This is approximately the amount of information you should have in your notes from the lectures on the Precolumbian Caribbean and the Amerindian experience of the Contact period.
NATIVE AMERICAN SOCIETIES OF THE PRECOLUMBIAN CARIBBEAN
|Greater Antilles||Lesser Antilles|
|political hierarchy||no hereditary chief|
|short hair||long hair|
Diet: based on root crops (manioc/yucca, sweet potato) with protein from sea (+ parrots, iguanas, dogs); some maize. Seemed quite tall to Spanish.
Agriculture: manioc has very high starch content; grows all year round; resistant to drought, to insects (prussic acid), and to hurricanes; easily stored. Planted in conucos; intercropped with beans, squash, etc.; little demand on soil (erosion, leaching, water loss). Baked into cassava bread.
Crafts: cotton cloth and hammocks; woodworking; large canoes; hammered gold nuggets into jewelry, but did not practise mining or metallurgy. Wood and thatch huts, held 12/15 families. Clustered round ball court (batey).
Social/Political Structure: caciques/aristocrats/commoners/slaves. Distinctions seem more honorific than material; no real economic elite. No marked specialization of labor. No army, officials, priesthood, towns. Caciques had religious and judicial functions. Worshiped zemis.
Why so peaceful?
a) no shortage of food or land.Population collapse due to:
b) lacked concept of material wealth.
c) social distinctions relatively small.
d) absence of human enemies (until Caribs).
e) absence of animal predators or hunting tradition.
1) European diseases, to which they lacked immunities (swine fever, etc.)ISLAND CARIBS
2) Malnutrition (mining and pigs disrupted farming, flight from coast ended fishing)
3) Overwork. Each of these 3 factors multiplied the effect of the other two.
4) Falling birth rate.
5) psychological shock; suicide
Also from Guiana/Orinoco region. Similar in diet, though made wine from pineapples. Perhaps more oriented to sea. Arawak wives: bilingual society. By late 1400s had settled eastern Puerto Rico and were raiding Hispaniola.
Survived much longer than Taino because:
a) Their islands lacked mineral wealth, were less populated, and lay to windward: therefore, Spanish were lessMODERN CONTROVERSIES
interested in them. Therefore less exposed to the factors that decimated the Taínos.
b) Lower population density muted impact of disease.
c) Fierce resistance discouraged raiding by Spanish.
d) Harder to conquer politically acephalous, socially egalitarian
1) How developed was Taíno society? Did it
most resemble "tribal"
societies of South American forests, or state-level societies
2) How peaceful was it? Who were the slaves?
3) Were Island Carib really a) cannibals b)
related to mainland
4) Is the two main culture picture too simplified?
THE AMERINDIAN LEGACY IN THE CARIBBEAN
1) Native American populations are now confined to the
Belize; though mixed groups exist on Dominica and (Black Carib/
Garífuna) in Belize.
2) Material culture: hammock and canoe have universal impact.
3) Transmitted knowledge of cultivating/processing American
(tobacco, manioc, sweet potato) to African and European
4) Toponymy: numerous place-names of Amerindian origin.
5) Vocabulary: canoa, hamaca, tabaco, cacique, bohío,
batey, in Spanish and other languages.
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