Insights into the first settlers of the island of Santo Domingo

The Museum of Dominican Man is hosting the 8th Museum of Dominican Museum of Man Congress of Archaeology and Anthropology from 12 to 15 October 2022. The presentations are scheduled to take place at the Museum of Modern Art in Plaza de la Cultura, Santo Domingo, next door to the Museum of Dominican Man. This year, the congress is dedicated to historian and economist Bernardo Vega.

The program primarily focuses on presenting advances in important archaeological finds in recent years on the island.

As reported, congress attendants will be able to make a site inspection of the El Pozito cemetery site in Las Galeras, Samana. A presentation of new data from this Samana Archaic Age site is on the congress program. The program says Francesco Genchi, G. Tursi, S. Botta, E. Cristiani, R. Rimoli, Clenis Tavarez and A. Coppa are presenting the findings.

Genchi is an Italian scholar and long-time archaeological researcher in the Caribbean. He says the first settlers in the Caribbean date back around 6,000 years ago, with ceramic use and intensified agriculture marking a shift from the Archaic to the Ceramic Age some 2,500 years ago. He has reported genome-wide data from 174 individuals from The Bahamas, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, and Venezuela co-analyzed with published data.

Genchi explains that Archaic Age Caribbean people derive from a deeply divergent population closest to Central and northern South Americans. His research has indicated that Archaic lineages were replaced by a genetically homogeneous ceramic-using population related to Arawak-speakers from northeast South America who moved through the Lesser Antilles and into the Greater Antilles.

Adolfo Lopez, the lead archeologist working at the Samana site speculates the remains could date back some 5,300 years. The carbon testing has yet to be carried out. Yet, this finding could well be of the first settlers of the island of Hispaniola. The archaeologist had originally estimated the remains to be 3,000 to 4,000 years old. The remains were discovered through the excavation of an old graveyard in the Cabo Frances area.

Lopez has been working the Museum of Dominican Man, García Arévalo Foundation, the National Museums Agency and the Vice Ministry of Protected Areas of the Ministry of Environment, Listin Diario reports.

Lopez told EFE that Harvard University will send a team to take DNA samples from the skulls and to see the site. Lopez says researchers from Cuba want to come to study if those first settlers were farmers. He said the director of the Museum of Man in Paris, André Delpuech also has expressed interest in visiting the site. A group of experts from France has already visited the site to take samples of the ceramics.

“What interests us is to know where they came from, on what date, who they were, what their customs were, what relations they had with other groups of the insular and continental Caribbean,” he said.

“We have already found 18 buried individuals and the scattered remains of many more, that is, it is a sample that had never been found,” added the archaeologist. In addition to the human remains, the excavation team found magical-religious elements, including stones carved in the shape of skulls, that give insights to sustain the hypothesis that they have discovered human remains from the Archaic Age or the earliest phase of the island culture.

According to Wikipedia, in the Caribbean islands, the Archaic Age ranges from 6000 BC and 500 BC, when the earliest human settlements were established. These early settlers came from Central or South America.

Also on the program for the 8th Congress of the Museum of Dominican Man is a presentation by Jose G. Guerrero on the contributions of the Playa Grande archaeological site to the understanding of prehistoric times and the Indo-Hispanic contacts of the Island of Santo Domingo on the North Coast.

Researchers will also share information on the first Dominican archaeologists and their work with the Indian settlements in the Northwest, mainly the El Flaco and El Carril Sites. This presentation will be by Corinne Hofman, Menna Hoogland, Jaime Pagan Jimenez, Simone Casale, Sven Ransijn, Arlene Alvarez and Jorge Ulloa.

Menno Hoogland, Corinne Hofman, Darlene Weton, Katrin Noegele, Nina Schoon, Gene Shev and Zoe van Litsenburg will present insights into the ancestral landscapes when the Spanish colonizers arrived in the 15th Century.

Shaun D. Sullivan is on the program to speak on the evolution of the interaction between Indian cultures of the Northwest of Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands from 700 to 1500 EC.

Harold Olsen Bogaert, Johnny Rubio Reyes and Enrique de los Santos will make a presentation of the archaeologic salvaging efforts at the Margajita Cave in Pueblo Viejo, Cotui.

Manuel García Arévalo will make a presentation on the ruins of La Isabela in Puerto Plata, the first Spanish settlement on the island.

There will be presentations on carbon testing in Dominican caves by Marcos García Diez, Adolfo Lopez, Isabel Sarro and Pilar Fatas. There will be a discussion of the Dominican musical patrimony, including the contributions of merengue to Cuban son and the use of trees in the making of local musical instruments.

Read more in Spanish:
El Dia
Diario Libre

5 October 2022