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JAMAICAN TAÍNO SETTLEMENT CONFIGURATION AT THE TIME OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

  • David V. Burley (a1), Robyn P. Woodward (a2), Shea Henry (a3) and Ivor C. Conolley (a4)

Abstract

Stranded in Jamaica for a year in AD 1503, Christopher Columbus and crew became reliant on the Taíno village of Maima for provisions. Recent archaeological survey and excavations at this site document a sizeable hillside settlement established early in the White Marl period of Jamaican culture history with continued occupation up to Spanish contact. Beginning by 13th to 14th century AD, the people at Maima expanded their settlement capacity across the hillslope through construction of house terraces and platforms employing large volumes of limestone rock and gravel fill. Archaeological excavation on these features has exposed at least one circular, center-pole Taíno house with a surprisingly limited floor space. A review of Jamaican archaeology suggests both hillside terracing and small house form is characteristic of Jamaican Taíno village configuration more broadly. This pattern stands in contrast to other areas of Taíno settlement in the Caribbean, and to the small number of Spanish chronicles in which Taíno villages and houses are described.

Atrapados en Jamaica por alrededor de un año en 1503 d. C., Cristóbal Colón y su tripulación se vieron obligados a depender del aprovisionamiento de la aldea taína de Maima. Recientemente, en este sitio se han efectuado prospecciones y excavaciones arqueológicas que evidencian un importante asentamiento en las laderas, establecido tempranamente en el período White Marl de la historia cultural jamaiquina y con una ocupación continua hasta la etapa de contacto español. La población de Maima, establecida entre los siglos trece y catorce, expandió la capacidad de su asentamiento sobre las laderas a través de la construcción de terrazas habitacionales y plataformas empleando grandes cantidades de roca marga y relleno de grava. La excavación arqueológica en estos rasgos ha expuesto al menos una estructura circular que corresponde a una casa taíno de poste central con una superficie sorprendentemente limitada. Una revisión de la arqueología jamaiquina sugiere, en términos generales, que tanto el aterrazamiento de laderas como el tipo de casa pequeña son característicos de la configuración del pueblo taíno jamaiquino. Este patrón contrasta con otras zonas de asentamiento taíno en el Caribe y con las escasas crónicas españolas en las que se describen aldeas y casas taínas.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

(burley@sfu.ca, corresponding author)

References

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