Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Organisation of settlement space and residence rules among the Taino, the indigenous people of the Caribbean encountered by Columbus

This research combines archaeological, archaeometric and ethnohistorical research to study the organisation of settlement space and residence rules among the Taino Indians during the Late Ceramic Age (AD 1000-1492).

Corinne Hofman

The Taino were the first indigenous people encountered in the New World by Christopher Columbus. Hispaniola (modern day Haiti and the Dominican Republic) was home to the most densley populated and complex precolumbian societies in the Caribbean. Existing interpretive models of village settlement and household organisation are based almost entirely on colonial documents and chronicles written by the Spanish. Such ethnohistoric models have only been minimally supplemented by archaeological data from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antillean islands.

To address this and complement the picture, archaeological investigation is underway at the site of El Cabo, in the Hig├╝ey region, Altagracia province of the eastern Dominican Republic. Dense feature clusters provide an excellent opportunity to study the spatial organisation of a Taino settlement in the Greater Antilles. In addition, stable isotope and DNA analyses, palaeopathology and the study of mortuary ritual will be applied to any human skeletal remains to address issues such as mobility, marital, residence rules and descent

Archaeological research will be complemented by a detailed re-analysis of the ethnohistoric accounts, and significantly by archival research of unpublished documentary sources from the early colonial period.

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