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Caribbean Civilization Essay

1527 words - 7 pages

How accurate is it to assert that "...by 1492 the Caribbean region was part of world civilisation"?
Since the emergence of our species, early humans lived by hunting, fishing and collecting wild plants. These were referred to as Paleolithic societies, which had to follow their food and as a result, were forced to live mostly nomadic lives wandering from place to place in search of food. Eventually these early humans learned to cultivate plants, herd animals and make airtight pottery for storage. This settled lifestyle was known as Neolithic societies. It is through this progression from Paleolithic to Neolithic, that “civilisation” is said to have its beginning.
In my interpretation I ...view middle of the document...

These people were called Amerindians and they came across the sea from Central and South America, with settlements in the Greater Antilles coming from Belize and in later waves from the Orinoco region moving north. Estimates put the first settlers arriving about 5000 B.C. coming from radiocarbon dating of organic samples recovered from Banwari Trace, Trinidad. Other early radiocarbon dates from the Caribbean, range from 3500 to 4000 years B.C., and come from archeological sites located in Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic.
This first wave(s) of settlers were Paleo-Indians and were later followed by more developed Meso-Indians Amerindians around 500 B.C. The third group of settlers to the Caribbean would be the focus of the assertion to the existence of civilisation prior to 1492. These Amerindians were categorized as Neo-Indians and known as Saladoid people. The name Saladoid came from the style of pottery they produced and they arrived around 300 B.C. and they came from northern South America around the delta region of the Orinoco River, Venezuela and the Guyanas and settled from Trinidad and moved north up to the Greater Antilles. Their language was called Arawakan and they were also referred to as Taino. Another subdivision of Saladoid people spoke a language called Cariban and they were referred to as Kalinago. It was these Neo-Indian settlers that set up more permanent residents and expand their population and they were the people encountered by Christopher Columbus on his voyage to the Caribbean.
It is clear to see that the Caribbean population has gone through stages of development from the early migration of the Paleo-Indians to the Neo-Indians. By examination of the Neo-Indian settlement in detail being mindful of the characteristics of a civilisation (above), we should be able to assert whether or not civilisation existed in the Caribbean prior to 1492. First to note was that Neo-Indian villages were strategically established taking into consideration basic necessities. They ensured that there was access to reliable fresh water and flat fertile land for crop cultivation. In terms of food production, staple crops such as cassava (manioc), sweet potatoes and to a lesser extent corn were their main source of carbohydrates and were mostly cultivated. They employed a system of agriculture where small plots called conucos were intensively cultivated for three to five years and then left to recover its fertility. Food storage was possible through their ability to produce pottery and methods of preserving excess meat were developed such as drying and smoking. The Neo-Indian people were very good sailors and navigators therefore fishing was more important to them than hunting but small animals such as birds, agouti and iguana were hunted and cooked over opened pits of hot coals called barbecues a practice still in use to this day. Clearly these Neo-Indians have demonstrated the development of plant cultivation resulting in food...

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