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The Taíno of the Caribbean: six thousand years of seafaring and cultural development

from PREHISTORICAL CASE STUDIES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2017

Richard T. Callaghan
Affiliation:
University of Calgary, Canada
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Summary

ABSTRACT.This contribution nicely complements that of Bérard by using computer simulations of seafaring routes in the Caribbean to show that two-way contacts between mainland regions, principally northern Columbia and the Orinoco basin and the islands, especially Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, were possible for the pre-Columbian Taíno civilization. The simulations enable archaeologists and anthropologists to achieve better interpretations of the rich evidence for cultural contacts across the region.

RÉSUMÉ.A partir de simulations par ordinateur de routes maritimes caribéennes, cette contribution vient compléter celle de Bérard et vise à démontrer les contacts bilatéraux possibles qu'a pu établir la civilisation Taino précolombienne entre les régions continentales (principalement la Colombie du Nord et le bassin de l'Orénoque) et les îles, en particulier Hispaniola et Puerto Rico. Ces simulations permettent aux archéologues et anthropologues de donner une meilleure interprétation aux preuves abondantes d'échange culturel dans la région.

INTRODUCTION

The Taíno of the Caribbean, who occupied much of the islands, but primarily the Greater Antilles at the time of Columbus, were the result of over 6000 years of maritime migration and cultural interaction. While being the result of a long period of development, the Taíno became a distinct cultural group over the last 500 years before European contact. Their complex sociopolitical institutions had a clear connection to north-eastern South America, but some can be attributed to mainland areas further to the west and elsewhere. It also appears that cultural influences were not just one-way, and there is evidence to suggest significant influences by the island ancestors of the Taíno on the mainland, particularly in the north-east of South America. Their organization was highly complex, especially on Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. These large, complex chiefdoms were expanding at the time of Columbus. They were multi-tiered with regional chiefs, regional manufacturing specialization, and considerable trade.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

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