New study finds first inhabitants of Caribbean brought drug heirlooms with them

Oct 20, 2008

A new study led by North Carolina State University's Dr. Scott Fitzpatrick is the first to show physical evidence that the people who colonized the Caribbean from South America brought with them heirloom drug paraphernalia that had been passed down from generation to generation as the colonists traveled through the islands.

The research team used a dating technique called luminescence to determine the age of several artifacts found on the Caribbean island of Carriacou, in the West Indies, and discovered that the items dated back to between roughly 400 and 100 B.C. These dates are well before Carriacou was colonized in approximately A.D. 400. Luminescence testing involves heating a substance and measuring the amount of light it gives off to determine how long ago it was last heated.

Heirlooms are portable objects that are inherited by family members and kept in circulation for generations, Fitzpatrick says, and are frequently part of important rituals. The objects tested for this study are ceramic inhaling bowls that were likely used for the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances. Fitzpatrick says the luminescence dates of the bowls, as well as analysis of the material from which the bowls were made, indicate that the artifacts "appear to have been transported to Carriacou when it was colonized – possibly hundreds of years after they were made."

Fitzpatrick, an assistant professor of anthropology at NC State, says scholars have long thought that the people who settled the Caribbean islands likely brought heirlooms with them – but says the bowls "are the first physical evidence we've found to support that claim."

The study, "Evidence for inter-island transport of heirlooms: luminescence dating and petrographic analysis of ceramic inhaling bowls from Carriacou, West Indies," will be published in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.

Source: North Carolina State University

Explore further: Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Dec 17, 2014

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China, according to a study published December 17, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xiao-hong Chen f ...

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

Dec 17, 2014

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. ...

Research shows Jaws didn't kill his cousin

Dec 16, 2014

New research suggests our jawed ancestors weren't responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed. Instead Dr Robert Sansom from The University of Manchester believes rising sea levels ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.