New Evidence of the Animal Life on Abaco when Humans First Arrived
David Steadman and others recently reported on an intriguing fossil deposit discovered on Abaco by Sabrina Bethel and Perry Maillas (the landowner) at Gilpin Point in 2009. This bone-rich peat under beach sand is only exposed during very low tides. It is full of remains of the extinct Albury’s tortoise, the extirpated Cuban crocodile, and green turtle. Radiocarbon dating shows the site to be 900-950 years old, and the charcoal-rich sediments suggest that the peat was deposited quickly when people first arrived on Abaco and began to clear land by burning. Fossils from Gilpin Point represent animal life at the time of first human presence; only 10 of the 17 identified species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals still live on Abaco. Unhealed bite marks on the inside of the thick carapaces of the green turtle show that they were scavenged by Cuban crocodiles after being butchered by humans. The concentration of remains of large, edible animals suggest that this was an Amerindian kitchen midden. Frustratingly we did not find any cultural artifacts in this peat deposit that is only occasionally exposed and undoubtedly much more extensive than we have been able to observe… until we finally found one tiny polished shell bead! This is our first direct evidence that this is a Lucayan site. Perry Maillas is a keen observer and with his help and careful oversight from Nancy Albury (The Bahamas Antiquities, Museums and Monuments Corporation) we hope to recover more material from this unique site in the future in order to learn about the fascinating prehistory of animals, plants and people on Abaco.
Steadman, D. W., Albury, N. A., Maillis, P., Mead, J. I., Slapcinsky, J. D., Krysko, K. J., Singleton, H. M. and Franklin, J., 2014, Late Holocene faunal and landscape change in the Bahamas, The Holocene 24(2) 220–23. DOI: 10.1177/0959683613516819