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Thursday, December 02, 2021

Grad student studies early Caribbean cultures

A UF anthropology graduate student teamed up with anthropologists from two other U.S. universities to study the characteristics of prehistoric communities in the Caribbean.

The paper, "New records for prehistoric introduction of Neotropical mammals to the West Indies," includes the research of UF graduate student Michelle LeFebvre and graduate students from the University of Washington and North Carolina State University.

The team's studies involved evaluating prehistoric cultures in the Caribbean island Carriacou. Researchers focused on the influence that five particular animal species had on the island's natives.

Of the five species, only one can be found on Carriacou today.

Through studying these animals, researchers analyzed Carriacou's inhabitants' rituals, immigration and eating patterns, interaction with other cultures and trade tendencies.

They used chemical analysis and other techniques, like carbon dating, to assess their discoveries.

"I hope that [the research] really showcases how the archaeological data can be used to address more of the complexities of human culture," LeFebvre said.

For the team of the three authors and about 20 field school students, each day started with field research from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. followed by a three-hour break.

"We got a very early start in the morning because it's so hot there in the summer," said Christina Giovas, lead author and University of Washington anthropology graduate student.

The impact that Carriacou had on its surrounding areas, like South America, is highlighted in the research.

"People don't really realize how much influence the Caribbean has," said Susan deFrance, chairwoman of UF's anthropology department.

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