The ecological changes created by the introduction of cash cropping in and around Dominase and Ponkrum took a form unlike that seen in other parts of the world. Whereas agricultural efforts in Latin America and Asia were marked by the establishment of large plantations growing crops for export, the palm-nut and cocoa industries were run almost exclusively by peasant farmers who cultivated their own small plantations. This allowed farmers to incorporate small cocoa and palm plantations into the forest areas without destabilizing the long-standing system of shifting cultivation seen in Dominase and Ponkrum.
The discovery of the burial helps explain the way these broad trends in trade and agriculture played out in Dominase and Ponkrum. From their settlement until the early 1990s, we have little evidence for the existence of Dominase and Ponkrum or for the lives of their residents. The villages do not appear in any colonial documents until the 1940s. This is perhaps unsurprising for small, relatively remote settlements. There are no writings of the residents to which we can turn, as these villagers were not literate. Indeed, in the early 20th century it would not have been possible for them to have been literate in Fante, the particular Akan dialect spoken here. Only recently has Fante been transliterated, and even now its orthography is under debate. As a result of all these factors, we know relatively little about life in these settlements before the mid-1990s. In the absence of direct evidence, the archaeological evidence provided by the accidental encounter with burials helps us make at least a circumstantial case for the impact of this trade on these villages and their inhabitants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The position of Dominase and Ponkrum alongside a trade route to a significant center for trade gave them an advantage in the marketing of these new cash crops. We cannot know exactly when the farmers here took up these crops, nor can we know the impact of these crops on the lives of the residents. However, the specific burial mentioned earlier provides us with interesting clues. As noted, the Fante typically bury their dead at least six feet underground. To find this burial less than two feet underground is, therefore, odd. Even odder is the fact that we found another burial about twenty feet to the south of the first. This skeleton, too, was of a man about twenty years old. Like the first, he was buried in a semiflexed position, with the head to the east. The burials were almost perfectly aligned, which suggests their locations were not accidental or random.
Before the British assumed control of this area in the late 1800s, the Fante commonly buried their dead under the floors of their houses. Most commonly the person was buried under the floor of his or her bedroom. These two men were buried too far apart to suggest they were under the same house. However, their shared orientation suggests they were buried under different houses aligned in the same direction, much as we see in the archaeological evidence for later structures in Dominase and the alignment of contemporary houses in Ponkrum. What remains is the odd fact that both burials were less than two feet deep. No Fante family would, if they had a choice, bury someone only two feet under the floor of their house. As neither burial shows any signs of being rushed, the only plausible explanation is that these remains were once much farther below the surface.
In other words, the depth of these two burials suggests that the landscape of this village was dramatically reshaped around the time the trash pit was filled, in the late 1800s. It appears that at least part of the relatively flat area on which Dominase stands was once a bit hillier and was leveled by those living in the village in the late 1800s. This leveling likely removed four or five feet of soil, which perhaps they used to construct a large cistern to the south of the village. After leveling this area, and constructing the cistern, the residents of Dominase began to construct their houses on top of the newly leveled area. In short, something rather dramatic happened in these villages in the late 1800s that led to the construction of the cistern to the south and to some sort of reorganization of the landscape that included leveling a portion of the settlement and the structures that once stood here. Given the coincidence of this reorganization with the introduction first of oil palm and later cocoa to the area, this reorganization speaks to a surge in the size of the village, likely motivated by the relative success the farmers here enjoyed. The landscape of Dominase is therefore anything but timeless. Even its topography has been reshaped by the introduction of cash crops, which derived much of their value from a global market.