The University of Alabama Press

Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory

L. Antonio Curet

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory

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The Aborigines of Puerto Rico and Neighboring Islands

A valuable recounting of the first formal archaeological excavations in Puerto Rico.

Originally published as the Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1907, this book was praised in an article in American Anthropologist as doing "more than any other to give a comprehensive idea of the archaeology of the West Indies."

Until that time, for mainly political reasons, little scientific research had been conducted by Americans on any of the Caribbean islands. Dr. Fewkes' unique skills of observation and experience served him well in the quest to understand Caribbean prehistory and culture. This volume, the result of his careful fieldwork in Puerto Rico in 1902-04, is magnificently illustrated by 93 plates and 43 line drawings of specimens from both public and private collections of the islands.

A 1907 article in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland described the volume as "a most valuable contribution to ethnographical science."


 

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Archaeology and Geoinformatics

Case Studies from the Caribbean

Edited by Basil A. Reid

Addressing the use of geoinformatics in Caribbean archaeology, this volume is based on case studies drawn from specific island territories, namely, Barbados, St. John, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Nevis, St. Eustatius, and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as inter-island interaction and landscape conceptualization in the Caribbean region. Geoinformatics is especially critical within the Caribbean where site destruction is intense due to storm surges, hurricanes, ocean and riverine erosion, urbanization, industrialization, and agriculture, as well as commercial development along the very waterfronts that were home to many prehistoric peoples. By demonstrating that the region is fertile ground for the application of geoinformatics in archaeology, this volume places a well-needed scholarly spotlight on the Caribbean.

Contributors:
Douglas V. Armstrong, Ivor Conolley, Kevin Farmer, R. Grant Gilmore III, Mark W. Hauser, Eric Klingelhofer, David W. Knight, Roger H. Leech, Stephan Lenik, Parris Lyew-Ayee, Bheshem Ramlal, Basil A. Reid, Reniel Rodríguez, Joshua M. Torres

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Beyond the Blockade

New Currents in Cuban Archaeology

Edited by Susan Kepecs, L. Antonio Curet, and Gabino La Rosa Corzo

This innovative volume builds on dialogues opened in recent years between Cuban archaeologists, whose work has long been carried out behind closed doors, and their international colleagues.  The chapters included herein span a wide range of subjects across the full chronological spectrum.  Most were written by emerging Cuban professionals who are breaking new ground; a few were penned by long-time leaders in the field.

 

Issues addressed by the 17 contributors represented in this collection include the long-term cultural and intellectual links between Florida and Cuba, which influence shared research goals today; the limitations of theoretical frameworks for archaeology defined in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, and how to overcome them; the challenges involved in charting out the earliest human occupations on the island; the processes of Indo-Hispanic transculturation during the Colonial epoch; late pre-Colombian links between the Taínos of eastern Cuba and the rest of the Greater Antilles; and the theoretical and practical tensions between architectural restoration and the practice of scientific urban historical archaeology.  Thus this volume makes a crucial contribution to the field of archaeology on many fronts, not the least of which is the sharing of information across the blockade.

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Caciques and Cemi Idols

The Web Spun by Taino Rulers Between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico

Written by Jose R Oliver

Cemís are both portable artifacts and embodiments of persons or spirit, which the Taínos and other natives of the Greater Antilles (ca. AD 1000-1550) regarded as numinous beings with supernatural or magic powers. This volume takes a close look at the relationship between humans and other (non-human) beings that are imbued with cemí power, specifically within the Taíno inter-island cultural sphere encompassing Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. The relationships address the important questions of identity and personhood of the cemí icons and their human “owners” and the implications of cemí gift-giving and gift-taking that sustains a complex web of relationships between caciques (chiefs) of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.

 

Oliver provides a careful analysis of the four major forms of cemís—three-pointed stones, large stone heads, stone collars, and elbow stones—as well as face masks, which provide an interesting contrast to the stone heads. He finds evidence for his interpretation of human and cemí interactions from a critical review of 16th-century Spanish ethnohistoric documents, especially the Relación Acerca de las Antigüedades de los Indios written by Friar Ramón Pané in 1497–1498 under orders from Christopher Columbus. Buttressed by examples of native resistance and syncretism, the volume discusses the iconoclastic conflicts and the relationship between the icons and the human beings. Focusing on this and on the various contexts in which the relationships were enacted, Oliver reveals how the cemís were central to the exercise of native political power. Such cemís were considered a direct threat to the hegemony of the Spanish conquerors, as these potent objects were seen as allies in the native resistance to the onslaught of Christendom with its icons of saints and virgins.

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Crossing the Borders

New Methods and Techniques in the Study of Archaeology Materials from the Caribbean

Edited by Corinne L. Hofman, Menno Hoogland, and Annelou L. van Gijn

Explores the application of a selected number of newly emerging methods and techniques.
 
During the past few decades, Caribbean scholars on both sides of the Atlantic have increasingly developed and employed new methods and techniques for the study of archaeological materials. The aim of earlier research in the Caribbean was mainly to define typologies on the basis of pottery and lithic assemblages leading to the establishment of chronological charts for the region, and it was not until the 1980s that the use of technological and functional analyses of artifacts became widespread. The 1990s saw a veritable boom in this field, introducing innovative methods and techniques for analyzing artifacts and human skeletal remains. Innovative approaches included microscopic use-wear analysis, starch residue and phytolith analysis, stable isotope analysis, experimental research, ethnoarchaeological studies, geochemical analyses, and DNA studies. 
 
The purpose of this volume is to describe new methods and techniques in the study of archaeological materials from the Caribbean and to assess possible avenues of mutual benefit and integration. Exploring the advantages and disadvantages in the application of a selected number of newly emerging methods and techniques, each of these approaches is illustrated by a case study. These studies benefited from a diverse array of experience and the international background of the researchers from Canada, the Netherlands, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Italy, Mexico, Dominican Republic, England, and the United States who are integral members of the archaeological community of the Caribbean. A background to the study of archaeological materials in the Caribbean since the 1930s is provided in order to contextualize the latest developments in this field.   

Contributors:
Benoît Bérard, Mathijs Booden, Iris Briels, Jago Cooper, Alfredo Coppa, Andrea Cucina, Gareth Davies ,Hylke de Jong, Christy de Mille, Corinne L. Hofman, Menno L. P. Hoogland, Charlene Dixon Hutcheson, Daan Isendoorn, Loe Jacobs, William F. Keegan, Harold J. Kelly, Sebastiaan Knippenberg, Yvonne M. J. Lammers-Keijsers,Fernando Luna Calderón, Marcos Martinón-Torres, Lee A. Newsom, Channah Nieuwenhuis José R. Oliver,Jaime R. Pagán Jiménez, Raphaël G. A. M. Panhuysen, Roberto Rodríguez Suárez, Glenis Tavarez María, Michael Turney, Roberto Valcárcel Rojas, Annelou L. van Gijn,Rita Vargiu,Tamara Varney, Johannes Zijlstra

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Heritage or Heresy

The Public Interpretation of Archaeology and Culture in the Maya Riviera

Written by Cameron Jean Walker

How can we effectively interpret and present one culture to another without stereotypes or over-simplifications? What is the best way to present an authoritative version of a national heritage without also endangering ancient sites or being insensitive to the local customs, beliefs, and religious practices of the indigenous peoples?

 

This volume addresses the ongoing thrust in archaeology to take the next step after preserving the past: interpreting that past for the future.  That future audience includes both local citizens and tourists who may have little background in archaeology, anthropology, or the history of the culture featured.  Walker presents the key components of the anthropological study of tourism as a global phenomenon, with particular emphasis on the more prominent arguments for how and why tourism is a universal and meaningful human activity.  The highly controversial topic of authenticity is examined, with special attention given to how "authentic" has been defined and how it relates to the ways in which archaeological sites, artifacts, and cultural traditions are presented--or not presented--to the visiting public. The ephemeral promise of “authenticity” drives the heritage tourism industry, which is a key consideration for the long term economy of the Maya Riviera and elsewhere.  Through analysis of seven archaeological sites on the Yucatan peninsula that are open to heritage touring, Walker reveals the planned growth of the Maya Riviera since the early 1970s and examines the impact of international tourism on both ancient structures and the contemporary Maya people and culture.

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Islands at the Crossroads

Migration, Seafaring, and Interaction in the Caribbean

L. Antonio Curet

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Myths and Realities of Caribbean History

Basil A. Reid

This book seeks to debunk eleven popular and prevalent myths about Caribbean history. Using archaeological evidence, it corrects many previous misconceptions promulgated by history books and oral tradition as they specifically relate to the pre-Colonial and European-contact periods. It informs popular audiences, as well as scholars, about the current state of archaeological/historical research in the Caribbean Basin and asserts the value of that research in fostering a better understanding of the region’s past.
 
Contrary to popular belief, the history of the Caribbean did not begin with the arrival of Europeans in 1492. It actually started 7,000 years ago with the infusion of Archaic groups from South America and the successive migrations of other peoples from Central America for about 2,000 years thereafter. In addition to discussing this rich cultural diversity of the Antillean past, Myths and Realities of Caribbean History debates the misuse of terms such as “Arawak” and “Ciboneys,” and the validity of Carib cannibalism allegations.

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The Nature of an Ancient Maya City

Resources, Interaction, and Power at Blue Creek, Belize

Written by Thomas H. Guderjan

For two millennia, the site now known as Blue Creek in northwestern Belize was a Maya community that became an economic and political center that included some 15,000-20,000 people at its height. Fairly well protected from human destruction, the site offers the full range of city components including monumental ceremonial structures, elite and non-elite residences, ditched agricultural fields, and residential clusters just outside the core. Since 1992, a multi-disciplinary, multi-national research team has intensively investigated Blue Creek in an integrated study of the dynamic structure and functional inter-relationships among the parts of a single Maya city. Documented in coverage by National Geographic, Archaeology magazine, and a documentary film aired on the Discovery Channel, Blue Creek is recognized as a unique site offering the full range of undisturbed architectural construction to reveal the mosaic that was the ancient city. Moving beyond the debate of what constitutes a city, Guderjan’s long-term research reveals what daily Maya life was like.

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Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies

Written by Sven Loven and new preface by L. Antonio Curet

When originally published in German in 1924, this volume was hailed as the first modern, comprehensive archaeological overview of an emerging area of the world. Yes, the Caribbean islands had long been known and owned, occupied, or traded among by the economically advanced nations of the world. However, the original inhabitants—as well as their artifacts, languages, and culture—had been treated by explorers and entrepreneurs alike as either slaves or hindrances to progress, and were used or eliminated. There was no publication that treated seriously the region and the peoples until this work. In the following ten years, additional pertinent publications emerged, along with a request to translate the original into Spanish. Based on those recent publications, Loven decided to update and reissue the work in English, which he thought to be the future international language of scholarship. This work is a classic, with enduring interpretations, broad geographic range, and an eager audience.

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