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Madagascar figures prominently in debates over contemporary and past human exploitation of island biomes. This large and biogeographically diverse island was one of the last large landmasses to be settled by human communities in the Late Holocene. It has long been argued that human arrival on Madagascar precipitated catastrophic changes in local ecologies, including, famously, the extinction of a suite of megafauna. Despite this starkly portrayed shift from an uninhabited island to one devastated by human settlement, our diachronic understanding of Madagascar’s coupled human-natural systems remains limited. For example, despite intense debate over the anthropogenic drivers of faunal extinctions, little work has attempted to provide fine-grained and holistic datasets on natural resource use by Malagasy communities through time. The result is a dramatic narrative of the devastating onset of Madagascar’s Anthropocene, devoid of an understanding of the lives and ecological entanglements of its people.