Molecular evidence for new foodways in the early colonial Caribbean: organic residue analysis at Isla de Mona, Puerto Rico

Lisa Briggs, Jago Cooper, Oliver E Craig, Carl Heron, Alexandre Lucquin, Maria Mercedes Martinez Milantchi, Alice Samson

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Ceramic objects account for over 90 little research has been conducted on molecular evidence for past food production from these same vessels. Forty ceramic sherds from Isla de Mona have been analysed by GC--MS and GC-C-IRMS in order to address questions surrounding foodways in the Greater Antilles prior to and post European arrival. We evaluate evidence for dietary changes to illuminate aspects of cultural exchange between Indigenous populations and the first generations of Spanish colonists. Here, we show that plant residues are found in a variety of pottery forms, with some evidence for non-ruminant and ruminant fats. The dearth of marine biomarkers is curious given the volume of fish bones found in archaeological contexts on Isla de Mona and may offer evidence for spit-roasting, pit-roasting, or the use of a `barbacoa' to cook fish on the island. The ubiquity of plant residues in a variety of pottery forms may relate to the large-scale cultivation and export of cassava (Manihot esculenta) from the island. A Spanish olive jar revealed evidence of wine residues, which may constitute the earliest detection of wine residues in pottery found in the Americas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number70
Number of pages19
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2023

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