History of the Caribbean

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The history of the Caribbean reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the 15th century. In the 20th century the Caribbean was again important during World War II, in the decolonization wave in the post-war period, and in the tension between Communist Cuba and the United States (US). Genocide, slavery, immigration and rivalry between world powers have given Caribbean history an impact disproportionate to the size of this small region.

Contents

Before European contact

The oldest evidence of humans in the Caribbean is the Casirimoid culture in Cuba and Hispaniola which dates back to 4500 B.C. and is associated with edge grinders similar to those used in Archaic Age Central America. There is also another series of Archaic Age sites discovered by Christi Torres Trinidad at Banwari Trace where 4000-year-old remains have been found. These Lesser Antillean sites, which belong to the Archaic (pre-ceramic) age, have been termed Ortoiroid. The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlement in dates to about 3600 BCE, but the reliability of these finds is questioned. Consistent dates of 3100 BCE appear in Cuba. The earliest dates in the Lesser Antilles are from 2000 BCE in Antigua. A lack of pre-ceramic sites in the Windward Islands and differences in technology suggest that these Archaic settlers may have Central American origins. Whether an Ortoiroid colonisation of the islands took place is uncertain, but there is little evidence of one.

Between 400 BCE and 200 BCE the first ceramic-using agriculturalists, the Saladoid culture, entered Trinidad from South America. They expanded down the Orinoco River to Trinidad, and then spread rapidly up the islands of the Caribbean. Some time after 250 CE another group, the Barrancoid entered Trinidad. The Barancoid society collapsed along the Orinoco around 650 and another group, the Arauquinoid, expanded into these areas and up the Caribbean chain. Around 1300 a new group, the Mayoid entered Trinidad and remained the dominant culture until Spanish settlement.

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