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Ancient Borinquen

Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Native Puerto Rico

Edited by Peter E. Siegel, with contributions from Peter G. Roe, Peter E. Siegel

Publication Year: 2005

Native American cultures of Puerto Rico prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1493.


A book on the prehistory of a modern geopolitical entity is artificial. It is unlikely that prehistoric occupants recognized the same boundaries and responded to the same political forces that operated in the formation of current nations, states, or cities. Yet, archaeologists traditionally have produced such volumes and they generally represent anchors for ongoing research in a specific region, in this case the island of Puerto Rico, its immediate neighbors, and the wider Caribbean basin.  

To varying degrees, this work addresses issues and draws data from beyond the boundaries of Puerto Rico because in prehistoric times the water between islands likely was not viewed as a boundary in our modern sense of the term. The last few decades have witnessed a growth of intense archaeological research on the island, from material culture in the form of lithics, ceramics, and rock art; to nutritional, architecture, and environmental studies; to rituals and social patterns; to the aftermath of Conquest.  

Ancient Borinquen provides a comprehensive overview of recent thinking, new data, syntheses, and insights into current Puerto Rican archaeology, and it reflects and illuminates similar concerns elsewhere in the West Indies, lowland South America, and Central America.

 

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xiv

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Preface

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pp. xv-xxii

A book on the prehistory and ethnohistory of a modern geopolitical entity is artificial. It is unlikely that prehistoric occupants recognized the same boundaries and responded to the same political forces that operated in the formation of current nations, states, or cities. Yet archaeologists traditionally have produced such volumes, and they generally represent anchors for ongoing research in a region for years to come. ...

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1. The Crab-Shell Dichotomy Revisited: The Lithics Speak Out

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pp. 1-54

In the early 1930s, Froelich Rainey was sponsored to pursue excavations in Puerto Rico as part of the Caribbean Archaeology Program of the Peabody Museum of Yale University. As stated by the program director, Cornelius Osgood (1942:6–7), these excavations were made in an “attempt to improve the methodology of archaeology through intensive research in a particular area, as well as to resolve the Historic problems of the aboriginal populations of the West Indies.” ...

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2. The Paso del Indio Site, Vega Baja, Puerto Rico: A Progress Report

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pp. 55-87

The Paso del Indio site in Vega Baja is the deepest, best-stratified site found to date in Puerto Rico, and possibly in the Caribbean. Archaeological material was found to a depth of nearly 5 m below surface. Lighter colored flood-deposited sediments separate the darker occupational layers from each other. The light-colored flood sediments make all the darker intrusive features readily evident, so the site has a wealth of clearly distinguishable post molds, ...

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3. Environmental and Cultural Correlates in the West Indies: A View from Puerto Rico

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pp. 88-121

Observations made by the early Spanish chroniclers of the Greater Antilles reflect Native American societies that were hierarchically organized, with lesser chiefs providing personnel for labor and warfare to more powerful chiefs (Col

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4. The Status of Paleoethnobiological Research on Puerto Rico and Adjacent Islands

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pp. 122-184

Recent and ongoing paleoethnobiological research concerning archaeological settlements and biotic resources on Puerto Rico and adjacent islands has begun to illuminate distinctive patterns of resource use by the various prehistoric human groups occupying the area beginning approximately 2,200 years ago. This particular subregion of the Caribbean includes Puerto Rico and the geologically related smaller islands of Culebra and Vieques, immediately to the east of Puerto Rico ...

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5. Ceramic-Age Dietary Patterns in Puerto Rico: Stable Isotopes and Island Biogeography

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pp. 185-201

Diet and foodways are among the most fascinating and important aspects of culture. A defining attribute distinguishing cultural groups is based in large part on food habits. Archaeologists seek multiple lines of evidence to identify foods consumed by ancient peoples. These include animal and plant remains, artifacts, settlement patterns, and such distinctive features of the landscape as the remains of ditches, ...

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6. Deconstructing the Polity: Communities and Social Landscapes of the Ceramic-Age Peoples of South Central Puerto Rico

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pp. 202-229

The regional organization and development of past societies has been and continues to be a critical component of archaeological research. Investigations at this level contribute to understanding the processes responsible for the growth of complex social systems within the context of the landscapes they occupied. For researchers focusing on the ceramic age of the Greater Antilles (between ca. 300 b.c. and a.d. 1500), regional studies are fueled by ...

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7. The Proto-Taíno Monumental Cemís of Caguana: A Political-Religious “Manifesto”

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pp. 230-284

Without a doubt, Caguana is the iconographically most complex site thus far known in the Caribbean, albeit not the largest in terms of total area of public/ceremonial space (Siegel 1992, 1999). However, the rigorous study and analysis of Caguana’s rich iconographic corpus has been slow to develop (Oliver 1981), even though 87 years have elapsed since it was first excavated by J. Alden Mason in 1915 (Mason 1917, 1941). ...

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8 Rivers of Stone, Rivers within Stone: Rock Art in Ancient Puerto Rico

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pp. 285-336

Puerto Rico, the easternmost of the Greater Antilles (Figure 8.1), is a large island characterized by a complex geology, including a spectacular interior karst topography honeycombed with caves and sinkholes, as well as huge boulder-strewn rivers winding from the mountainous center to the coasts. It thus has all the requisite raw materials for rock art, or arte rupestre as it is called in Spanish. Indeed, it appears in two media here: pictographs (Gonz

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9. The Aftermath of Conquest: The Indians of Puerto Rico during the Early Sixteenth Century

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pp. 337-352

In this chapter I will discuss what is known about the

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10. Multiple Visions of an Island’s Past and Some Thoughts for Future Directions in Puerto Rican Prehistory

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pp. 353-364

My goals in this chapter are twofold: (1) review the salient themes addressed in the previous chapters, and (2) offer some insights into what I think connect the disparate bodies of evidence relating to environment, subsistence, settlements and polities, and religion and cosmology. In the preface, I observed that a book on the prehistory of Puerto Rico is contrived because things that were happening on this island were undoubtedly linked to affairs on neighboring islands and Central and South America. ...

References Cited

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pp. 365-414

Contributors

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pp. 415-418

Index

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pp. 419-423


E-ISBN-13: 9780817381509
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817352387

Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of the West Indies -- Puerto Rico -- Antiquities.
  • Indians of the West Indies -- Puerto Rico -- History.
  • Ethnohistory -- Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto Rico -- Antiquities.
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