Small Islands, Large Settlements: Archaeology
at Les Îles de la Petite Terre, Guadeloupe,
MAAIKE LESPARRE-DE WAAL
Between 1998 and 2000, three archaeological fieldwork campaigns were
carried out at the islands of Petite Terre, F.W.I., by teams of archaeologists from
Leiden, the Netherlands. The investigations, directed by the author, then working
at Leiden University, were part of a study that was designed to investigate
pre-Columbian social organisation and interaction through the study of site
patterns (De Waal, 2006). For this study, a micro-region was selected, consisting
of the Pointe des Châteaux peninsula of Guadeloupe and the islands of La
Désirade and Petite Terre (Figure 1). This essay focuses on the pre-Columbian
occupation of the small islands of Petite Terre.
Les Îles de la Petite Terre, as the islands are called officially, belong to the
Lesser Antilles. They will be referred to as Petite Terre, as is common practice on
Guadeloupe. Petite Terre is part of the French department of Guadeloupe and
administratively it belongs to the municipality of La Désirade. Petite Terre is
situated at approximately 12 km south of La Désirade and at 7.5 km south-east of
Pointe des Châteaux.
Petite Terre consists of two small calcareous islands: Terre de Haut and
Terre de Bas (Figure 2). Terre de Bas measures 2.5 km by 600 m, while Terre de
Haut measures only 1.1 km by 200–300 m. The islands of Petite Terre are flat
west-east oriented islands that originally consisted of one elevated coral plateau.
They show a general inclination in a west/northwestern direction, which is the
result of tectonic processes (DIREN, Guadeloupe, 1994, 6). A 150 m wide
channel, which is 7 m deep at most and is enclosed on the eastern side by an
impressive reef barrier, separates the islands.
Figure 1. Map of the Eastern Caribbean and location of the res