The mysterious people of the Caribbean
The first and last major archaic discovery here occurred in the 1970s in the southern part of the island. Over the years, Coppa found butterfly axes scattered in the north, but no sites, leading him to believe that archaic peoples lived in the south, probably coming from Cuba, the largest island in the Greater Antilles. .
Until he finds El Pozito.
El Pozito is nestled at the end of the Samaná Peninsula, a 30-mile green strip of land in the northeast of the country that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. An ecotourism paradise, the land is covered in tropical and spectacular forests, formed by the Sierra de Samaná, an extension of the Cordillera Septentrional – the largest mountain range in the Caribbean – which runs along the northern coast, providing natural shelters along the along several secluded beaches. Coppa speculates that these archaic peoples may have reached Samaná from Puerto Rico, the nearest neighboring island about 200 nautical miles to the east, although he says more research is needed.
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But the big questions are: what continent are they from? Who are they related to? How did they interact and interact with others? And what happened to them?
According to Sapiens author Yuval Noah Harari, the first maritime society may have developed on the Indonesian archipelago 45,000 years ago. It would take another 39,000 years or so for Homo sapiens to discover the Caribbean – the last region of the Americas to be settled by humans and the first to be settled by Europeans.
While 6,000 years old is relatively recent to archaeologists, the evidence is scarce because almost nothing organic survives in the tropics. The humid climate, volcanic soil and rising sea levels – not to mention agriculture, development, plunder and indifference – are decaying and engulfing bones, settlements and artifacts, posing a challenge to Caribbean archaeology. But that’s precisely what makes the field – and this discovery – exciting.