Around the year 6,000 B.C., human hunter-gatherer groups from South America began a migratory process towards the Caribbean islands. They achieved this feat in rustic vessels, being helped by the natural movement of currents, discovering along the way, huge mangrove areas that provided a diet rich in animal and vegetable proteins for the following 3 to 4,000 years. As well as mangroves, the surrounding coral reefs, great coastal plains and a wet tropical climate, which they were already accustomed to, promoted the arrival of these individuals with a semi nomad lifestyle based on hunting and gathering, without the agriculture, ceramics or specialization of labor. Societies whose needs were reduced to diet and shelter with basic vital cycles of puberty, procreation and death.
This type of existence imposed strict survival limitations, since it is impossible for a larger number of people to survive in a space with limited resources; reaching adulthood was difficult due to common traumas (accidents, fractures), and consequently, their middle age has been calculated between approximately, 15 and 25 years.
The Man of the Caverns
The oldest human presence in Santo Domingo has been found in the southwest area of the island in the Pedernales province, Puerto Alejandro, and in Mordan, in the Barrera region in the Azua province. With dates from around 2,600 B.C., archeologists Marcio Veloz and Elpidio Ortega describe the Barrera region as a "virtual silex mine of around 6 km2, crossed from west to east by the Mordan stream. To the south, only 3 km (1.86411 miles) from the coast, you find the remains of what must have been expansive mangroves in the prehistoric times".1
This group probably depended on these mangroves, the sandy beaches and cliffs to the south for their existence, until around 600 or 700 B.C. They worked silex using a technique which developed knives, arrow heads, graters, and drills; tools that they used for hunting and fishing, as well as cutting and food preparation.
Their diet consisted primarily of fish, land and sea snails, land molluscs, chitons (Chiton tuberculata), wild fruits, and probably, although no remains of large animal have been found, the Sea Turtle (Retmochelys inbricata) and the Manatee (Manatus americanus), which were very abundant in the area, and were easy prey to catch. It is thought that they fished and hunted around the coastal plains, using caves as shelter in climate adversities.
Early on, these groups were classified in the category of Paleo-Indian, but more recently there has been a preference to call them"Early Archaic Groups". In any case, the Mordan people, with their antique Paleolithic technology, represented an Antillean version of the Continental Stone Age.
D. 2 Mangrove Fishing. Aprox. 1,000 B.C.
Life in the Mangrove
The Mordan group is followed by an occupant that inhabits the coastal areas of this island from approximately 2,100 B.C.. The most important settlements have been found in Hoyo de Toros, Madrigales, El Porvenir, and El Caimito, in the San Pedro de Macoris province.
These groups lived from gathering fruits, roots, seeds, wild nuts, and the direct exploitation of the mangrove fauna. Millions of fish, oysters, bivalves, and crustaceans reproduced and developed on the mangroves roots, while outside of the water, its dense trunks sheltered certain varieties of land fauna such as the Hutia or Jutia (Plagiodontia aedium), the Mohui and other types of mammals that inhabited the Antillean territories in the Pre-Columbian era. The crowns of this noble tree are the perfect nesting ground for a great diversity of sea birds, noticeably several types of Herons (Cinoeforme Family), the Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), the Pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) y la Frigate Bird (Fregata magnificens). As Dr. Veloz Maggiolo noted, "tied to the sea and the river, the mangrove is the ideal gathering spot: produces natural proteins all year round, attracts wild animals to the most potable areas of it's salt waters, and maintains a level of animal reproduction impossible to use up by a band of about 30 to 100 people."2
The site of El Porvenir is considered the place where the "Meso-Indians" or "Late Archaics" achieved a greater cultural development. Greater conic type stone hands, butterfly and petaloid axes, lithic balls and round head pins; some of the pieces show a delicate polish and symmetrical decorative forms. Conchs, specially the Queen conch (Strombus gigas), were widely used as grates and drills. Weights for fishing nets have been found in some places, which introduces the possibility of basket and cloth weaving and, possibly, rope.
Along with guayos (graters) and coral rasps, the discovery of guayiga (Zamia pumila) (Florida arrowroot) root pollen in El Porvenir and El Caimito, makes us assume that guayiga was part of the local diet for a long time in the island of Santo Domingo, before Yuca, the main staple of later agricultural societies was cultivated.
Starting with the first century of our era, groups of Arawaks, from the Orinoco-Amazon region of South America, began to reach the Antillean coasts. Their presence provoked a continuous displacement of the local inhabitants towards the west. In the moment of contact with the Europeans, chroniclers describe a dweller of archaic characteristics that inhabited in the western part of the Española island and western Cuba. These were called Ciboney by the Tainos, which in their tongue meant "stone man" or "caveman". These were probably the last Antillean Archaic groups.
Chapter II – Bibliography
Caracol Strombus: Drawing by Betsy Arvelo
D1 and D2: Design: J. Arvelo. Drawing: F. Castro
1. Marcio Veloz y Elpidio Ortega. El Preceramico de Santo Domingo. Papeles Ocasionales No. 1. Santo Domingo, 1973, Pages 2 and 3
2. Marcio Veloz M. Las Sociedades Arcaicas de Santo Domingo. Co-ediciones Museo del Hombre Dominicano y Fundacion Garcia Arevalo, Inc. Santo Domingo, 1980, page 35