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date: 21 August 2019


Abstract and Keywords

This article introduces precolonial Caribbean archaeology, presenting an overview of the history of the Caribbean islands, the natural history, ethnohistory, and culture history. The Caribbean islands extend over 4,000 km like stepping stones between the South, Central, and North American mainlands. The Lesser Antilles account for 3% of the land area, which roughly coincides with the Atlantic edge of the Caribbean tectonic plate. The Greater Antilles comprise 88% of the land area in the Caribbean. The main islands are Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. Finally, the Bahama Archipelago is a chain of calcareous islands stretching over 1,000 km, from 100 km east of West Palm Beach, Florida, to within 100 km of Haiti and Cuba. This overview presents a complete overhaul of cultural historical constructions for the region and the latest interpretations of the Caribbean’s past.

Keywords: natural history, Caribbean archaeology, ethnohistory, culture history, Bahama Archipelago, Antilles

The islands of the Caribbean are contained in a semicircle formed by the South, Central, and North American mainland (Figure 1.1). With the exception of the Bahama archipelago, the islands form the eastern and northern boundary of the Caribbean Sea. The Bahamas are located in the southern North Atlantic, but included here because they share strikingly similar geological, biological, and cultural histories. The islands, both individually and collectively, exhibit tremendous ranges of diversity in topography, geology, temperature, rainfall, flora, fauna, and so on. This chapter begins with an introduction to the archipelagoes that comprise the Caribbean and highlights some of the variability that will be examined in detail in the chapters that follow. Chapter 3 expands on this theme with its focus on climate and long-term climate change.

A recent debate in island archaeology has focused attention on the degree to which islands are isolated, a focus on islands as landmasses, and the degree to which islands can serve as biological and cultural laboratories (Boomert and Bright 2007; Rainbird 2007). Conceived as an area of land surrounded by water, an island provides a compelling and convenient unit of analysis. Viewed from this perspective, but observed from above, the land appears tiny and sea vast. The chapters in this Handbook recognize the sea not as barrier that isolates people on different islands, but as a highway that unites them. The seascape plays a prominent role in all of the chapters.

 IntroductionClick to view larger

Figure 1.1. Map of the circum-Caribbean.

The Handbook is organized according to different dimensions of history. This chapter provides a broad-brush introduction to the Natural History. Island History contains two chapters that address the history of archaeological research (p. 2) (cf. Rodríguez Ramos 2010; Wilson, this volume) and climate change. Because archaeological investigations often are constituted between a rock (environment) and a hard place (written history), we turn next to Ethnohistory. The chapters here focus on the topics that have been most strongly influenced by surviving chronicles from the earliest European incursions. The 11 chapters in Culture History explore cultural differences in time and space across the archipelagoes and onto surrounding mainland. The goal is to provide an introduction to current thinking and constructs regarding the human history of the islands. Directed studies, whether they are based on methods or theory, are the subject of 15 chapters collected as Creating History. From our perspective, these reflect tools and perspectives that are making substantial contributions to knowledge and understanding. Finally, the four chapters in World History explore the postcolonial Caribbean.

We should also note that archaeological investigations in the Caribbean have been strongly influenced by modern political divisions, intellectual history, and language differences. For example, representatives of more than 30 countries presented papers at the biennial meeting of the International Association of Caribbean Archaeologists held in Curaçao in 1989. Papers in the Congress Proceedings are published in English, French, and Spanish, and there are additional journal publications in other languages. This diversity has produced a dynamic intellectual environment, including disagreements and ongoing debates, that is captured in the chapters contained in this Handbook. Modern sociopolitical divisions play a significant role in structuring Caribbean archaeology. On some islands, the native patrimony is embraced and embellished. On others, the attitudes of the metropole hold sway. The most unique case is Puerto Rico where funding for cultural resource management (required by Puerto Rican and US laws) has produced the most substantial body of archaeological research in the region (Siegel and Righter 2011). This, coupled with the central role of Puerto Rico in the articulation of the (p. 3) predominant model used in Caribbean archaeology developed by the late Irving Rouse, has often had the effect of portraying Caribbean archaeology from a Puerto Rican perspective (Rodríguez Ramos 2010).

Natural history

In The Theory of Island Biogeography, Robert MacArthur and E. O. Wilson (1967:3) state:

“The Zoology of Archipelagoes,” Charles Darwin wrote at an early moment in his career, “will be worth examination.” And so it has proved. The study of insular biogeography has contributed a major part of evolutionary theory and much of its clearest documentation. An island is certainly an intrinsically appealing study object. It is simpler than a continent or an ocean, a visibly discrete object that can be labeled with a name and its resident population identified thereby.

A biogeographical perspective has provided a basic framework for the study of island cultures, and archaeologists frequently use environmental factors to define their area of study. This perspective is most clearly expressed in human ecology and related adaptive frameworks. However, cultural practices dissect environmental constraints in nonintuitive ways (Keegan and Diamond 1987). We agree with Braudel (1997) that the environment often is left implicit as a sublime backdrop that appears in introductory chapters but is never incorporated into the historical analysis. Our efforts to reconstruct and characterize Caribbean landscapes begins with the recognition that cultural expressions were shaped by the settings in which they were expressed. In this regard, at a general level of comparison, cultural differences in the Caribbean correspond to differences in the islands and their configurations. Although geography is only one of many ways to characterize our study area, it provides a useful first view.

The Caribbean islands extend over 4,000 km like stepping-stones between the South, Central, and North American mainland (Figures 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4). The islands exhibit a bewildering level of diversity in landform, geology, climate, and history. For example, all but the northernmost Bahamas fall within the tropics, all but the southernmost Antilles fall within the North Atlantic hurricane track, and variations in topography and rainfall create landscapes that range from steep mountain slopes to depressions below sea level and from tropical forests to deserts (Watts 1987; West and Augelli 1976). By combining geographical proximity, island size, and maximum elevation (reflecting volcanic versus limestone islands), it is possible to identify five different archipelagoes within the greater Caribbean (Table 1.1).

The Southern Caribbean Region is defined as a line of small islands from Aruba to Margarita that are roughly parallel to the coast of Venezuela (Figure 1.1). (p. 4) It includes the Venezuelan islands of Margarita, Cubagua, Las Aves, and several others, as well as the former ABC islands of the Netherlands Antilles—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.1 These islands comprise less than 1 percent of the total land area of the Caribbean islands. They are of volcanic origin, but their surfaces are characterized by predominantly limestone lithofacies (Watts 1987). Investigations of the Venezuelan Islands and the ABC islands have identified Valenciod and Dabajuroid cultures that have stronger ties to the South American mainland than to the Caribbean. There is only passing mention of these islands.

The island of Trinidad differs from the rest of the Antilles in several ways (Figure 1.1). First, Trinidad was connected to the mainland until the end of the Pleistocene (c. 6,000 b.p.), so it has a more continental flora and fauna. Second, Trinidad is the largest island in the Lesser Antilles (almost as large as all of the others combined) and is the sixth largest in the Caribbean. Except for the Miocene Age “Andean folding and faulting” that forms the rugged northern coast (Watts 1987:12), most of the relief is low hills with poorly drained lowlands (West and Augelli 1976:185). Tobago and Barbados are built on the same Andean structures. Trinidad has been identified as the nexus for migrations into the islands by Archaic and Ceramic Age peoples from South America.

The Lesser Antilles (Figure 1.2), which account for 3 percent of the land area, form a double arc of islands “along an arcuate zone of instability which roughly coincides with the Atlantic edge of the Caribbean tectonic plate” (Watts 1987:11). The inner arc is built around high volcanic cones, while the discontinuous outer arc is limestone islands built on older volcanic or crystalline bases (Watts 1987:11–12). Water passages between the islands are relatively short, and islands are intervisible from Grenada in the south to Anguilla in the north (Torres and Rodríguez Ramos 2008). Callaghan (2010, chapter 20 in this volume) has commented on the turbulent seas that can occur in these passages, but concluded that these were not sufficient to preclude interisland travel. Traditionally the Lesser Antilles is divided into Windward and Leeward groups, designations that originated as British colonial administrative units (West and Augelli 1976:194–195). This division remains useful for two reasons. The Leewards are almost all much smaller than the Windwards. In fact, Guadeloupe is larger than all of the other Leewards combined. In addition, the Windward Islands are of volcanic origin with high volcanic peaks that trend north/south, while the Leewards are a mix of high volcanic and low limestone islands that trend east/west. The Windward/Leeward division also corresponds to protohistoric cultural distributions, with Carib societies occupying the Windward Islands and Eastern Taíno on the Leewards (Allaire 1995, chapter 7 in this volume; Rouse 1992). The Lesser Antilles has a prominent place throughout the chapters of this volume.

 IntroductionClick to view larger

Figure 1.2. Map of the Greater Antilles.

 IntroductionClick to view larger

Figure 1.3. Map of the Lesser Antilles.

The Greater Antilles comprises 88 percent of the land area in the Caribbean (Figure 1.3). The main islands are Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (today shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico. They are formed around two sections of mountain ranges that originate in northern Central America and a southern range that forms the Blue Mountains of Jamaica and the Sierra de Baharuco on Hispaniola (Watts 1987:31–32; West and Augelli 1976). One of the northern ranges (p. 5)

Table 1.1. Size and Elevation of the Caribbean Islands.

Island Group


Area (km2)

Coastline (km)

Coastline/Area (m/km2)

Max. Elevation (m)

Southern Caribbean (1% land area)





Netherlands Antilles












Trinidad and Tobago (2% land area)










Lesser Antilles (3% land area)

















Saint Lucia










St. Vincent



St. Vincent & Grenadines















Antigua & Barbuda




St. Kitts & Nevis




St. Kitts











British Virgin Islands









St. Martin





St. Eustatius






Greater Antilles (89% land area)
















Dominican Republic




Puerto Rico





US Virgin Islands





Cayman Islands





Bahama Archipelago (5% land area)


The Bahamas





Turks & Caicos Islands





(p. 6) (p. 7) rises in southernmost Cuba as the Sierra Maestra, forms the Cordillera Central of Hispaniola, the central range of Puerto Rico, and ends in the Virgin Islands. The second, lower range, the Cordillera Septentrional, runs along the northern coast of Hispaniola. The highest mountain in the Antilles, Pico Duarte (3,175 m), is a huge gold-bearing batholith that intrudes the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic (Watts 1987:31; West and Augelli 1976). The surfaces of these islands are (p. 8) mostly weathered limestone, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Puerto Rico provides an excellent example of the environmental diversity encountered on all of these islands. It has a high central mountain range that is covered by dense tropical rainforest, a narrow, but well-watered, north coastal plain, and a rain-shadowed, xerophytic broad south-coastal plain. Narrow, deeply dissected river valleys extend from the central cordillera.

 IntroductionClick to view larger

Figure 1.4. Map of the Bahama archipelago.

Finally, the Bahama Archipelago (Figure 1.4) is a chain of calcareous islands stretching over 1,000 km from 100 km east of West Palm Beach, Florida, to within 100 km of Haiti and Cuba (Sealey 1985). Today composed of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos Islands, they occupy about 5 percent of (p. 9) the land area. These islands are located in the southern North Atlantic and their shores do not touch on the Caribbean Sea. Technically, they are not “Caribbean” islands. However, because they share a common history, similar climate, and have a flora and fauna that is predominantly Caribbean, they are included in the Caribbean culture area.

This geographical orientation can be viewed from alternative perspectives. A simple eastward rotation of the map provides an entirely different perspective on the connectedness of the islands to the mainland (i.e., rotate Map 1, 90° to the right; Wilson 2007). The representation of islands as viewscapes produces a “continent of islands” (Torres and Rodríguez Ramos 2008) that mirrors the “vertical archipelago” model for the Andes. Shifting focus from landmasses to the seascape creates new opportunities for mobility (e.g., Callaghan, chapter 20) and reveals that people living on opposite sides of a water passage often are more similar than those living on opposite sides of the same island (Hofman et al. 2007; Watters and Rouse 1989). One can further privilege the sea by emphasizing the distribution of marine resources. The result is that even very small land areas (islands) can assume a major role in the production and distribution of critical resources that is reflected in social complexity that far exceeds their size (Crock 2000; Keegan et al. 2008).


The Caribbean islands were the first lands in the Americas encountered by Europeans on a grand scale. One can argue whether Leif Ericson, Father Brendan, John Cabot, or Chinese sailors in the Pacific were the first Old World voyagers to reach the Americas, but the salient point is that the encounters initiated by Christopher Columbus resulted in dramatic transformations registered in American and European societies after contact.

Documentary history in the Americas begins in the Caribbean. The earliest written descriptions come from the Spanish, with accounts of the Carib provided much later by the French, English, and Dutch. The few written accounts of the earliest encounters report observations and impressions from the Bahamas and Greater Antilles made by Christopher Columbus, Bartolomé de las Casas, Ferdinand Columbus, Ramón Pané, Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, and Peter Martyr; and by Raymond Breton and Father du Tertre in the Windward Islands in the seventeenth century. In many cases the “chroniclers” did not witness the events they describe, or composed their descriptions years after the events took place. At times, these descriptions have been treated as objective observations, despite the fact that at times their testimonies are contradictory. Fortunately, a substantial number of scholars have addressed issues of transcription, translation, and personal motives through processes of critical theory and deconstruction. Their studies provide firmer ground (p. 10) on which “eyewitness” descriptions can be placed in more coherent frames of reference (Curet 2003; Keegan 2007).

Because there are so few written descriptions of the native peoples at the time of European contact, there has been a tendency to generalize the available descriptions to the entire region. Even when it is explicitly recognized that this approach is unjustified, it has been maintained because there is no other option (reviewed in Oliver 2009). Compounding the problem is Spanish colonial policy that lumped native peoples into two categories: the good and peaceful Arawak (Taíno) and the cannibal Carib (Davis and Goodwin 1990).

The chapters in this part attempt to recognize the diversity of cultural practices that was expressed in the insular Caribbean. The emphasis is on the proper use of historical descriptions in concert with archaeological evidence to place language (chapter 4), the “Classic” Taíno (chapter 5), social organization (chapter 6), and Carib (chapter 7) in perspective.

The names attributed to the native peoples of the Caribbean are a legacy of the Spanish chroniclers. Unfortunately, these terms often have been used in other than the context that they were originally recorded. For that reason a discussion of names follows. Compounding the problem is the hugely popular novel Caribbean by James Michener (1988), which popularized the division of the Caribbean into peaceful Arawak and cannibal Carib.

Culture history

The most often used common names are Ciboney, Arawak, and Carib. These have come to represent three different cultures (Rouse 1992). The “Ciboney” or “Guanahatabey” are stone-age peoples who lacked pottery and agriculture. The “Arawak” originated in lowland South America and introduced pottery and agriculture to the islands. The Carib were the last immigrants who arrived from South America and colonized the Lesser Antilles in the century prior to the arrival of Europeans. In addition, the name Lucayan has been used to denote the prehistoric peoples of the Bahama archipelago. But where do these names come from and what do they really mean?

Bartolomé de las Casas was the first to use the name Ciboney (also Siboneyes, Cibuneyes or Exbuneyes; see Lovén 1935:80–81). In his 1516 memorial to Cardinal Cisneros, Las Casas noted that there were four groups in Cuba whose souls should be saved. These were the Guanahacabibes (Guanahatabey) of the Cape of Cuba (Lovén 1935:3–24); and three other peoples who shared similar characteristics: the peoples of the small islands along the north and south coasts of Cuba (Jardines de la Reina), the Lucayan of the Bahamas, and the Ciboney who were kept as servants by the other Cuban Indians. Las Casas was very clear in his use of this name to denote a Ceramic Age (“Arawak”) culture in central Cuba.

(p. 11) Confusion regarding the use of the name Ciboney began when the stone-tool assemblage at the Cabaret site near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was associated with the “Ciboney.” This misuse continued with Harrington (1921), who used the name Ciboney for the stone-age material culture he encountered in Cuba. To this day, there are archaeologists who still refer to Lithic and Archaic Age peoples as Ciboney. Yet, use of the name Ciboney to denote a stone-age culture is clearly wrong (reviewed in Keegan 1989). Moreover, the name refers to peoples living at the time of European contact, and it is unclear how far back into the past this name can be projected. The assignment of names is complicated by the fact that we now know that at least some “stone-age” peoples had pottery and agriculture. Rodríguez Ramos (2010) has suggested that a better name is “pre-Arawak,” although this suggestion remains contested.

Columbus referred to the people he encountered during his voyages through the Caribbean as “Indios” (Morison 1942). He did so under the mistaken belief that he had arrived in the East Indies. Modern reference to American Indians or Amerindians is derivative. There is no mention of the names that the peoples he encountered had for themselves.

Daniel Brinton (1871) introduced the name Arawak. He recognized that native words recorded in the Greater Antilles could be classified as part of the Arawak language family, and he suggested that these peoples be called “Island Arawak.” The use of language to designate a culture is dicey (Granberry, chapter 4), and a further complication occurred when the “Island” prefix was dropped, and the peoples came to be called simply Arawak. Because the Arawak of the Caribbean were substantially different from the Arawak of South America, Caribbean archaeologists decided that a name unique to the islands was needed. Taíno was chosen following the practice of Hispanic archaeologists (Rouse 1992). The name Taíno comes from the words used by the native peoples when they first encountered Columbus and is translated as “noble” or “good.”

However, the name game has not stopped here. When one name is applied to the peoples occupying a large territory the assumption is that the peoples in this area shared a common culture; an assumption based on the Spanish assertion that these were all one people (Las Casas 1951). Yet Rouse (1992) recognized that the peoples of Jamaica, central Cuba, and the Virgin Islands had material cultures that were less developed than those of peoples living in eastern Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico so he distinguished the “Classic Taíno” from the “sub-Taíno” (Rouse 1986). Without meaning any disrespect, the prefix “sub” nevertheless carried a pejorative connotation. The peoples of Jamaica and central Cuba are now called Western Taíno, the peoples of the northernmost Lesser Antilles and Virgin Islands are called Eastern Taíno, those of eastern Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico remain Classic Taíno, and the peoples of the Bahama archipelago are called Lucayan Taíno. The latter is based on Las Casas (1951), who reported that the Bahama archipelago originally was called “Las Islas de los Lucayos.”

Used in the singular, the name Taíno assumes a level of homogeneity that is unwarranted (Curet 2002, 2003; Keegan 2007). Las Casas (1951) reported that there were three mutually unintelligible languages spoken in Hispaniola. Taíno was described as the general language, a lingua franca or lingua jural (Granberry and Vescelius 2004). (p. 12) However, there were also Macorix de Arriba and Macorix de Abajo, with Macorix translated as “foreign tongue.” In addition, Columbus called the people of the Samaná peninsula, northeastern Dominican Republic, Ciguayo and not Taíno (Granberry, chapter 4).

The name Igneri has been used to distinguish the peoples of the southern Lesser Antilles from the Carib and Eastern Taíno. Igneri is an Arawak dialect. It generally is assumed that they were the inhabitants of the Lesser Antilles who were conquered by Carib invaders from South America. This scenario, and the names assigned, creates a false sense of understanding.

The first mention of “Carib” comes from the diario of Columbus’s first voyage (Dunn and Kelley 1989) and includes four distinct referents. Everything that Columbus reported about the “Carib” was either hearsay or the product of miscommunication (Keegan 2007). Use of the name Carib is confusing. There are groups today living in lowland South America who speak a Cariban language. Yet the language of the peoples in the Lesser Antilles was Arawak. These are very different language families, with very different cultural practices (Heckenberger 2005). The Carib use of an Arawak language, combined with Spanish attempts to enslave the native peoples, have led some to suggest that the Carib were actually the terminal phase of Arawak (Igneri) cultural development in the southern Lesser Antilles (cf. Allaire 1995; Davis and Goodwin 1990).

If there was a separate migration into the islands, then the names Island Kalina or Kallinago would be more appropriate monikers because they are associated with the native peoples of South America with whom the Carib expressed kinship (Allaire 1995). Hulme and Whitehead (1992:108) quote the French missionary Raymond Breton as stating that they called themselves “kallinago following the language of the men and kalliponam following the language of the women; although, for some distinction among themselves and those of the mainland, they call the later Balouöouri, from the word Ballouö, which means mainland…. We call those from the mainland Gallybis and our savages Caraïbes.”

The contributors to this Handbook recognize that the general names have been assigned different meanings at different times. The editors have attempted to ensure consistency in their use. The reader needs to understand that there was enormous cultural diversity in these islands when Europeans arrived. The changes in nomenclature reflect efforts to capture differences, while at the same time subsuming groups that shared cultural practices. The precolonial Caribbean was not a homogeneous cultural landscape.

The names assigned to native peoples are drawn from historical documents, while the names assigned to precontact groups are derived from conventions contained in the culture historical framework (Figure 1.5). A variety of culture-historical classifications have been suggested. The dominant framework is based on a classification system developed by Irving Rouse (1992; Siegel, chapter 2) that even today provides the basic framework for locating cultures in time and space.

 IntroductionClick to view larger

Figure 1.5. Time-space systematics for Caribbean peoples and cultures (modified from Rouse 1992).

His is a three-tiered taxonomy in which increasingly larger spatial units are grouped together based on similarities observed in the material remains (Curet 2004). (p. 13) (p. 14) The smallest unit is styles, and these are based on the range of characteristics (“modes”) observed in a very localized area. In this regard they contain the widest range of diversity. For example, there was a widespread use of fine-line incised decorations on pottery vessels in Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica. Anyone working with site assemblages from these areas immediately will recognize differences in form and execution, which can be interpreted as reflecting differences in the norms of representation in these areas. At least five distinct styles employing fine-lined incision have been identified: Meillac (Haiti), Finca (southwestern Haiti), Bani (Cuba), White Marl (Jamaica), and Montego Bay (western Jamaica). These styles are named for the archaeological site at which they were first described.

Because those styles share a common decorative technique (e.g., fine-line incision), albeit they differ somewhat in execution, they have been grouped into a more encompassing category called a “subseries.” Subseries are named for one of the styles with the addition of –an as a suffix. In the present example, all five of those styles are classified as members of the Meillacan subseries. Finally, the broadest category is the “series.” Series are named for a particular style, but are distinguished by the use of –oid as a suffix. Expanding the current example, at the broadest level of classification is the Meillacan subseries of the Ostionoid series. At this level the diverse styles in different sites on different islands are all classified as conforming to an overarching normative frameworks and historical traditions.

Because Rouse received his original training in forestry, his taxonomy follows the Linnaean system of hierarchical ordering. Style names refer to an assemblage of “modes” at a particular site, which are then grouped into related subsets that share historical traditions at the larger scales of “subseries” (neighboring sites and islands) and “series” (groups of “peoples and cultures” distributed over larger regions). When the reader is confronted with an “oid” (e.g., Saladoid, Ostionoid, Meillacoid) they should recognize that this is the most general “series” of association. In this regard, series may be useful for identifying the most general range of association, but the more meaningful insights are made at more refined scales of comparison. For example, Rouse recognized that modal similarities (styles) are most frequent across water passages (Watters and Rouse 1989), and that overwater passage was not an impediment, but often encouraged contact.

The naming of “peoples and cultures” based entirely on ceramic decoration is problematic (Rodríguez Ramos 2010). A further complication is that Rouse (1992) viewed changes in ceramics as representing a unilinear sequence of cultural development. The development of a new style, and the transition to a new series, was represented as reflecting instantaneous change across broad geographical areas. This smooth transition was based on notions of cultural homogeneity and was supported by an emphasis on the relative dating of ceramic series. The culture-historical framework originally was developed before radiocarbon dating; and its chronological scale was constructed from relatively few dates (Rouse and Allaire 1978). As radiocarbon dating became a more common practice in the region, it was discovered that ceramic “cultures” began earlier than expected, persisted longer, and frequently overlapped. In other words, the dates indicated a diversity of cultures (p. 15) that previously was not recognized. Substantial efforts recently have been made to refine the chronology through the accumulation of more context-specific dates and chronometric hygiene (Fitzpatrick 2006, chapter 14 in this volume; Hofman et al. 2010). Although archaeologists continue to use the same names for cultural groups within broad time frames, they are cognizant of diversity in cultural expressions at particular times and at specific places (e.g., Hofman, chapter 15).

Creating history

History can be viewed as the collection of facts, with the recognition that facts are identified by theoretical constructs, and their collection is limited by analytical methods. As Wilson (chapter 38) notes, Caribbean archaeologists have and continue to be precocious in the application of new technologies. Studies conducted in the region often are on the cutting edge of methodological and technological developments (e.g., Hofman et al. 2008). The chapters in this part present brief biographies with regard to specific methods and then highlight current and future directions.

We have attempted to sequence the chapters so that they progress in a meaningful way. Seafaring (chapter 20) is fundamental to the archaeology of the region so it leads these chapters. Conceptualizing spatial relations (chapter 21) and investigating the details of mobility and exchange (chapters 22 and 23) are next. A central issue in Caribbean archaeology is the development of chiefdoms and social hierarchies (chapter 24). This topic benefits from the chapters that precede it, as well as investigations of houses, households, and community structure (chapter 25) and evidence for subsistence practices (chapters 26, 27, and 28). Turning from the living to the dead, chapter 29 explores the use of Strontium and Oxygen isotopes to track mobility, chapter 30 develops a bioarchaeological approach, mortuary practices are the subject of chapter 31, and DNA evidence is used to trace the peopling of the Caribbean (chapter 32). Finally, two categories of materials that are finally being incorporated into more general reconstructions of cultural practices are rock art (chapter 33) and metals (chapter 34), Although the primary focus of these chapters is methodological, all of these applications are thoroughly grounded in broader theoretical constructs.

World history

The chapters in the Ethnohistory section introduced the native peoples who were living in the islands when Europeans arrived, and many of the other chapters employ ethnohistoric descriptions to interpret native beliefs and practices. In this (p. 16) part the chapters focus on the consequences of European colonization. Douglas Armstrong (chapter 35) reviews the early history of European colonies from the perspective of historical archaeology. Next, E. Kofi Agorsah describes the creation of “maroon” societies as the first expression of resistance to colonial domination (chapter 36), a theme that is attracting increasing attention from archaeologists in the islands (e.g., La Rosa Corzo 2010). Carmen Laguer (chapter 37) develops a historical perspective on the ways in which cultural interactions have contributed to Puerto Rican national identity. In the last chapter, Samuel Wilson highlights emerging trends in the region. This chapter highlights how Caribbean archaeology has and will continue to advance our global understanding of human society and culture.

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(1.) Since October 10, 2010, the island of Curaçao has obtained a status aparte, like Aruba. These are constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Bonaire, like Saba and St. Eustatius, has become a public body or special municipality within the Netherlands.