Jamaica: A Last Island Frontier Stories from the Team
By Dr Sarah Elliott
The entire two weeks in the field in Jamaica were amazing. In our down-time, Dr Maezumi made inquiries with the team as to whether there were things we would like to see while in Jamaica. But in reality (I think I can speak for the whole team) I think we had seen much more of the island, island life and the island environments than if we had visited the island as tourists. It was hard to choose, but below I recount one of my favorite parts of the fieldwork!
The most memorable days in the field for me happened to be our first and second days. Partially because it was my first days in Jamaica and I saw the true beauty of the island, but perhaps also because this was when I met all of the team, and lastly because I learned something new! My part in the project on the archaeological side, and specifically my specialty is phytolith analysis. I was in Jamaica to collect sediment samples for extraction of microscopic silica plant remains in the laboratory when we got back to the UK. But our first couple of days were targeting lake and tree coring.
Photo 1: Dr. Adam Csank presenting his research on Dendrochronology in the Tropics.
After meeting the team in Kingston at UWI and giving brief presentations to introduce ourselves, we traveled to Treasure Beach, which was a beautiful drive up. The following day Dr Maezumi and some of the team went out on Wallywash Pond to spend the day lake coring. The rest of us walked around the Wallywash Pond looking for archaeological evidence and also conducting some tree coring. The project was targeting the Bursera simaruba tree, aiming to calibrate the tree ring data with historic records and meteorological data to extend climate reconstructions. Tree coring is something I had never done before so I was keen to learn not only how to do it, but what we can learn from it. We used a tree corer to remove a 5 mm section throughout the tree (Photo 2). This enabled the core to be mounted and viewed under the microscope so the rings could be counted.
Photo 2: Collecting tree cores from Bursera simaruba trees in Jamaica.
Spotting these trees was easy once one had been pointed out; their bark was distinctively red and stood out from the surrounding trees. The nickname for this tree is the ‘tourist tree’, because of the tree’s peeling red bark ‘similar to the skin of a sunburnt tourist’!
The day was a great success, we began our journey working as a team, collected some primary data in the form of a 3.9m lake core and 14 tree cores. We finished the day with a quick stop at the beach (Photo 3) before driving back to Kingston.
Photo 3: An sunset beer with the team after a day of fieldwork.