dewar.

    The date of Madagascar’s initial settlement has long been the subject of academic inquiry and debate. Archaeologists, historians, geneticists, linguists and paleoecologists interested in the history of Malagasy and Indian Ocean peoples, regional exchange, and environmental change have contributed diverse datasets and perspectives to this debate over Madagascar’s colonization, but consensus on the timing of human arrival remains elusive. Despite its relative proximity to the African mainland,...

  • The Chonos archipelago: from hunting-gathering to industrial productivity in the western Patagonian channels (43°50’ - 46°50’ S), Chile. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Omar Reyes. Cesar Mendez. Manuel San Roman. Camilo Robles.

    The Chonos archipelago is a series of islands and fjords in the northernmost part of western Patagonia, South America. It has been disconnected from continental landforms since glacial retreat, thus it is an ideal area for assessing the human use of maritime habitats. We analyze the spatial and temporal distribution of the archaeological record focusing on the emergence of human intense signatures in the last part of the late Holocene. The archaeological record (87 sites) includes open-air and...

  • Defining the Anthropocene on California's Northern Channel Islands (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jon Erlandson. Todd Braje. Kristina Gill. Torben Rick.

    California's Northern Channel Islands provide some of the most detailed and well-preserved records of human occupation of dynamic island landscapes in the world. Here, archaeological and historical ecological research over the past 20 years has produced a variety of data about human eco-dynamics in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, spanning nearly 13,000 years. We summarize current knowledge of cultural and ecological changes from Paleoindian to historic times, focusing on what...

  • Different but similar? Colonisation processes on islands and continents compared (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Spriggs.

    As discussed elsewhere (Spriggs 2008) the ‘islands as laboratories’ trope can be overblown, and factors beyond size, circumscription and vulnerability have to be taken into consideration. Indeed none of these are concerns uniquely limited to islands. In this paper I stress too that colonisation on its own may be too limited a concern. We need to examine longer archaeological sequences for a truly comparative archaeology, where what happens after initial colonisation is also key to understanding....

  • Exploring the limits of the island Anthropocene: the Norse colonisation of Greenland in an Atlantic context. (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Andrew Dugmore. Jette Arneborg. Christian Madsen. Tom McGovern. Rowan Jackson.

    The medieval Norse colonisation of Greenland was unique, but we can use this completed experiment to explore key drivers of, and limits to, the ‘island Anthropocene’. The indigenous biota of Greenland while sensitive, lacks the fragility of small, isolated low latitude oceanic islands rich in endemic species. The timing of Norse settlement was determined by the patterns and process of island colonisation to the east combined with a suitable environmental and economic window of opportunity. The...

  • Island colonization and ecological transformation in prehistoric eastern Africa (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicole Boivin. Mary Prendergast. Jillian Swift. Ceri Shipton. Alison Crowther.

    Until recently, the small islands lying off the coasts of Tanzania and Kenya have seen little systematic archaeological investigation. Their biogeographic diversity, reflecting various processes and chronologies of formation, nonetheless offers an ideal opportunity to examine processes of prehistoric colonization and anthropogenic impact.We explore the earliest evidence for human activity on three different islands, Pemba, Zanzibar and Mafia, and provide the first evidence for early human...

  • Measuring Human Impacts on Islands Relative to Size (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only John O'Connor. Scott Fitzpatrick. Todd Braje. Matthew Napolitano. Thomas Leppard.

    Archaeological research on islands worldwide demonstrates that initial colonists exerted substantial environmental impacts on local ecologies, ranging from the extirpation of native species to landscape modification. The degree of impact was dependent on a host of variables, including the kinds and number of introduced plant and animal species, the remoteness of settled islands, and extent of interaction between discrete landmasses. Yet, there is still much to learn about the consequences of...

  • (Mis-) Reading Land: Early Portuguese Settlement on Cape Verde (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christopher Evans. Marie Louise Sorensen.

    This paper considers the early Portuguese settlement on Santiago Island, Cape Verde. Particularly focussing upon the towns of Cidade Velha and Alcatrazes, their immediate topographic settings clearly contributed to the long-term success of the former and the failure of the latter. Nonetheless, the results of a decade of excavation at Cidade Velha demonstrates how long it took for the colonisers to actually understand the landscape’s environmental dynamics, especially the impact of seasonal...

  • Northern Norway’s sea of islands: processes of maritime colonization and settlement (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stephen Wickler.

    Epeli Hau’ofa’s (1993) perception of Oceania as a ‘sea of islands’ is a useful point of departure for exploring the long-term trajectories of the many thousands of islands scattered along the coast of northwestern Norway. Hau’ofa’s vision of joined islands is also instructive as a way of emphasizing seaborne connectivity rather than insularity within maritime archaeology. This paper highlights problems related to island colonization and settlement since the Early Mesolithic (11,500-10,000 BP) in...

  • On the Edge of the New World: Colonizing the Bahamas (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Keegan.

    The Bahama archipelago is the last place colonized in the New World, and the first encountered by Europeans. Previous efforts to explain the arrival of humans followed the stepping-stone model of expansion that began in the Orinoco River drainage of lowland Venezuela. Communities island-hopped through the Lesser Antilles, expanded into the Greater Antilles, and continued their northward migration through the southern Bahamas after crossing the last open water gap between Hispaniola and the Turks...

  • Radiocarbon Dating in the Mariana Islands (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Fiona Petchey. Geoffrey Clark. Patrick O'Day. Richard Jennings.

    One of the most enigmatic human dispersals into the Pacific is the colonisation of the Mariana Islands. Here the interpretation of radiocarbon (14C) dates from early settlement sites are hotly debated. One interpretation suggests the Marianas were colonised directly from the northern Philippines around ~3500 BP. However, the age of one of the earliest Mariana sites; Bapot-1, has recently been revised down to ~3200-3080 cal. BP following research by Petchey et al. (in press) which demonstrated...

  • Skuggi and Siglunes: Two Icelandic Settlement Sites (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ramona Harrison.

    This paper presents results from multidisciplinary investigations at two Icelandic sites from the same region: Skuggi and Siglunes. The small subsidiary farm at Skuggi was likely settled during the earliest stages of Icelandic colonization and was located on a steep mountain slope, about 150 m above the valley bottom. Ideas on its occupation history and causes of abandonment will be discussed, as well as the possibility that the decision to abandon the settlement was heavily influenced by...