The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

The Tutu Archaeological Village Site: A Case Study in Human Adaptation

Synopsis

Excavations at the Tutu site represent a dramatic chapter in the annals of Caribbean archaeological excavation. The site was discovered in 1990 during the initial site clearing for a shopping mall in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The site was excavated with the assistance of a team of professional archaeologists and volunteers. Utilizing resources and funds donated by the local scientific communities, the project employed a multidisciplinary sampling strategy designed to recover material for analysis by experts in fields such as anthropology, archaeology, palaeobotany, zooarchaeology, bioarchaeology, palaeopathology and photo imaging. This volume reports the results of these various applied analytical techniques laying a solid foundation for future comparative studies of prehistoric Caribbean human populations and cultures.

Excerpt

This series provides a forum for presenting innovative ideas and methods relative to our understanding of the human past. the concept developed during preparation of my edited work, Investigations of Ancient Human Tissue: Chemical Analyses in Anthropology (Sandford, 1993a). While researching and writing that volume, I became acutely aware of the need for comprehensive and timely works focused on topics within the intersection of archaeology and physical anthropology.

That book examined the promise and pitfalls of using elemental and isotopic analyses in understanding past diets, nutritional patterns and disorders. Such topics, and the manner in which we elected to address them, influenced the scope and goals of the present series in several fundamental ways. the inauguration of these analytical techniques in anthropology signaled intensification of multidisciplinary approaches. These techniques made their debut in anthropology during the 1970s and the decade itself was one of fervor and optimism, as students seized upon such new technologies in hopes of gaining a better and more accurate understanding of the human past.

The enthusiasm that marked the introduction of trace element analysis in anthropology was tempered by recognition of the vast complications surrounding its use. Moreover, as with any method adopted from another discipline, most anthropologists simply lacked the training necessary for using the techniques or interpreting data. Remembering this as we prepared Investigations of Ancient Human Tissue some two decades later, we endeavored to contextualize our case studies with basic information on both theory and method, striving to make these techniques more accessible and understandable to a larger number of our colleagues.

The need for work with the requisite breadth to explore the reaches of a multidisciplinary perspective, or the depth to probe the intricacies of a specialized technique, is even more compelling now. Indeed, what seemed to be quite extraordinary a mere twenty years ago has been far outpaced by innovations and discoveries of today. Scientific visualization and digital technology have revolutionized our ability visually to assess and quantify the objects of our investigations, while providing us with the means, through virtual technology, to share our latest findings with colleagues around the world. Advances in biotechnology have expanded the bounds of our imagination; the ability to extract dna from tissue may help us resolve issues emanating from such concerns as the history of disease to the origins of humankind. As we begin the new millennium, it is staggering to contemplate the matters we will be discussing, debating and endeavoring to understand in another twenty years. in providing a forum for cutting-edge ideas and techniques, it is my hope that this series will serve both to chronicle and propel our understanding of the human past.

Mary K. Sandford

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