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Los comerciantes caribeños se acercan a una isla en las Bahamas, parte de una antigua red de intercambio que une las islas antes de la llegada de los españoles. Photo: National Geographic
Caribbean traders approach an island in the Bahamas, part of an ancient exchange network that knit the islands together before the arrival of the Spanish. Photo: National Geographic

Who were the first invaders of the Caribbean?

There are more than 700 islands in the Caribbean Sea, and archeologists are researching how they were populated in Ancient times. 

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The first civilizations that arrived in the tropical islands of the Caribbean Sea did not write, and for this reason, it has been so difficult to describe human history in the area.

The first surprise archaeologists encountered was that 1000 years before the Spanish arrived in the archipelago, South American peoples could have exterminated the original inhabitants on islands like Puerto Rico or Hispaniola.

Another new estimate would also correct the amount of population the two islands could have hosted, and is much less than was previously thought. 

The research has been directed by prestigious geneticist David Reich from Harvard University. His team has managed to analyze the skeletal of 174 individuals found in very diverse places along the Caribbean coast.

The findings were published in the journal, Nature, last Dec. 23, but had a precedent in a study published in Science that managed to classify the genomes of 93 remote Caribbeans. 

Scientists have identified two human groups that do not seem to have mixed much: one could have arrived in canoes from the northeast of the continent some 2,500 years ago to generate what has been agreed to be called the Age of Ceramics — a culture that overlapped with an earlier one that was dedicated to livestock and could have been installed there some 6,000 years ago.

The individuals from the Ceramic Era could be the ancestors of the current Arawak-speaking peoples. 

The Arawak have always been especially skilled at pottery. Traditionally, they extended over a large area between Florida, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, and even areas of Peru and Brazil.

On the Caribbean islands, Arawak-speaking peoples were called Tainos. Christopher Columbus described them as extremely friendly communities.

All this has been possible thanks to new techniques of genetic analysis that allow the extraction of information from bones exhumed in very hot areas, which was not possible until very recently.

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