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

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

William F. Keegan

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 081301137X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

For the Lucayan Arawaks of the Caribbean, the year 1492 marked the beginning of the end: the first people contacted by Christopher Columbus were the first extinguished. Within thirty years, a population of perhaps 80,000 had declined to, at most, a few refugees. Clearing new ground in the study of prehistoric societies, Keegan argues that a different perspective on the past provides an accurate portrait of a culture that became extinct almost 500 years ago.
Keegan terms his approach paleoethnography, developing a portrait of the past by linking archaeological field data and historical documents. The result, the first overview of the prehistory of the Bahamas, explains how and why the Bahamas were colonized by the Tainos almost 1,400 years ago. The portrait includes characteristics of the islands themselves, descriptions of how the Lucayans made their settlements, what they ate, how they organized in social groups, and how their population spread throughout the archipelago.
Keegan reconstructs Columbus’s voyage through the West Indies, raising questions about the explorer’s motivations and presenting a controversial theory about where, exactly, Columbus landed. Offering new perspectives on Caribbean prehistory to both scholars and general readers, the book ends with the Spaniards’ arrival and the Lucayans’ demise.




















samples from archaeological sites in the vicinity of flamingo ponds, the possible prehistoric use of these birds cannot be excluded. A final animal was introduced by the Lucayans. During his first voyage Columbus reported seeing dogs (Canis familiaris). Recently dog bones      Page 40 were recovered from a prehistoric context during the excavation of site MC­12 on Middle Caicos. Dogs may have been used for hunting hutia, iguana, and flamingo,

that local resources simply are not worth fighting over in view of the higher returns from long­distance trading, raiding, hunting, and fishing. In either of these  circumstances, or in some combination of them, interpersonal aggression may occur, but leaders will act to prevent it from escalating into violence because internal  warfare is in no one's interest. To a large degree, political institutions arise from the structures that initially operated to organize the productive and reproductive

Recent excavations at the Delectable Bay settlement complex on Acklins Island provide evidence for long­distance exchange that exceeded by several magnitudes the  scale of exchange in the remainder of the Bahamas (Keegan 1988). In the Delectable Bay site, AC­14, 27.3 percent by weight of the pottery assemblage was  imported from the Greater Antilles. In comparison, Sears and Sullivan (1978) have reported that imported pottery comprises less than 1 percent of the ceramic

Even where such specificity is possible, it will be of limited use if we are unable to determine the degree to which the optimal diet accurately characterizes prehistoric  subsistence behavior. Unfortunately, direct archaeological tests of theoretical predictions are often limited by preservational biases and the limits of inferential

population was doubled to account for the unsurveyed south coast of Crooked Island; 42 percent of Mayaguana and 84 percent of Great Inagua were apparently unsuited for  settlement.        Page 170 any less densely occupied than the islands for which survey data are available. The purpose of this exercise was to determine whether known sites could reasonably account for a total population of 40,000. The conclusion is that they can when

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