A group of archaeologists and researchers have taken up the challenge of disproving a centuries-old colonial settlers' account of a man-eating indigenous tribe inhabiting the Caribbean and claims stating they exterminated the regions earliest inhabitants, who were peaceful farmers.
The archaeologists excavating a 12-acre site in Indian Creek in Antigua have said new evidence uncovered in the region could be the key to correcting the “speculative and erroneous” age-old narrative handed down from early colonists.
The reassessment of these accounts follows the work of researchers from Syracuse University, Farmingdale State College, and Brooklyn College, who started their project in the Caribbean island on the site, that believed to have supported every age of humanity from the Caribbean's first inhabitants to the present day.
“We think Amerindians migrated up the smaller islands like Antigua, then separated out when they reached bigger islands like Puerto Rico," Reg Murphy, leading the researchers' team, told the Guardian. "But was there one culture or a multitude of cultures? That’s one of the questions we hope to answer."
The area nearest to the rugged road linking Indian Creek to the tourist hub of English Harbour reveals scattered fragments of Wedgwood and Delftware china from 18th-century colonists. Further, into the thorny thickets, these are replaced by much older remains of clay serving bowls and flint tools, the Guardian reported on the research findings.
"We hope to reevaluate those long-held assumptions. From analyzing their diet we have found no evidence that Caribs ever ate humans," Murphy added.
Colonial-era historians have maintained that the "Arawak" people were wiped out from the region by the "Caribs", who have been demonized as savage man-eaters – who were later displaced by the first European settlers in nearly 1300 AD. The portrayal of the Caribs as savage cannibals is entirely based on colonial accounts, Murphy noted.
"We know nothing about them except what the Europeans told us – and they had their own agenda," he said. “We, as descendants of slavery, have only been in Antigua since the 1630s, but there were people here for thousands of years before us – people who have no voice. It’s up to us to tell their story."
Murphy’s assistant Carlyn Valmond, who is of Carib – or “Kalinago” – descent herself, is driven to explore the region to mend the errors.
“I started studying the Caribs because I couldn’t believe the history I was reading,” she told the Guardian. "We have learned that far from being cannibals, they largely lived on shell animals and fish."