The Anthropocene of Madagascar: Reviewing Chronological Evidence for Madagascar’s Colonization

Author(s): Kristina Douglass; Henry Wright; Robert Dewar

Year: 2017


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, Madagascar was thought to have been settled around 1500 BP by iron-using agriculturalists from SE Asia. Recent archaeological findings, however, suggest that foraging groups reached the island by as early as ca. 4000 BP, if not earlier. Such early dates for Madagascar force us to reconsider models of the island’s colonization, particularly in terms of the nature and rate of anthropogenic impact on its biotic communities. In this paper we review chronological evidence for the settlement of Madagascar, applying standards of chronometric hygiene that have been used to refine the settlement histories of islands in the Caribbean and Pacific. This review allows us to more productively compare the colonization of Madagascar to other island colonization scenarios around the world.

Cite this Record

The Anthropocene of Madagascar: Reviewing Chronological Evidence for Madagascar’s Colonization. Kristina Douglass, Henry Wright, Robert Dewar. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430808)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -18.809; min lat: -38.823 ; max long: 53.262; max lat: 38.823 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14730