Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Guanajatabey (the group that would come to be known as the Arawaks), numbered about 100,000 and had lived on the island since at least 1000 B.C. Hunters, gatherers, and farmers, these native Cubans cultivated cohiba (tobacco), a crop upon which the island's economy would one day depend.
Guanajatabey. This name is the one which the natives of the far end of Cuba applied to themselves. We know that they constituted a separate speech community because Columbus' interpreter was unable to understand their language. Unfortunately,the Guanajatabeys became extinct before they could be studied, and hence it has been impossible to learn the nature and affiliation of their language.
Guanajatabey. The first cultural group appears to have coincided with the ethnic group that went by the name Guanajatabey and with the linguistic group to which that name has been applied. This was to be expected if the joint groups had survived from an earlier, more widespread population.
Archeologists have discovered that the extinct population of which the Guanajatabeys were a relict once extended over all of the West Indies. Harrington (1921) applied the name Ciboney to this population, not realizing that the Indians had used that name to refer to a part of the Taino speech community, and I repeated his error in my contribution to the Handbook of South American Indians (Rouse 1948:497-503). The term Archaic, which is used by Alegria (1981:4-9) among others, avoids this error, as does Preceramic, which I have substituted on occasion. However, both terms are too general; they refer to levels of development or ages that extended throughout the Americas (Willey and Phillips 1958). It is preferable in my opinion to correlate the Guanajatabey people and culture with the prehistoric series of peoples and cultures that I now call Redondan Casimiroid (Rouse 1986, Chap. 5)
Columbus had contact with the Guanajatabeys on the western end of Cuba, who were a relict of the original population of the islands. This ethnic group lived by hunting and fishing, was organized into bands rather than villages, and lacked pottery--not to mention the worship of zemis, which characterizes the Tainos, and warfare, for which the Caribs are best known.
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