Huecoid Culture and the Antillean Agroalfarero (Farmer-Potter) Period
Abstract and Keywords
This article exalts the most significant indicators of the early Antillean farmer–potter population and their subsequent developments, believed to have formed the foundation of the Antillean Formative. The first Agroalfarero (farmer–potter) migration to arrive to the Antilles was denominated in the classifications of the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas (University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras) as La Hueca Culture. This culture originated in the South American Andes in accordance with its principal traits, among them the representation of the Andean condor in its lapidary and the cross-incised design in its decorated pottery. The second migration reportedly comes from the Lower Orinoco in Venezuela, denominated in the 1940 classifications of Irving Rouse as the Saladoid culture. This article rehearses the first major challenge to the standard model of migration and culture history.
The purpose of this chapter is to exalt the most significant indicators of the early Antillean farmer-potter population and their subsequent developments, which we believe forms the foundation of the Antillean Formative.
The first Agroalfarero (farmer-potter) migration to arrive to the Antilles was denominated in the classifications of the Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas (University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras) as La Hueca Culture (Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 2005). We defined the origin of this culture as somewhere in the South American Andes in accordance with its principal traits, among them the representation of the Andean condor in its lapidary and the incised cross-hatched (ZIC) design in its decorated pottery. The second migration reportedly comes from the Lower Orinoco in Venezuela named in the 1940s classifications of Irving Rouse (1992) as the Saladoid series, known in Puerto Rico as Igneri (see Bérard, this volume).
La Hueca Culture was discovered in 1977 on the southwest coast of the island of Vieques, which is located near the eastern coast of Puerto Rico (Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 1980, 1984, 2005). As a result of this discovery, the archaeologists of the Centro created new schemes with the most recent data of their (p. 172) investigations, with the purpose of explaining with better consistency the arrival, settlement, and development of the first Antillean settlers to follow the Archaic settlements that already were established on the islands.
The first cultural schemes
In 1940, the North American archaeologist Froelich Rainey presented the first prehistoric cultural scheme for the Antilles according to the faunal differences observed in the indigenous diet (Rainey 1940). He determined that there were two cultures: the shell culture and the crab culture. In 1952 the archaeologist Irving Rouse, of Yale University, developed a scheme that took space and time in consideration, in accordance to different pottery typologies, establishing a series of styles and cultural developments (see Rouse 1952, 1992; Rouse and Allaire 1979).
According to Rouse’s scheme, the Archaic settlers were displaced from the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico by a Saladoid migration that began about 500 b.c., which left only remnant Archaic settlements in western Cuba and the southwestern peninsula of Haiti. Rouse proposed that the Saladoid Culture was the only farmer-potter migration to arrive in the Antilles, and he suggests a unilineal evolution as the explanation of the cultural development of the islands. In addition, he establishes that all the other subsequent farmer-potter phases in the Antilles have their origin in the Saladoid culture and population (cf. Rodríguez Ramos, this volume). He refers to the intermediate Saladoid cultural phases as degenerative due to their poor material expressions. He explains the noticeable change in the posterior production of Saladoid material as the result of the passage of time and how it distanced itself from the continent. The Taíno are considered the final phase of the Saladoid evolution in the Antilles (see Keegan, this volume). Rouse presents the Taíno culture as a resurgence that reflects adaptation to the difficult conditions of Antillean geography.
The cultural scheme for the Antilles remained the same until 1977. In that year archaeologists of Centro de Investigaciones Arqueológicas discovered the La Hueca site on Vieques. Here, a previously unknown ceramic culture was named La Hueca to honor the site of its discovery. This new cultural ingredient provided enough material to develop a new cultural scheme, this time supported by two early farmer-potter migrations from South America.
The new cultural scheme
The new scheme was developed to graphically explain the evolutionary process and the cultural influence that the first farmer-potter migrations exerted on the Antillean Archaic groups. In this new scheme, we present the evolutionary process (p. 173) that the Archaic population experienced and how they subsequently developed into a new cultural stage with a diversity of expressions. We call this purely Antillean processes the “Antillean Formative” (Chanlatte Baik 1983, 1995, 2011; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 1990, 2005).
The scheme is divided into two main cultural periods. The Archaic period covers the temporal space from 6,000 b.c. to a.d. 460. It is followed by the Agroalfarero period that occurs from 500 b.c. to a.d. 1492. The first stage of the Agroalfarero period is represented by the La Hueca and Saladoid cultures, who initiated the Antillean Formative. The second stage is represented by the Ostionoid or pre-Taíno and the third by the Late Taíno in its final expressions.
Two farmer-potter migrations have been denominated as originating in South America, following the proposed chronological order of entrance to the Antilles, that is: Agroalfarero-I and Agroalfarero-II, represented by the Huecoid and the Saladoid, respectively. Consequently, the posterior local developments that are part of the Antillean Formative are Agroalfarero-III and Agroalfarero-IV. To facilitate and simplify or nomenclature, we have shortened the terms as follows: Agro-I, Agro-II, Agro-III, and Agro-IV (Figure 12.1).
According to the available radiocarbon dates, the Antillean Archaic began around 6000 b.c. (see Rodríguez Ramos et al., this volume). The data have made it difficult to determine if the Archaic migration to the Antilles occurred from various locations or only one. Their origins have been variously identified as Florida, Central America, and/or northern South America. In the present discussion we are less concerned with origins, and more concerned with their adaptations to the Antilles and subsequent encounters with the Agroalfarero immigrants.
We divide the Archaic period in two stages: “Preceramic” and “Aceramic” (Chanlatte Baik 1995, 2011; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 1990, 2005). The Preceramic (from 6000 to 500 b.c.) is characterized by migrations of small groups, or micro-bands, that adapt to the island environment and take control of the archipelago. This stage is considered Preceramic because there is no material evidence that there were any potters present, taking in consideration that in some sites there is isolated evidence for the use of ceramic vessels, which does not constitute a Ceramic Era (Chanlatte Baik 2011; Rodríguez Ramos 2010). Archaeological evidence suggests that their cultural development was not as simple as it is generally presented (i.e., nomads, fisher-gatherers, cave dwellers; see Rouse 1992). Recent studies suggest other modes of subsistence, including incipient agriculture (Newsom and Wing 2004). This period comprises over 5,000 years of Antillean Archaic life without a profound knowledge of agricultural technology; although seasonal sedentism and migratory horticulture probably enriched their diet with legumes, short-reproductive-cycle (p. 174) (p. 175) vegetables, and other cultigens imported from the mainland (Pagán-Jiménez, this volume).
The second, Aceramic, stage covers some 900 years, starting with the first contact between Archaic peoples and the farmer-potter immigrants (circa 500 b.c.) and continuing up to the beginning of cultural transformations. Our hypothesis is that there was an initial period of coexistence that we consider aceramic because, although there is the knowledge of ceramics, pottery vessels were not immediately incorporated into daily life. Instead, we suspect that the introduction of ceramic vessels as part of daily life must have occurred gradually. In addition, artisan skills are the last to be obtained and manifested in unskilled populations. As such, there was a territorial coexistence that in some cases initiated an acculturation process, without considering this as a transformation from an Archaic to a ceramic tradition. The Archaic site of María de La Cruz cave (Loíza), on the north coast of Puerto Rico, with a date of a.d. 35, is a good example of a late Aceramic site inhabited at a time when Huecoid and Saladoid groups had settled in the surrounding areas (see Rouse and Alegría 1990).
Later agroalfarero (farmer-potter) developments
The archaeological evidence obtained on Vieques led us to propose that there were two waves of farmer-potter migrations from South America (Chanlatte Baik 1981, 1983; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 1984). During this period, the Archaic groups on the islands were in varying contact with neighboring Huecoid and Saladoid groups. These relationships persisted over 900 years. Their relationships formed the bases for the cultural transformations that we have called the Antillean Formative (i.e., Agro-III and IV). The processes of cultural transformation into sedentary farmer-potter societies are represented in Agro-III by localized expressions reflecting the diversification of cultural expressions throughout the islands.
The Antillean Formative reached its apex in the southeastern Dominican Republic around a.d. 1200, where it is represented by Chicoid series pottery (Agro-IV). At the beginning of this stage all of the groups or ethnicities coexisted and shared the Antilles through a harmonic sociopolitical system (Archaics; Agro-I, II, and III). We consider that these developments were not uniform across, or even within, the islands. There is archaeological and historical evidence that demonstrate the presence of pure Archaic groups in different parts of the Antilles, while at the same time, the Chicoid, which will later become known as the Taíno culture, were in the process of development.
When we abandon a unilinear evolutionary framework, then other cultural expressions in the Antilles become problematic. For example, the Meillacoid of central and western Hispaniola is identified by a particular ceramic design with (p. 176) parallel-oblique lines between which intermediate spaces are filled with small incisions that provide the optical illusion of criss-crossing lines. Meillacoid ceramic designs are completely different from those of contemporaneous Chicoid motifs (see Sinelli, this volume). With the cultural development of the Meillac, we visualize a late movement in the Antillean Formative, whose material manifestation in areas neighboring the Caribbean coasts of Colombia (Puerto Hormiga and Barlovento), Jamaica, northern Haiti, Dominican Republic, and possibly the Gulf Coast of Florida raises the question of the whether or how Archaic populations may have been involved. The Meillacoid has a separate origin, and we rule out the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico because the principal ceramic traits are absent in these islands (see Chanlatte Baik 2007, 2011; Veloz Maggiolo 1991).
To reconstruct the settling of the Antilles by Agroalfarero populations we need to go back to the possible and farthest continental origins of the two groups that introduced farming and pottery technologies to the Caribbean islands. The evidence discussed poses the possibility that the Agro groups used the same sea routes as the Archaic groups. In this regard the north coast of South America has been identified as the source for the migration of farmer groups, according to the available chronological data. From the north, through Florida, there must have been another wave of migration of farmers, although less developed, of whom there is evidence in the northern coast of Cuba and the northwestern coast of Hispaniola. There is no convincing chronology from the Bahamas that will support this possibility, but we suspect that it was a slower and later one, since the acculturated Archaic groups were well established in northwestern Hispaniola and northeastern Cuba.
We trace the origin of the Agro-I migration to the western foothills of the South American Andes, (Tutishcaiño culture, western Bolivia, 2000 b.c.; Puerto Hormiga and Santa Marta, northern Colombia, 300 b.c.). There is also the site of Río Guapo, western coast of Venezuela (a.d. 270), with materials similar to the ones found on the islands of Vieques in Puerto Rico (Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 2005; Narganes Storde 1983). The incised-crosshatched designs situate the Huecoids in a remote past somewhere in the western foothills of the Andes. There is also the representation of an Andean condor, regularly with a human head in its claws that seem to correspond with the representation of the Bolivian mythological theme of the head-trophy (see Figure 11.2).
(p. 177) There are two Huecoid settlements in eastern Puerto Rico at Sorcé-La Hueca, Vieques, and Punta Candelero, Humacao. At present, no other Huecoid sites have been detected in the Greater Antilles, although Huecoid objects have been identified at sites throughout the Lesser Antilles (Oliver 1999). The earliest Huecoid date comes from Punta Candelero (170 b.c.) (Rodríguez Lopéz 1991). Their occupation of La Hueca, Vieques, lasted 1,540 years, and at Punta Candelero some 1,430 years. This period of settlement provides two fundamental concepts. The first is that settlement of this Agro-I population was of a permanent and not short-term character. The second presupposes migration in waves; the slow westward movements of people from the continent who contacted peoples already established in the islands. The old concept of displacement or eradication of already established populations due to the new settlers is left without foundation or solid arguments (Chanlatte Baik 1981, 1983; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 1990; Rodríguez Ramos 2010). Thus, the Huecoids arrived in Puerto Rico with a characteristic cultural baggage and maintained it for over 1,000 years. The date of a.d. 1540 in Sorcé, Vieques, is disconcerting for many that have grown accustomed to the old unilineal model where all the complex indigenous activities cease due to the arrival of the Spanish. The Spanish chroniclers do not mention the diverse cultural groups or indigenous ethnicities as they could not distinguish the subtle differences in cultural expressions between the different islands. Thanks to archaeology and new discoveries a transcendental advancement has occurred in our conception of indigenous life in the Antilles at the beginning of Spanish conquest.
The material record that identifies the Huecoid culture as different from other early Neolithic farmer groups in the Caribbean is its unpainted ceramic with a fine crisscrossing design and its lapidary (described below), which demonstrates a high level of development achieved by the Huecoids on the continent, before settling in the Lesser Antilles and in Puerto Rico, constituting an advanced tribal society.
Their settlements were located near the coast, some one or two kilometers away from rivers or other sources of potable water. They preferred flat areas where the soil is adequate for their crops. The bitter manioc provided the major source of carbohydrates, judging from the vast quantity of burenes (griddles) on which they baked cassava bread. They also must have enriched their diet with other tubers, nuts, and fruits that are abundant on the islands (Pagán-Jiménez, this volume).
Fishing, gathering, and hunting complemented their agricultural production (Narganes Storde 1982, 1983). In addition, their settlements were generally located in mangrove areas and in easy access to reefs, which would provide a varied and abundant diet. Their faunal diet consisted of marine fish, birds, mollusks, and snails. One of the most abundant marine resources in the Caribbean, sea turtles, were completely ignored by them, which makes us think that they were possibly considered taboo.
The Huecoids represent a tribal society in an advanced state of development. The materials obtained from archaeological sites demonstrate that they possessed a complex religious system evidenced by the large quantity of body ornaments made out of lithic, conch, nacreous shell, wood and bone, representing varied (p. 178) fauna (bats, dogs, frogs, Andean condor, and reptiles) with defined morphological patterns. It is important to know that many of the lithic adornments were made in semiprecious stones that were extracted from distant points in South America, maintaining a network of exchange between the continent and the islands for the acquisition of raw material that was absent in the Antilles.
According to the pattern observed in Sorcé-La Hueca, Huecoid villages were composed of four to seven houses (bohíos) in a semicircle, which bordered a large, open, central plaza. The open section of the semicircle gave access to a river. The source of drinkable water was indispensable for ceramic production and other human basic necessities. Two of the bohíos were of great importance, as demonstrated by the volume and quality of materials in the living space. These materials suggest that they must have belonged to important people, such as a cacique and a behique (shaman), respectively, which indicates a type of complex tribal social organization. The absence of burials in the Huecoid archaeological record indicates that burials were done outside of the village. Since, at the moment, no Huecoid burial has been found in Puerto Rico we are unable to provide biological or mortuary information (height, facial traits, diseases, nutrition, and, beliefs and customs associated with funerary rites).
In conclusion, we propose that Huecoid society was organized in clans, where the zoomorphic representation in body ornaments could be evidence of totemic symbols of different village clans (bat, dog, frog and the Andean condor). The Huecoid clan culture was able to survive for over 1,500 years in Puerto Rico; although we are unable to determine the reason for their social hermeticism that kept them isolated and prohibited cultural assimilation with their neighbors, the Igneri culture.
Huecoid Material Culture
The typical Huecoid ceramic vessel is of asymmetric elliptical form with one of its extremes in tabular form and the opposite has a handle with a figurine that is projected on the rim. It exhibits the singular trait that one of the sides of the vessel slopes to the interior of the vessel (the side with the handle with a figurine) and the other side slopes to the exterior (the side with the tabular projection). The designs are also asymmetric since the side with the tabular projection presents incised decorations, whereas the handle is modeled with an incised decoration (Chanlatte Baik 1991).
The rest of the Huecoid ceramic assemblage is composed of a variety of forms, mostly for domestic use, which have handles in D form. The water jugs, the bottles with bulbed necks, bowls with and without pedestals, flexed bowls, inhalation vessels, libation cups, censer, and griddles are some of the frequent vessels in Huecoid production. The traits and decoration techniques are represented by modeled elements and incised designs filled with white and, at times, red paste. In Huecoid culture it is common to find asymmetry in the designs. The incised designs are often used and can be observed from the most simple expression (made with the tips of fingernails, incised rectangles) to more baroque (spirals, crisscrossing rectangular, (p. 179) triangular, and spiral compositions) where all the surface exterior of the vessel is decorated. The most common decorative trait in the Huecoid ceramic is the fine incised crisscrossing in zones (ZIC). For over 40 years Antillean researchers have identified this trait that identifies the Huecoid, as an earlier component of the Saladoid culture. The discovery in La Hueca, Vieques, cleared this question by providing convincing information that allows this trait to be recognized as characteristic of Huecoid culture.
In the material record of this new farmer-potter migration, we consider important the delicate production of body ornaments finely worked in nacre or mother of pearl (Pteria colymbus and Pinctada radiata). These adornments represent zoomorphic elements with microscopic perforations that in some cases indicate eyes. Such body ornaments enrich their morphologic variety with a number of simple serrated discs, some perforated in the center; rectangular plaques and a series of stylized schematic forms, on occasion with winged appearance giving the impression of stylized bats. The presence of these nacreous ornaments in the Huecoid culture constitutes a valuable novelty in Antillean archaeology.
Another trait of the Huecoid culture is the abundant lapidary collection. Approximately 2,500 objects have been found, many of them manufactured in semiprecious stones imported from South America. Among the semiprecious stones we find amethyst, cornelian, jade, agate, rock crystal, turquoise, aventurine, and some varieties of green quartz. Other local stones like serpentine, calcite, and diorite were used. The most common faunal representations are frogs, bats, Andean condors, and reptiles. There is a naturalist tendency in their craftsmanship, and a rigid pattern of faunal representations that did not alter in hundreds of years. The lack of alteration demonstrates the monolithic aspect of their superstructural conception (socioreligious world) in addition to its conceptual wealth. As we can appreciate, the archaeological site of La Hueca is surprising not only because of the valuable lithic and nacre ornaments but also because of the new cultural information it offers, that substantially changes all archaeological schemes of the Antilles.
In this scheme, the Agro-II (Saladoid) group is the second and separate farmer-potter migration into the Antilles. Their origin is placed north of the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Various sites on the Middle and Lower Orinoco (e.g., La Gruta, 2140–1585 b.c.; Ronquín, 1020 b.c.; and Saladero, 920 or 620 b.c.) represent the earliest sites of this culture (see Bérard, this volume).
A large number of Saladoid settlements have been located along the coasts of Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles. The expansion of this migration may have reached the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic at a relatively late date, where two sites have been identified at La Caleta (a.d. 730) and Corrales (a.d. 860). At present there is no evidence of Saladoid settlements in Haiti, Cuba, or the Bahamas. In Jamaica there are two sites, St. Ann and Alligator Point, with (p. 180) possible late Saladoid ceramics (similar to the Corrales type in Santo Domingo (cf. Allsworth-Jones 2008; Cruxent and Chanlatte Baik 1964). Recently, there has been a major emphasis on evaluating the chronology, with particular emphasis on “chronometric hygiene” (Fitzpatrick 2006; Rodríguez Ramos 2010). As our ability to define the timing of particular cultural expressions improves, our interpretations of cultural interactions also will be enhanced.
Similar to the Huecoid population, the Saladoid usually settled near rivers and the sea, although there are some settlements at distances of 7 km to 10 km inland. Still, they are usually close to a river. Saladoid culture may also have been dependent on manioc, processed into cassava, but recent starch-grain studies recognize the importance of other root crops and maize (Pagán-Jiménez, this volume). The Saladoids also consumed fruits and nuts from the forest, provided by the local flora (Newsom and Wing 2004). The Saladoid faunal diet was not significantly different from the Huecoid, possibly because both were originally continental cultures adapted to the coastal island environment. The main difference is that the sea turtle forms part of the Saladoid diet. Generally their settlements are located in mangrove areas, rich in marine and terrestrial fauna. The sea banks, reefs, and coastline provided the majority of the diet’s protein (Narganes Storde 1982; Newsom and Wing 2004).
The oldest villages are large in size (ten to fifteen bohíos of varied sizes) forming a circle or semicircle. The more recent villages (after a.d. 400) were smaller (two to five bohíos). The material record demonstrates an advanced tribal level judging by the quality of the ceramic assemblage and the rich and varied painted decoration that can be appreciated in the combination of geometric and figurative designs.
Contrary to the Huecoid archaeological record, Agro-II deposits have primary and secondary human burials, and dog burials (Chanlatte Baik 1983; Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 2002; Hoogland and Hofman, this volume). The early sites are the ones that have modest offerings (cf. Siegel 2010). Generally the funerary offers are composed of ceramic fragments, some food remains, and, in rare occasions, complete ceramic vessels.
The Saladoid ceramic assemblage is of high quality in its paste, finishing, and decoration (Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 2002; cf. Keegan 2004). The principal traits are white paint over a red base, and a wide variety of shapes. In the Antilles, the Saladoid developed polychrome decoration, combining from three to four colors (white, red, orange, yellow, and black). These colors were applied to the exterior, interior, or both sides of the vessels. The most popular vessel shapes are bell-shaped, semispherical, and truncated-conic forms. There are also elliptic, navicular, squared, and rectangular forms on which white-painted decoration was not used.
In the ceramic assemblage, there are also carafes or bottles with a tall and bulbous neck, with up to three handles (two in the neck and one to the side). There (p. 181) is also a variety of effigy vessels with anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and ornitomorphic designs, decorated indistinctively with polychrome designs, only with the application of the color red or burnished in its natural color for a shiny surface. The Antillean Saladoids are known for their craftsmanship with one of the best ceramics in the Americas. The designs on Saladoid pottery are subtle and of quality. They are symmetric with painted and modeled figures, combined with geometric shapes.
The body ornaments of the Saladoid are not as prolific as the Huecoid; however, they are of good quality and finish. The most distinctive represent frogs in green jade and anthropomorphic stylized figurines. Other animals from the Antillean and possibly South American fauna also are represented in their lapidary. The most abundant adornments are rock crystals that were shaped into biconical, cylindrical, and discoid beads, perforated lengthwise.
From the conch shell (Strombus sp.), the Agro-II manufactured elaborate and varied body ornaments and amulets. Large discs made from conch shell are perforated in the center, and a large quantity of conch shell beads has been recovered. Furthermore, in early Saladoid deposits, it is common to find triangular-shaped micro-cemis made from the apophysis of Strombus sp., which must have served as a model for the later larger stone carvings with representations, denominated as a three-pointed stones (Chanlatte Baik 1983; Oliver 2009). The assemblage is completed by body and religious ornaments, as well as figurines made out of bone and wood. With a low frequency, gold-sheet nose rings have been recovered (see Chanlatte Baik 1983; Valcárcel Rojas and Martinón-Torres, this volume).
The Huecoid cultural complex represents a significant challenge to the conventional unilinear model in which all post-Archaic cultures developed from a single, Saladoid source (e.g., Rouse 1992). It is our contention that the Huecoid represents a distinct migration into the Antilles that originated in the Andes, and preceded the Saladoid migration from the Orinoco River in Venezuela (Chanlatte Baik and Narganes Storde 2002, 2005). The goal of this chapter is not to debate origins, but instead to highlight the cultural diversity that is the foundation of Caribbean societies.
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