The Origin of the Tainos

puerto ferro man
Site in Vieques where bones of man who lived there 4000 years ago were found

The Origin of the Tainos
Civilization has existed in the Caribbean for thousands of years despite the Euro centric assumption that the “New World” was discovered in 1492. The peopling of the Caribbean is not the product of a single discovery; its history is not mirrored in the narrative of a single expedition. Rather, it has been a lengthy process of assimilation and conquest. The arrival of the Europeans was a harsh and drastic example of this process. Many different groups have migrated to and within the Caribbean. Cultures have dominated, and cultures have submitted. With each new migration the Caribbean culture evolved. The culture continues to change, even today, with recent continental gentrification. Each influx brings new characteristics, oftentimes at the expense of the rich traditions of the past. The tropical paradise for which the Caribbean is known serves only as a backdrop to the colorful tapestry of cultures, which have constructed the history of the region.

The First People to Settle in the Caribbean
The first people to settle in the Caribbean most likely came from Central America and settled in Cuba and Hispaniola. Archeologists and ethnologists call them the Casmiroid. They lived in the upland savannas of what is now the nation of Belize and survived primarily by hunting. They gradually migrated to the river valleys where they could fish and gather plant foods, which grew in abundance in this rich and fertile environment. They then began to make seasonal trips to the coast where they learned to exploit the resources of the sea. It was from these coastal camps that the migration to the islands of the Caribbean began about 6000 years ago…. read more

St. John, Virgin Islands & Caribbean News

Archeological Theories Supported By Microbes From 1,500-year-old Feces
May 20, 2014

American Society for Microbiology

By evaluating the bacteria and fungi found in fossilized feces, microbiologists are providing evidence to help support archeologists’ hypotheses regarding cultures living in the Caribbean over 1,500 years ago. They report their findings today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology.

“Although fossilized feces (coprolites) have frequently been studied, they had never been used as tools to determine ethnicity and distinguish between two extinct cultures. By examining the DNA preserved in coprolites from two ancient indigenous cultures, our group was able to determine the bacterial and fungal populations present in each culture as well as their possible diets,” says Jessica Rivera-Perez of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, who presented the study.

Various indigenous cultures inhabited the Greater Antilles thousands of years ago. The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have thousands of pre-Columbian indigenous settlements belonging to extinct cultures that migrated to the Caribbean at some point in history.

Archaeological excavations in Vieques, Puerto Rico unearthed hand-made tools and crafts as well as fossilized feces dating from 200 to 400 A.D. The presence of two distinct styles of craftsmanship, as well as other clues obtained from the dig sites, suggested these artifacts belonged to two distinct cultures.

“One culture excelled in the art of pottery; in fact, their signature use of red and white paint helped identify them as descendants from the Saladoids, originating in Saladero, Venezuela. In contrast, the second culture had exquisite art for crafting semiprecious stones into ornaments, some of which represented the Andean condor. This helped archaeologists identify the Bolivian Andes as possible origins of this Huecoid culture,” says Rivera-Perez.

To help confirm these archeological hypotheses, Rivera-Perez and her colleagues examined the DNA preserved in coprolites from both Saladoid and Huecoid settlements and compared the bacterial and fungal populations found in each. Major differences were detected between the fecal communities of these cultures, providing additional support that they may have had different origins. Additionally, they found fungal and corn DNA in the Huecoid coprolite that suggests the consumption of an Andean fermented corn beverage, further confirming the theory that the Huecoids originated in the Bolivian Andes.

“The study of the paleomicrobiome of coprolites supports the hypothesis of multiple ancestries and can provide important evidence regarding migration by ancestral cultures and populations of the Caribbean,” says Rivera-Perez.

Source: American Society for Microbiology

Bio Bay Vieques
Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques – Photo by Frank Borges Llosa

Bioluminescence Researchers to Discuss Salt River Bay on Saturday
By Susan Ellis — May 21, 2014

Federal and local scientists will present data collected over the last year about Salt River’s bioluminescent bay and discuss its importance to the community Saturday at the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall on St. Croix. Results of the research could impact a multimillion-dollar marine research center in the planning for the last 10 years by the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior, the V.I. government and four stateside universities.

Bioluminescent organisms are one-cell organisms found only in a few bays worldwide. The dinoflagellates give off light and have both plant and animal properties – photosynthesizing like plants and processing food like animals, according to Marcia Taylor, UVI biologist for the Center of Marine and Environmental Studies.

Over the last year, researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Universities of South Carolina and North Carolina, and UVI have been studying the bioluminescence in Salt River Bay with funding by the U.S. Department of the Interior and support from the St. Croix Environmental Association.

The bay is “economically important” and supports four or five companies who offer kayak tours at night. The bioluminescent salt water is also a tourist attraction…

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