Open Access
Hanna, Jonathan Andrew
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 01, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Douglas J. Kennett, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Douglas J. Kennett, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Douglas W. Bird, Committee Member
  • Kristina G. Douglass, Committee Member
  • Peter B. Newman, Outside Member
  • Archaeology
  • Caribbean
  • Climate
  • Demography
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Ideal Free Distribution
  • Radiocarbon
  • Resilience Theory
The pre-Columbian colonization of the Caribbean is traditionally described as a series of migrations from coastal South America moving northward, island to island, as “stepping-stones.” As the southernmost island in the Antilles archipelago, just 90 miles off Venezuela, the island of Grenada is assumed to be the crucial first “step” in these migrations. However, too little archaeological data was available to substantiate this claim. This dissertation project was designed to fill the gap. Using the Ideal Free Distribution (IFD), a heuristic from Human Behavioral Ecology, a predictive model was built to test areas of high-probability for early settlement on Grenada via an island-wide “radiocarbon survey” that collected artifactual, soil, and radiocarbon samples. Dated samples were refined via Bayesian methods and compared to ceramic evidence to place each site within an island-wide settlement chronology. Modern environmental data was then used to determine suitability rankings and common characteristics of settlement decisions. At present, the results confirm site locations on Grenada followed a pattern consistent with the IFD, which not only allows prediction of previously undiscovered sites but also infers subsistence practices, ecological impacts, and certain cultural values. Grenada’s settlement chronology begins with an early, Archaic Age fisher-forager presence possibly as early as 3-4000 BC, in line with the “stepping-stone” hypothesis. However, Ceramic Age settlements (which appear in Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles by 500 BC) were not established until hundreds of years later than the northernmost islands, despite their origins in South America. This corroborates an emerging hypothesis that the southern Caribbean was largely skipped by the earliest waves of Ceramic peoples, perhaps because the social milieu and domesticated landscapes of the northern islands were more attractive. Grenada's peak, pre-Columbian population occurred during a time of heightened climatic unpredictability (AD 750-900), with dramatic changes in material culture (including the appearance of rock art and new ceramic styles) that mimic similar occurrences in lowland South America. Using Resilience Theory as a guide, this research suggests the influx was likely the result of continued immigration from the mainland, probably the Guianas region (comprising modern Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and bordering regions of Venezuela and Brazil). This may also have been the route taken by later Cayo potters (“Island Caribs”) just prior to Spanish Contact. When the French finally settled Grenada in 1649, they reported two distinct indigenous groups— “Caraïbe” and “Galibis.” The Caraïbe were living in villages that had been continuously occupied since the earliest ceramic groups (AD 200-300), and it is argued that they were still making Suazan Troumassoid pottery. The Galibis, on the other hand, were living in sites that align with the arrival of Cayo pottery elsewhere, ~AD 1250. These sites indeed contain Cayo ceramic types. Ultimately, this dissertation lays the baseline for more intensive studies. Now that we know where 87 of the sites are, their general character, and their general chronological placement, more targeted investigations driven by more specific types of questions can be researched.