The navigation diary of Christopher Columbus It was clear and concise. On January 15, 1493, during his first trip to America, the navigator wrote: “I also said that I heard that the force of gold was in the region of the town of La Navidad de Sus Altezas, and that on the island of Carib there was a lot of wire in the Matinino, since it will be difficult in Carib because those people say they eat human flesh. ”
His stories about him Caribbean, based on the explanations of the natives that he found in Cuba and in The Spanish (Today, the Dominican Republic and Haiti), include heartbreaking descriptions of fierce assailants who kidnapped women and ate other men, stories that many researchers took for granted that they were myths or exaggerations.
First trip to America
The stories of Columbus include stories of assailants who kidnapped women and ate other men
Archaeologists of the University of North Carolina and of Florida Natural History Museum point now, in a study published in the magazine Scientific Reports
, that Columbus was perhaps telling the truth in his travel diary. According to these specialists, the caribs yes they invaded Jamaica, Hispaniola and the Bahamas.
Until now it was believed that this pre-Columbian tribe – which grouped a group of towns that occupied northern Colombia, northeastern Venezuela and several Lesser Antilles – had never taken its territorial expansion further north of the island of Guadalupe. But facial analyzes of the skulls of the first inhabitants of the Caribbean have brought new details.
"I spent years trying to prove that Columbus was wrong, but he was right: there were Caribs in the northern Caribbean when he arrived," explains William Keegan, curator of the Florida Museum of Natural History, in a statement. "We are going to have to reinterpret everything we thought we knew," adds the researcher.
Columbus told how the Pacific arawaks, who resided in Bahamas, were terrified of looters who wrongly described as Caniba, the Asian subjects of the Great Khan (considering that the Genoese admiral believed he had arrived in the Indies). His Spanish successors corrected the name to Cariba A few decades later.
Columbus told how the Pacific arawaks, who resided in Bahamas, were terrified of caribas
Even so, most archaeologists considered for years that these references were a confusion. How could the Caribs have been in the Bahamas when their nearest outpost was located almost 1,600 kilometers south? The skulls studied reveal, however, that the presence of this tribe in the Caribbean was much important than previously believed.
Previous studies relied on artifacts such as tools and ceramics to track geographic origin and movement of people across the area located southeast of North America, east of Central America and north of South America. Adding a biological component has allowed a “sharper approach” to the history of the region.
Ann Ross, lead author of the study, used 3D facial "benchmarks", such as the size of the eye socket or the length of the nose, to analyze more than 100 skulls dating from approximately 800 to 1542 These areas of the face act as a genetic indicator to determine if people are related to each other.
The analysis revealed not only three distinct ethnic groups in the Caribbean, but also their migration routes. The first settlers arrived from Yucatán and settled in Cuba and the Northern Antilles, which supports a previous hypothesis based on similarities in the stone tools of both places.
The first settlers from the Caribbean arrived from Yucatán and settled in Cuba and the Northern Antilles
The speakers of arawak from the coast of Colombia and Venezuela they emigrated to Puerto Rico between 800 and 200 BC. But the first inhabitants of the Bahamas and Hispaniola were not from Cuba as was commonly thought, but from the northwest of the Amazon. Around the year 800 after Christ, the caribs They headed north.
First they arrived in Hispaniola and Jamaica and later they reached the Bahamas, where the tribe was already well established when Christopher Columbus arrived with Pinta, La Niña and Santa María. "The arawaks and the caribas they were enemies, but they often lived side by side and even performed occasional marriages in times of peace, ”the researchers say.
William Keegan had spent years wondering why a type of pottery known as Meillacoid it appears in Hispaniola in the year 800, in Jamaica around 900 and in the Bahamas around the year 1000. “Why was this pottery so different from everything we see? That had me worried, ”he explains.
The sudden appearance of meillacoid-type objects also corresponds to a general reorganization of the inhabitants of the Caribbean after a period of tranquility of around 1,000 years, other evidence that "the Carib invaders were on the move," Keegan notes.
Meillacoid ceramics coincide with a reorganization of the Caribbean after 1,000 years of stability
This archaeologist also accepts the possibility that this tribe had man-eating practices. “Maybe there was some cannibalism involved (in the new dynamic among rival peoples). If you need to scare your enemies, this is a very good way to do it, ”says the expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Whether or not they had an appetite for human flesh, the reality is that the invasion led by caribas It had a very important impact in the region, according to the authors of the study. The Catholic Monarchs initially insisted that the Indians be paid for their work and treated with respect, but changed their mind when Columbus reported that they were cannibals and refused to convert to Christianity.
"The Spanish crown resolved it considering that, if they were to behave that way, they could be enslaved," says Keegan. “Suddenly, every native person from anywhere in the Caribbean became a cariba in the eyes of the colonizers, ”he concludes.