Columbus was not exaggerating about Caribbean cannibalism


EXCERPT: When Christopher Columbus discovered a continent unknown to Europeans, his accounts included harrowing descriptions of native pirates who cannibalized men and kept women as sex slaves, but more recent humanities scholars, even ones who readily accept oral histories long changed, dismissed that as myth. However, the belief stuck. He had no reason to lie, the Spaniards didn't know they had a new continent and didn't colonize it until that realization happened.

New science studies show he may have been accurate. Analysis of the skulls of early Caribbean inhabitants show biological relationships between various groups takes just-so stories about how the islands were first colonized into the realm of data. It shows that Carib cannibals had to have invaded Jamaica, Hispaniola and the Bahamas, debunking 50 years of dismissals of Columbus by claiming they never made it farther north than Guadeloupe.

[...] the Caribbean's earliest settlers came from the Yucatan, moving into Cuba and the Northern Antilles, which supports a previous hypothesis based on similarities in stone tools. Arawak speakers from coastal Colombia and Venezuela migrated to Puerto Rico between 800 and 200 B.C., a journey also documented in pottery.

The earliest inhabitants of the Bahamas and Hispaniola, however, were not from Cuba as commonly believed, but the Northwest Amazon - they were the Caribs. Around A.D. 800, they pushed north into Hispaniola and Jamaica and then the Bahamas where they were well established by the time Columbus arrived.

This solves the puzzle of why a type of pottery known as Meillacoid appears in Hispaniola by A.D. 800, Jamaica around 900 and the Bahamas around 1000. The sudden appearance of this Meillacoid pottery so different from everything else, shows that after a 1,000-year period of tranquility, the people were getting shuffled. Carib invaders were on the move. And there is no question they were cannibals.

Did cannibalism lead Spain to switch from benevolent visitor to dictator? The Spanish monarchy initially insisted that indigenous people be paid for work and they were treated with respect. Numerous stories of how they refused to convert to Christianity and ate human flesh returned to the continent and then the Holy Roman Empire changed its mind. Because in some cases Caribs and Arawaks lived near each other, perhaps they began to regard every native as a Carib. (MORE -details)

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