An unexpected discovery of human remains in the Caribbean by Texas A&M University at Galveston faculty and students is providing new information on the Lucayan people, a group who inhabited North America before European colonization occurred in the 15th century.
The remains were discovered by a team of climate change researchers that included Dr. Pete van Hengstum, associate professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science, and Richard Sullivan ’21, an oceanography doctoral student. The team was collecting sinkhole sediments to determine long-term changes in rainfall and hurricane activity but discovered the preserved remains in a sediment core sample taken from Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas.
It marks only the second discovery of Lucayan skeletal remains on the island. After combining multiple radiocarbon dating techniques to accurately determine the age of the remains, Sullivan placed them as belonging to an indigenous person who inhabited the island between A.D. 1290 and 1295, between 100 and 200 years younger than previously thought.
“We’re not archeologists, but we felt a sense of responsibility to date the remains,” van Hengstum said. “We hope our findings provide archeologists with a more accurate means of calendaring indigenous groups in the Caribbean.”