Isabel C. Rivera-Collazo

Between Land and Sea in Puerto Rico: Climates, Coastal Landscapes and Human Occupations in the Mid-Holocene Caribbean

The global effect of human-induced climate change is one of the most important issues governments worldwide have to address. This issue is especially serious for coastal communities due to the threat posed by sea level rise. This is especially relevant for the Caribbean Region, where an estimated 40 million people, about 70% of the population, live in densely populated coastal cities, towns and villages. Recent archaeological studies in different parts of the world have shown that this is not the first time in history humans have faced the need to respond to rapid changes in climate and environment, but the process of change and its effect on human societies in the Caribbean are poorly understood. This research considers the effect that Early to Mid-Holocene climate change on tropical coastal landscapes and the distribution of habitats within them, in order to understand the range of foraging decisions indicated by material remains in archaeological contexts, and study human resilience to changing conditions. A deep-time perspective of human-environment interaction in the Caribbean will facilitate a better understanding of the scope of human strategies that have led to either resilient or fragile socioeconomic systems in the face of crises.

Funding organisation

  • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Wenner Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant


 Educational background

  • MSc, Palaeoecology of Human Societies, UCL, 2007
  • BA, Anthropology and Sociology, University of Puerto Rico, 1998


Arlene Rosen and Isabel C. Rivera-Collazo

IN PROGRESS. Archaeology of Climate Change. Left Coast Press.

SUBMITTED. Operationalizing Multiscalar Socio-Environmental Analyses in Archaeology: a Case Study from the Caribbean. American Anthropologist.

2011a. The Ghost of Caliban: Island Archaeology, Insular Archaeologists and the Caribbean. In: Antonio L. Curet, ed. Islands in the Stream: Interisland and Continental Interaction in the Caribbean. Alabama: University of Alabama Press. IN PRESS.

2011b. Palaeoecology and human occupation during the Mid-Holocene in Puerto Rico: the case of Angostura. In Corinne Hoffman, ed. Leiden in the Caribbean IV. IN PRESS.

Cochrane, Ethan; Isabel C. Rivera-Collazo and Elizabeth Walsh.

2011. New Evidence for Variation in Colonization, Cultural Transmission, and Subsistence from Lapita (2900 BP) to the Historic Period in Southwestern Fiji. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 2(1): 40 – 55.

2010. Of Shell and Sand: Coastal Habitat Availability and Human Foraging Strategies at Punta Candelero, Humacao, Puerto Rico. Munibe 31: 272 - 284.

2007. Graffiti as a resource for historical and archaeological research: the figurative graffiti on the walls of San Juan’s Spanish Defense System, Puerto Rico. In: Basil Reid, Roger Petitjean Roget and Antonio Curet, eds. Proceedings of the Twenty-First congress of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. Volume 1, page 1 - 8. St Augustine: University of the West Indies, School of Continuing Studies.

2006. Historical Ship Graffiti on the Walls of San Juan’s Spanish Defence System: an Interim Report. The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 35(1): 41-52.

Conference presentations:

2011 The Hunter and The Sea: environmental archaeology as a tool to understand landscape, environment and social change. Guest Lecturer. Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.

2011 People and the Sea: landscape change, human adaptation and the meaning of maritime culture. Guest Lecturer. Department of Anthropology, University of Connecticut.

2011 Of invisible influences and endless rockings: the role of underwater archaeology in the research of maritime culture. Program of Maritime Studies, University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus

2010 In Response to Change: Climates, Coastal Landscapes and Human Occupations in the Mid-Holocene Caribbean. 3ras Jornadas Doctorales Europeas en París. Universitée de Nanterre, Paris.

2010 Between Land and Sea in Puerto Rico: Coastal human habitation and Mid-Holocene landscape change. South American Archaeology Seminar. Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

2010 Palaeoecology and Human Occupation during the Mid-Holocene in the Caribbean: the case of Angostura. Leiden in the Caribbean IV: From Prehistory to Ethnography in the Circum-Caribbean. Leiden University

2009 Of Mollusc and Men: Studying change and adaptation through time in the Caribbean. In session: A Weather Eye in the Past: Weather, Climate and Landscape Archaeology, organised by Bob Johnston, Toby Pillatt and Simon Jusseret. Discussant: Julian Thomas. The Thirty First Annual Conference of the Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG 2009). Durham, UK

2009 Interconnected: Studying adaptation, change and sustainability. Workshop: Managing Resources and Landscapes for Sustainability in Prehistory. Sponsored by UCL Institute of Archaeology Environment and Culture Research Group

2009 Between Land and Sea: Mid-Holocene aquatic hunter-gatherers in the Caribbean. A geoarchaeological and palaeoecological study. Graduate Research Congress, UCL Institute of Archaeology

2009 Entre mar y tierra: cambio climático y de paisaje costero en el Caribe insular y la habitación humana durante el Holoceno Medio. II Jornadas de Americanistas Europeos. Universidad de Valencia

2008 The shells of Punta Candelero: palaeoenvironmental evaluation of anthropogenic shell deposits in a Saladoid coastal site in Puerto Rico, and its implications for coastal habitat availability. ICAZ 2008, 2nd Meeting, Archaeomalacology Working Group, Santander

2008 Shells and Sand: geoarchaeological and archaeomalacological analyses at an Early Ceramic coastal site in Puerto Rico and their palaeoecological interpretation. Graduate Research Congress, UCL Institute of Archaeology.

  • Cored sediments from Barceloneta’s coastal plain. The observed section accumulated approximately two thousand years ago
  • Fieldwork in Angostura, Puerto Rico. Preliminary assessment of geoarchaeological samples
  • In situ Anomalocardia brasiliana molluscs in Unit 1 shell-midden

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