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The Landscape Legacies of Plantation Agriculture in the Caribbean: An Historical-Ecological Perspective from Betty’s Hope, Antigua

Author(s): E. Christian Wells ; Georgia L. Fox ; Peter E. Siegel ; Nicholas P. Dunning ; Reginald Murphy

Year: 2016

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Summary

This paper examines physical, chemical, and biological properties of soils and sediments from landforms in eastern Antigua, West Indies, to better understand the long-term consequences of plantation agriculture. Plantation farming played a central role in the history of Caribbean societies, economies, and environments since the 17th century. In Antigua, the entire island was variably dedicated to agricultural pursuits, including sugarcane and cotton, from the mid-1600s until independence from Great Britain in 1981 when most commercial cultivation ceased. Today’s soilscapes are highly degraded, although it is unknown what the role of the island’s plantation legacy has played in this process. Our research combines geoarchaeological survey and sampling, sediment core analysis, and historical archival research to model the initial and cumulative impacts of the plantation industry on the island, focusing on the region surrounding Betty’s Hope, a sugarcane plantation in operation from 1674-1944. We find that current erosion and degradation issues experienced by today’s farmers are not attributable to intensive plantation farming alone, but rather are part of a complex mosaic of human-environmental interactions that included abandonment of anthropogenic landscapes.


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The Landscape Legacies of Plantation Agriculture in the Caribbean: An Historical-Ecological Perspective from Betty’s Hope, Antigua. E. Christian Wells, Georgia L. Fox, Peter E. Siegel, Nicholas P. Dunning, Reginald Murphy. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403799)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America