87Sr/86Sr data indicate human post-juvenile residence mobility decreases over time-elapsed since initial Holocene island colonization in the Pacific and Caribbean

Jason E. Laffoon*, Thomas P. Leppard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During the Holocene colonization of islands in the Pacific and Caribbean by agropastoral and horticulturalist communities, a variety of proxies (material, genetic, zoogeographic etc.) indicate substantial inter-island and inter-community contact. It has been suggested that this contact represents an adaptive response to mitigate intrinsic demographic fragility during the initial phases of island colonization, and that this exogamous imperative faded in the aftermath of initial dispersal as overall population density increased. Here, we evaluate this model by synthesizing and comparing increasingly available 87Sr/86Sr data from funerary populations in the Pacific and Caribbean. After performing basic hygienic discrimination, we conclude that the Caribbean data—both from across the region, and on an intra-site/island basis—lend support to this model, with high early in-migration succeeded by comparatively low in-migration in a relationship which, based on chi-square tests, is statistically significant (1, N = 290) = 4.046, p = 0.044). The Pacific situation is more complex, with data from the Bismarck Archipelago and northern Solomon Islands skewing the analysis. However, in considering these data in detail, we demonstrate that there are reasons to suppose that the Pacific data may also tentatively support a model of high rates of in-migration being replaced later in settlement histories by comparatively low rates. We conclude by highlighting future directions for this incipient research program.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2018


Funding information JEL is funded in part by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Synergy grant agreement no. 319209 under the auspices of the BNEXUS1492: New World Encounters in a Globalizing World^ research project. TPL is funded by a Renfrew Fellowship in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research and Homerton College, University of Cambridge, for which support he is grateful and acknowledges.

FundersFunder number
McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
New World Encounters
Seventh Framework Programme319209
FP7 Ideas: European Research Council
European Research Council
Homerton College, University of Cambridge


    • Caribbean
    • Colonization
    • Pacific
    • Paleodemography
    • Strontium isotopes


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