The Caribbean Before Columbus

For Columbus Day, our Review of the Week looks at the early history of the Caribbean world

The Caribbean before Columbus

by William F. Keegan and Corinne L. Hofman Oxford, 2017. 332p bibl index, 9780190605247 $99.00, 9780190605254 $35.00, 9780190605261

This synthesis of archaeological research and prehistory in the island Caribbean is comprehensive, up-to-date, and important. It is founded on the authors’ own research experience and thorough knowledge of theoretical literature, the history of Caribbeanist archaeological scholarship, and a multitude of site reports. This is more than a chronological account of the region’s prehistory; Keegan (Univ. of Florida) and Hofman (Leiden Univ.) also explain political and social organization, productive economy, environment, culture, and inter-island economic exchange. Chapter 1 introduces regional geography and organizes the diverse ways that Caribbeanist scholars have approached subregions, prehistoric cultural successions and cultural groups, and the plethora of group names. The authors explain the provisional taxonomy of societies based on pottery forms that they adopt and expect to revise with new information. Chapter 2 deals with the earliest users of stone tools, chapter 3 with ceramic periods. Chapters 4–7 deal with four sub-regions: Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola island, and the Lesser Antilles group. Chapter 8 treats the arrival of Columbus and the end of prehistory. An important feature of the book is its use of specific archaeological sites to illustrate important points.

Summing Up: Essential. All university and four-year college libraries.
Reviewer: R. Berleant-Schiller, University of Connecticut
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – Latin America & the Caribbean
Choice Issue: Nov 2017