The People Who Discovered Columbus: The Prehistory of the Bahamas (Florida Museum of Natural History: Ripley P. Bullen Series)

By William F. Keegan

For the Lucayan Arawaks of the Caribbean, the yr 1492 marked the start of the top: the 1st humans contacted by means of Christopher Columbus have been the 1st extinguished. inside thirty years, a inhabitants of might be 80,000 had declined to, at so much, a couple of refugees. Clearing new floor within the learn of prehistoric societies, Keegan argues diversified standpoint at the earlier offers a correct portrait of a tradition that grew to become extinct virtually 500 years ago.
Keegan phrases his procedure paleoethnography, constructing a portrait of the prior through linking archaeological box information and historic files. the outcome, the 1st evaluation of the prehistory of the Bahamas, explains how and why the Bahamas have been colonized via the Tainos nearly 1,400 years in the past. The portrait comprises features of the islands themselves, descriptions of the way the Lucayans made their settlements, what they ate, how they prepared in social teams, and the way their inhabitants unfold through the archipelago.
Keegan reconstructs Columbus’s voyage during the West Indies, elevating questions on the explorer’s motivations and providing a arguable concept approximately the place, precisely, Columbus landed. providing new views on Caribbean prehistory to either students and basic readers, the ebook ends with the Spaniards’ arrival and the Lucayans’ demise.

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The final category of evidence that has been used to support the assumption that the Guanahatabey survived until contact is radiocarbon dates (Rouse and Allaire  1978). Of these dates the most recent is A. D. 990–1650. This date does not, however, inspire confidence since it was obtained from 1. 25 centimeters (0. 5 inches)  below surface in a limestone cave and was thus in close proximity to potential contaminants. Furthermore, the standard deviation of 200 years gives it equal probability  of predating European contact by centuries. Next in the sequence is an un­      Page 7 calibrated date of A. D. 1030, which predates European contact by almost 500 years. At this time radiocarbon dates do not support the assumed survival until contact. The Genesis of the Guanahatabeys Whether or not they actually existed at contact, the modern creation of a Guanahatabey culture follows an obvious sequence. First, in 1514 one of the leaders of the  Cuban entrada reported the presence of a savage people in a region of Cuba that had most likely not been visited by the date of his report. There is no reason to  accept the veracity of that account. In fact, given the conquistadores' propensity for identifying strange people and places in the New World (Milbrath 1989) it should  be discounted. A similar case involves Christopher Columbus who transferred the legend of a land inhabited entirely by women ("Amazons") to the Taino's mythical  island of Matinino (Stevens­Arroyo 1988). Columbus also reported the presence of two races in Cuba—one born with tails and the other without hair (Sauer  1966:23). The Spanish were not the best ethnographers, especially when they lacked firsthand knowledge of the subject about which they wrote. The Guanahatabeyes received additional life in what were probably retellings of the Velázquez account by both Las Casas and Oviedo. All three accounts are so  similar as to support the interpretation that they derive from a single source. The major modifications are Oviedo's misplacement of the Guanahatabey in southwestern  Haiti, and the embellishment in Las Casas's report that the Guanahatabey "live in caves, except when they go out to fish" (Sauer 1966:184). The Las Casas account  seems to be at least partially inspired by Taino mythology, in which caves figure prominently (Alegría 1986). The myth about cave­dwelling men who were turned into  trees when they left their cave to go fishing (Fewkes 1907; Stevens­Arroyo 1988) sounds too similar to the Las Casas account to be ignored. In this regard Osgood  (1942:50) was correct when he called the Guanahatabey (Ciboney) "semi­mythical. " Unlike humans with tails and unlike Amazons, the Guanahatabey have achieved immortality at the hands of archaeologists. The discovery of an aceramic material  culture that pre­dated the arrival of the Tainos came immediately to be associated with the name Guanahatabey (Cibo­      Page 8 ney), and it was correspondingly assumed that these people survived in western Cuba until contact (Harrington 1921; Loven 1935; Osgood 1942; Rouse 1948, 1986;  Tabio and Rey 1979).

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