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Artifacts, Documents Reveal Info About Those Columbus Met in Cuba

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Bianca
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« on: December 10, 2008, 08:32:57 am »










                        Artifacts, Documents Reveal Info About Those Columbus Met in Cuba






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CUBA CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS ARAWAKAN INDIANS ARCHAEOLOGY EL CHORRO DE MAITA SPANISH COLONIZERS AL 

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Interpretations of a now defunct form of Spanish writing, in combination with a joint U.S.-Cuban archaeological effort, are granting researchers insight into the Cuban people who Christopher Columbus encountered on his first voyage to the “New World.” During the two previous summers, an archaeological effort in eastern Cuba has recovered several thousand pottery and stone artifacts from the site of a former large native village, El Chorro de Maita. 
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 08:45:11 am »








Newswise.com —
Dec. 9, 2008

Interpretations of a now defunct form of Spanish writing, in combination with a joint U.S.-Cuban archaeological effort, are granting researchers insight into the Cuban people who Christopher Columbus encountered on his first voyage to the “New World.”

During the two previous summers, an archaeological effort in eastern Cuba has recovered several thousand pottery and stone artifacts from the site of a former large native village, El Chorro de Maita. The effort is co-led by The University of Alabama and the Central-Eastern Department of Archaeology of the science ministry of Cuba and sponsored by the National Geographic Society. Roberto Valcarcel led the Cuban contingent.

Dr. Jim Knight, a UA professor of anthropology who set up and is advising the project, said the artifacts from the site, in combination with the research of documents archived in Spain, are shedding light on the early history of the Indians of Cuba.

“We should be able to put together a map of who was where – where the different towns and tribes were and which Spaniards were where and what they were up to,” Knight said. Handwritten documents originally produced by the early Spanish colonizers of Cuba recorded, as it were, some of the 16th-century “news of the day,” Knight said. On at least one occasion, a detailed inventory of the possessions of an early Spanish colonizer provides insight into 16th-century life. The researchers’ insight, however, doesn’t come without effort.

“It’s handwritten in a script that is barely recognizable as Spanish, even to a native speaker,” Knight said. Dr. John Worth, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida who is trained in interpreting the period’s writings, traveled to Spain to review the material and ordered relevant copies for further study. “Our hope is to correlate the documents with what we’re finding at the site,” Knight said.

The people Columbus encountered during his first voyage to northeastern Cuba in 1492 are known as Arawakan Indians. There is no concrete evidence, Knight said, that Columbus visited El Chorro de Maita, but this large village was occupied by Arawakans. There has been speculation since the 1940s, Knight said, that Columbus did visit the site. “That’s never been proven, but it’s in the right area,” he said.

The Arawakans of that day were of a similar level of sophistication, although quite different culturally, as the Mississippian Indians, their contemporaries, who lived at Moundville, some 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa and which Knight has studied for more than 30 years.

“They were chiefdoms, as were the inhabitants of Moundville,” Knight said. “And they were agriculturalists, but they primarily grew root crops instead of corn.”

Chiefdom is the name given to societies of the period that were headed by a chief, who would have unusual ritual, political or entrepreneurial skills. The societies were very hierarchical, with power concentrated within other kin leaders, who would then redistribute the resources to the others.

Artifacts recovered from the site, including evidence of the manufacturing of “idolillos,” or little idols, at portions of the site is among the evidence that the society had both elite and non-elite members, Knight said. The elite members of the group would have produced and worn these small, human-shaped figurines as part of a necklace. “They probably represent a god-figure, but we don’t know which god,” Knight said.

Working alongside the Cuban and U. S. professional archaeologists during the excavations were students from Syracuse and Penn State, and three students from The University of Alabama.

The project is a part of the UA Cuba Initiative, which provides opportunities for UA students to pursue their education under a special academic license granted by the U.S. government. Since 2002, UA has received academic travel licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury which permits travel to Cuba for specific academic activities.
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 08:48:05 am »









These five artifacts are among the several thousand recovered from the site of a 16th Century Cuban village during joint U.S. Cuban archaeological excavations during the last two summers.

Two of these artifacts (top row, right) are examples of unfinished "idolillos," or little idols.

These human-shaped figurines were produced at the site and worm by elite members of the group as part of a necklace.
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 10:25:09 pm »











                                        Exotic Stone Relics Shed Light on Pre-Hispanic Cuba






Kelly Hearn
for National Geographic News
December 9, 2008

Stone idols collected over the last two years at an archaeological site in Cuba were manufactured from exotic imported material for elite Indians, according to U.S. and Cuban researchers who announced their finds this week.

The relics, combined with new translations of Spanish colony "newspapers" from the 1500s, help paint a picture of the Indian populations that Christopher Columbus encountered during his first voyage to the New World in 1492. 

In recent years, archeologists have worked to map the size and location of residential areas at the El Chorro de Maita site in hopes of learning how Cuba's Arawakan Indians were affected by Spanish conquest, said Jim Knight, a University of Alabama archaeologist who supervises work at the site.
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 10:30:17 pm »







Stone Idols a Status Symbol



In the process of mapping, Knight and his colleagues happened upon several thousand pottery and stone artifacts, including the small stone idols.

"They took exotic, fine-grain metamorphic rocks and gradually reduced them into forms that look very crude, but you can tell that the intended product was an [idol]," said Knight, whose work is funded in part by the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

"We know now that the society had an elite class and that the crude idols were meant for the elite," he said, adding that the idols were human-shaped figures representing gods and were likely worn on necklaces.

The origins of the unusual stone are unknown, but it was probably imported, Knight said.

Columbus's voyage landed him in northeastern Cuba, where researchers say he would have encountered Arawakan Indians.

While Knight said there is no evidence that Columbus visited El Chorro de Maita, the researcher is certain that the settlement was occupied by Arawakans, who were organized by chiefdoms.

They were an agriculturist people, reliant on root crops instead of corn, but there is a lack of specific information about names of tribes and their specific locations, according to Knight.

To complement the findings at El Chorro, researchers are using historical documents—including handwritten materials made by Spanish colonizers of Cuba.

The documents are written in a barely recognizable form of Spanish that today few people understand, Knight said. But they are rich in information, he adds.

One 16th-century document, for example, offers a detailed inventory of an early Spanish colonizer's possessions.

John Worth, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida, is analyzing the documents, which are housed in Spain.

"I'm trying to sort through the details of how this all took place," Worth said. "The sources are excellent with respect to the broad generalities of what happened during the 1500s and 1600s and later, but they are generally not specific enough to be able to zero in on the Chorro site in particular."
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 10:34:30 pm »









Post-Conquest



Worth said he hopes the old documents will provide clues to how long Cuba's Arawakan culture may have survived post-conquest.

"Right now there is a lot we don't know, such as the exact names of the people who lived near the Chorro site," Worth said. "We want to know if there were pure indigenous populations versus pure Spanish or if there was a mixing ground during this early period."

Researchers also want to know if the Cuban Indians went extinct without descendants or if there was a gradual process as native groups were given a type of autonomy that led to mixing, Worth said.

"While living there, for instance, did they work on Spanish plantations? Did they die or become more assimilated?"

The documents mention encomiendas—or colonial labor systems imposed by the Spanish crown during the time of the conquests. And Worth has found references to specific chiefs.

"If possible, I would like to be able to identify the original group name of those who lived in the vicinity of El Chorro de Maita and to then find out precisely where each chiefdom might have been located," he said.

"This project is an example of how the integration of archaeological and historical research allows more balanced perspectives on the contact between Europeans and indigenous communities of the Caribbean," said Marcos Martinón-Torres, a researcher with the Institute of Archeology at the University College London who is not part of the study.

"Rather than using potentially biased European texts alone, the combination of sources allows more nuanced perspectives where both Europeans and indigenous peoples are represented."
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 10:36:01 pm »









Spanish Colonizers



Dennis Blanton, curator of Native American archeology at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia, was not part of the Cuba dig.

Blanton said the work provides an opportunity to do cross-cultural comparative studies of native chiefdom societies in Cuba and elsewhere in the world, including the eastern United States.

The work also provides added insight into 16th- and 17th-century Spanish activity in the New World, Blanton said.

"We're curious to see how Spanish policies changed over time," he said. "This work provides a wonderful opportunity to see how they were conducting themselves in the midst of native people at the very beginning. This is probably an unprecedented glimpse at 'chapter one' of the Spanish encounters."
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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 10:46:10 pm »



Huts have been reconstructed near the site as a heritage center.

(photo credit: Institute of Archaeology, University College London)










                                  U.S.-Cuban Dig Seeks Insight Into People Columbus Encountered






ScienceDaily
(July 31, 2007)

— Researchers in an ongoing U.S.-Cuban archaeological expedition, co-led by The University of Alabama, are attempting to learn more about the native people Christopher Columbus encountered
on his first voyage to the New World.

UA’s department of anthropology and the Central-Eastern Department of Archaeology of the science ministry in Cuba are partnering in the effort, funded by the National Geographic Society and focused
on a former large native village, El Chorro de Maita, in eastern Cuba.

“This season, the team is mapping the site and determining the size and location of residential areas within it,” said Dr. Jim Knight, professor of anthropology at UA who set up the project and is advising it. “We hope to find evidence of how the residents of this large Indian town were affected by the Spanish conquest of Cuba.”

The expedition, which began July 15 and is scheduled to continue until Aug. 10, provides a historic opportunity for the two UA graduate students who are participating in the expedition alongside professional archaeologists. Roberto Valcarcel is leading the Cuban contingent.

“This is the first ever international U.S.-Cuban partnership in archaeology to involve U.S. students,” Knight said.

The people Columbus encountered during his first voyage to northeastern Cuba in 1492 were Arawakan Indians. There is no evidence, Knight said, that Columbus visited El Chorro de Maita, but this large village was also occupied by Arawakans.

The Arawakans of that day were of a similar level of sophistication, although quite different culturally, as the Mississippian Indians, their contemporaries, who lived at Moundville, some 13 miles south of Tuscaloosa. Knight has studied the Mississippian Indians for more than 30 years.

“They were chiefdoms, as were the inhabitants of Moundville,” Knight said. “And they were agriculturalists, but they relied on root crops instead of corn.”

Chiefdom is the name given to societies of the period that were headed by a chief, who would have unusual ritual, political or entrepreneurial skills. The societies were very hierarchical, with power concentrated among kin leaders, who would redistribute their resources to others. The effort presents researchers with an opportunity to fill a void in knowledge about the Arawakans, Knight said.

As part of the project, Dr. John Worth will travel to Spain to search the archives for documents relating to the early history of the Indians of Cuba. The project is a part of the UA Cuba Initiative, which provides opportunities for UA students to pursue their education under a special academic license granted by the U.S. government.

Knight said the two countries' researchers are focused on archaeology rather than the strained relations between the U.S. and Cuban governments. Since 2002, UA has received academic travel licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury which permits travel to Cuba for specific academic activities.

“The licenses encourage the kind of work that we’re doing,” Knight said. “The only politics we’re interested in is 16th century politics. It’s all about archaeology and history.”


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Adapted from materials provided by University Of Alabama.
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http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/07/070727170655.htm
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