Ms. Betty Jo Stokes, under the direction of Dr. Tom D. Dillehay, will conduct an archaeological investigation to gather data for completion of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Kentucky. She will complete an archaeological survey in the White and Rio Nuevo River valleys on the island of Jamaica to determine the historical relationship between the prehistoric Native American groups (Taino) of the island compared to those found on other islands in the Greater Antilles. Differences in the social organization of the Taino people at the end of the 15th century A.D. on these islands has been oversimplified identifying some islands, such as Jamaica, as less culturally developed than others prior to European contact. Currently, Taino groups are labeled as either part of the cultural "core" of the Taino world as on Puerto Rico island where many of the characteristics of that culture are well understood and easily recognized or as a part of the cultural "periphery" where groups are often considered less developed. Jamaica is currently considered part of the Taino periphery, but that designation has been based on very little concrete evidence, and in fact, the historical accounts written by the first Spanish explorers into this region refutes this. Using the Jamaican Taino as a test case, this project seeks to provide a systematic study in one area of the Taino world where the identification of what constitutes a "core" region and what constitutes a "periphery" is unclear in order to elucidate the key factors involved in identifying core versus periphery culture areas. This study compliments other archaeological studies that have expanded the uses of core-periphery analysis beyond modern global interactions as used for social geographical analysis to draw out relationships in the prehistoric world.
By collecting data through an archaeological survey, various aspects of Jamaican Taino political, religious, and economic life can be identified and combined with existing historical information to directly address the nature of the social organization of Jamaican Taino. This project will clarify the culture history and cultural identity of the indigenous peoples once inhabiting this area. Additionally, it will give an indication how tribal chiefdom societies are maintained and developed, highlight how island landscapes can be used as productive cultural features, and provide a case example for comparison to other tribal chiefdoms around the world.
This research is also important because it will help shed new light on the historical social context in which Europeans, and consequently African peoples, encountered the New World. The culture of the Taino was abruptly abbreviated by the introduction of European people into the Caribbean. However, remnants of this culture can still be found in modern Jamaican traditions and identity. This project seeks to recognize and embrace these components by providing an understanding of how Jamaican Taino fits into the broader social context of the pre-contact Caribbean and, thereby, a more accurate and complete picture of Jamaican history. It will also contribute to training a promising young scientist.