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Archaeologists say early Caribbean inhabitants were not ‘savage cannibals’, as colonists wrote

Archaeologists say early Caribbean inhabitants were not ‘savage cannibals’, as colonists wrote

For centuries, historians held that the Caribbean’s earliest inhabitants were peaceful farmers who were wiped out by the ferocious man-eating Carib people. But archaeologists in Antigua say new evidence from one of the most important sites in the region is helping to correct “speculative and erroneous” accounts passed down from early colonists.

The excavation at a 12-acre site in Indian Creek has prompted a reassessment of older narratives, said Dr Reg Murphy, who is leading a team from Syracuse University, Farmingdale State College and Brooklyn College.

Colonial-era historians said that the Arawak people were exterminated in about 1300 AD by the Caribs, who were demonised as man-eaters – and then themselves displaced – by the first European settlers.

“We hope to reevaluate those long-held assumptions,” said Murphy. “From analysing their diet we have found no evidence that Caribs ever ate humans.”

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