Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Dominica or the Dominican Republic?

Discovering the hidden past of the Caribbean with Khadene Harris

Dominica or The Dominican Republic? Both nations are in the Caribbean, and both share parallel, but different histories.

The CAS May 2018 speaker, Ms. Khadene Harris, will cast new light on Dominica a region so close in miles but distant in understanding.

Ms. Khadene Harris is a current Ph.D. candidate at Northwestern University in the department of anthropology. (She will defend her dissertation this forthcoming summer.) Trained in Caribbean history and archaeology, Ms. Harris has conducted research in Jamaica, Nevis, Dominica and the Chesapeake Bay, (See map below for Dominica location.) and has taught at both Northwestern and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her virtual travel destination to Dominica, one of the Windward Isles, will encapsulate a time and place heretofore alien to the CAS.

Dubbed the 'Nature Isle' for its soaring peaks and various micro-climates, Dominica boasts a long and complex history that has only recently garnered attention from archaeologists. In her talk Ms. Harris will give an overview of Dominica's archaeological past, starting with the islands first inhabitants - The Kalinago- and ending with focus on her latest research on the colonial period. She will also discuss findings from her research that explored the cessation of slavery in 1838, among Dominican laborers and subsequent generations.

Carib Territory

Although immigrants into the Caribbean from South America shared common cultural attributes, the new geography of the Caribbean allowed for the emergence of cultural subsets.

Dominica was the name given to 289.8 sq. miles of land, by Christopher Columbus, when he landed on the island on November 3rd 1493. On the north eastern side of this beautiful tropical rain-forest island is 3782.03 acres of land set aside known as the Carib Territory. It is situated between two villages, Atkinson to the North and Castle Bruce to the South. It is the home of approximately 2208 Kalinagos (Caribs), the remaining survivors of  the first inhabitants of the island. The people called the island Waitukubuli (tall is her body), and they ued to wage war on the Kalinago (Carib) people but due to their courage and bravery they survived. In 1763, the British gained full con-trol of Dominica. The Kalinagos were given 232 acres of mountain-ous and rocky shoreline in Salybia, Dominica. In 1903, the amount of land was expanded to 3700 acres and was called the Carib Reserve; in addition the Carib Chief was officially recognized.

The Kalinagos before the arrival of Columbus

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus the Kalinagos (Caribs) were self-reliant people. The Kalinagos (Caribs) survived mainly by fishing, hunting, and farming. They were skilled craft people and made canoes (hewn from huge trees and dug out) which were used to travel to and from the neighboring is-lands. The Caribs also wove baskets and were famous for their herbal medicine. They spoke their own language and worshipped the spirits of their ancestors.

More than 1,500 years ago, the Ara-wak people of South America began to migrate northwards, eventually navigating the Orinoco River and exploring what is now the Caribbe-an and the Antilles. This migration would continue for hundreds of years, until there was a presence of Arawaks on most Caribbean islands including Dominica.

Although the tribes descended from the Arawak went under different names like Lokono, Lucayan, Carib or Ciboney, the Taino, which stood for "the good people" in Arawak, was the largest indigenous group under the umbrella of Arawak Indians, and would be the first group of indigenous Indians to make contact with European settlers.

When Columbus landed on what is now the Dominican Republic, in 1492, there was a vibrant and flourishing civilization already present on the island of Haiti (this was the Taino name for what Columbus re-named Hispaniola).

The Taino
The Taino had dark golden-brown skin, similar to that of their distant South American relatives, and were average in stature with dark, flowing, coarse hair, and large, slightly oblique eyes. Though modern depictions of Taino Indians at the time of Columbus's arrival are of savage Indians parading around naked, the Taino were, in fact, highly skilled at weaving cotton and clothing. Clothing, or lack thereof, was used as an identifier of class and rank within the society.

Men generally went naked or wore a loincloth, called a nagua. Single women walked around naked, and married women covered their genitals with aprons made of cotton or palm fibers, the length of which was a sign of rank. Both sexes painted their bodies on special occasions, and wore earrings, nose rings and necklaces, which were sometimes made of gold.

Taino Kingdoms

The Taino Indians lived in organized, hierarchically arranged kingdoms. Communities were divided into three social classes: the naborias, who were the working class, the nitainos or sub-chiefs and noblemen, which included the bohiques or priests and medicine men, and the Caciques or chiefs. Each Taino kingdom was ruled by a Taino Cacique, or chieftain, and at the time of Columbus's arrival there were five Taino kingdoms on Quisqueya (Haiti).

Though the Taino kingdoms were ruled by Taino chieftains, it is a little-known fact that Taino societies were matriarchal in nature. The reasoning behind this fact is that though men wielded a considerable amount of power in the communities, it was the Taino women who actually chose the Caciques in the particular kingdoms. In this regard women were important because unlike men, the Tainos could trace royal line-age through women. It was only after Columbus's arrival that the family structure was to change drastically.

The Caciques

The Caciques, chieftains, carried boldly carved scepters and daggers of polished stone as symbols of their authority. Caciques were also polygamous, and formed political alliances by marrying women from other kingdoms. Spanish records attest to the Caciques' power over almost every aspect of Taino socie-ty. "They controlled the collection and distribution of food and trade goods; they organized community festivals known as areytos; and they decided when to go to war. In addition, caciques functioned as spiritual leaders who contacted the supernatural through hallucinogenic trances and to ensure the well being of the community."

Caciques also acted as the main intermediaries between people and the supernatural realm. Before ingesting such hallucinogenic mixtures, Caciques and shamans fast-ed and purged themselves with vomiting spatulas of wood and bone, in order to consume the "pure foods" of the spirits. Then, they inhaled their concoctions from small vessels and trays, using delicately carved snuffers of wood and bone.

To some extent Dominica's natural rugged geography protected the Kalinagos from the European invaders and their disease carrying fellow travelers as it may have held the Caribs at Bay.

Nevertheless the fate of the Do-minican Kalinagos Indian was sealed on that day in 1492, when the Tainos, fellow Americans, first encountered Christopher Colum-bus. For more about the peoples of the Caribbean open .

Or better still, come to Ms. Khadene Harris’s virtual journey to Dominica. 3:30pm, Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue-—and bring a friend! Remember all meetings to the CAS are free and open to the public. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Press Release

May 8, 2018                                                                           

Ray Young, CAS President at:
Robert Stelton, Newsletter Editor at or 630-972-9090


Chicago Archaeological Society/CAS Speaker of the Month Khadene Harris will present “Archaeology of Dominica” on Sunday, May 20 in the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston.  The program begins at 3:30pm, with refreshments and socializing starting earlier, at 3:00pm.  All CAS meetings are free and open to the public.

Khadene Harris is a PhD candidate at Northwestern University, Department of Anthropology. Trained in Caribbean history and archaeology, Ms. Harris has conducted research in Jamaica, Nevis, Dominica and the Chesapeake Bay. Dubbed the ‘Nature Isle’ for its soaring peaks and various microclimates, Dominica, one of the Windward Isles, boasts a long and complex history that has only recently garnered attention from archaeologists.

In her talk, Ms. Harris will give an overview of Dominica’s archaeological past, starting with the island’s first inhabitants - The Kalinago - and ending with focus on her latest research on the colonial period. She will also discuss findings from her research that explored material changes that accompanied the cessation of slavery in 1838, among Dominican laborers and subsequent generations.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

April Meeting Notice

Please take note of this important message date, time and place for the April CAS meeting. The date of the meeting is April 22. The meeting place is the Sulzer Regional Library: 4455 N Lincoln (Between Montrose and Sunnyside.)

Because the Sulzer Library closes an hour earlier than we are accustomed to the CAS Meeting opening is 2:30 pm.

Our traditional informal post meeting dinner will be at Lou Malnati's, 4340 N. Lincoln Avenue (corner of Lincoln and Montrose) There is public transportation and a parking lot a block north of the Sulzer Library.

The April Speaker

Date: Sunday, April 22, 2018.
Place: Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago 60625.
Time: 2:30 p.m. Social Hour: Refreshments and Fellowship.
Program: 3:00 p.m. Presentation: by CAS guest speaker,
Dr. Brian Adams, The Ernat Late Woodland Site. (Near Starved Rock).

Traveling with the CAS…. 2018 IAAA Annual Meeting …. And the day “Ancient Cahokia, Future Visions” conference

Hosted by the East Central Illinois Archaeological Society the IAAA annual meeting will take place in Champaign-Urbana on April 27-28, 2018. Members are invited to an all-day “Ancient Cahokia, Future Visions” conference that will be held on Friday April 27 to be held at the iHotel Conference Center in Champaign. The conference is sponsored by the University of Illinois and presented by the Illinois State Archaeological Society (ISAS) and Prairie Research Institute (PRI). This open forum is free and open to the public.

If you have an interest in attending the April 27 conference, please register as soon as possible at the Conference website:

“Ancient Cahokia, Future Visions” will focus on educating the public about the past and future of Cahokia. Streaming videos, 3D computer animation, a display of unique stone carvings, and a virtual reality station will accompany the talks by prominent archaeologists, Native American representatives, and National Park Service officials.

2018 IAAA Annual Meeting ….

Following the conference, our social gathering will take place from 4-6 pm at the Brown Bag Restaurant in Monticello; then on Saturday morning April 28, IAAA will convene at the Best Western Motel in Monticello, to hold its business meeting and chapter reports.

Annual meeting programming will include a presentation on recent excavations close to mounds at Allerton Park, and information on a new workshop initiative by the Illinois Archaeological Survey. Following lunch, we will carpool to scenic Allerton Park, Monticello, IL, for a tour of the mounds and other attractions.

Looking Back in Time

How to review your own work

The waitress who gave up and left the Celtic Knot before our C.A.S. diners arrived, would say that my presentation was too long, but I did not notice anyone sleeping. The best part was the You Tube two minute virtual journey through the last part of the Cave of Lascaux. The imagining of the number of objects needed to be carried by a few painters, helpers and shamans through the difficult darkness of the cave with beautiful and sometimes bizarre animals leaping out at you was most effective. It was just luck that I happened upon the video. If you were late look for it on YouTube.

Later I showed the gorgeous big fish in the Cave of Pileta with the double-lined outlines and explained that one line was a wish for Spring and a return or increase of fish; and the repeat line was a thanks to the gods when they reappeared. Or did I? This could be called sympathetic magic. Instead I think that I went unto the problem that nearby caves were presenting by claiming that their silhouetted hands were probably made by Neanderthals because they were dated by a new method (uranium thorium) as older than 40,000 BCE or before the time of Cro-Magnon.

Since all the archaeologists were marveling over man's state of brain and mind development which allowed Cro-Magnon to be so unique, the upgrading of Neanderthal's ability from tool-making to artist would be menacing to all they had written and claimed. Could Cro-Magnon have arrived earlier? Perhaps the Neanderthal learned from Cro-Magnon, or some other species were present in Europe but died out. Jean Clottes, the current most prodigious and active investigator has responded that every point dated with uranium thorium should be tested simultaneously with carbon dating.

Sympathetic Magic used for hunting was rebutted by those who claimed that the diets of Cro-Magnon did not include the numerous bison and hundreds of horses, but the lesser depicted reindeer and rabbit and smaller animals were eaten. Claude Levi Strauss, referred to as the Father of Structuralism, remarked, "Some animals are to eat, some to imagine." He suggested looking for the structure in the caves. Structuralists looked for opposites to reconcile in the patterning of the horse and the bison for meaning.

But the idea grew that caves were temples and the animals painted were either gods or spirit guides for rituals by medicine men, sorcerer's, wizards or shamans. But this was not accepted by all archaeologists, who did not agree with those who used ethnological similarities, mythologies and religious histories being advocated by many archaeologists influenced by historians of religion, philosophers and sometimes, psychologists. Paul Bahn was a noted archaeologist who has written sarcastically about such influences.

Taking a page out of the methods of others, I decided to examine Olmec and Maya shamans to make comparisons with Paleolithic shape-shifters, but had an advantage over hunter gatherer cultures, since the Maya had a language, and even a glyph for shape shifting into a jaguar. The famous scene depicted at the base of the shaft at Lascaux has been interpreted by many so-called experts.

I think that I made a case for the possibility of some form of auto sacrifice or pain infliction by a birdheaded shaman in ecstatic flight and sacrifice of the spirit of the bison for the tribe.

This would be experienced by the initiate brought into the carbon dioxide infested lowest depth of the cave temple.

But the investigations of David Lewis-Williams into the minds of the shamanic cave dwellers using psychoneurological experiments are providing more convincing evidence that the minds of the caveman were wired in the same manner as ours and that they were wired for a belief in religion. You would have to read The Mind in the Cave to understand it.

> Deb Stelton

Settling the new world….Is the issue settled?

The girl, one of two found, was just six weeks old when she died. Her body was buried on a bed of antler points and red ocher, and she lay undisturbed for 11,500 years.

Archaeologists discovered her in an ancient burial pit in Alaska in 2010, and on Wednesday an international team of scientists reported they had retrieved the child’s genome from her remains. The second-oldest human genome ever found in North America, it sheds new light on how people — among them the ancestors of living Native Americans — first arrived in the Western Hemisphere.

The analysis, published in the journal Nature, shows that the child belonged to a hitherto unknown human lineage— a group that split off from other Native-Americans just after, or perhaps just before, they arrived in North America.

“It’s the earliest branch in the Americas that we know of so far,” said Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen, a co-author of the new study. As far as he and other scientists can tell, these early settlers endured for thousands of years before disappearing.

The two infants were given names: the baby girl is Xach’itee’aanenh T’eede Gaay (“sunrise girl-child,” in Middle Tanana, the dialect of the local community), and the remains of the other infant, or perhaps a fetus, is YeƂkaanenh T’eede Gaay (“dawn twilight girl-child”).

The Healy Lake Village Council and the Tanana Chiefs Conference agreed to let scientists search the remains for genetic material. Eventually, they discovered mitochondrial DNA, which is passed only from mother to child, suggesting each had different mothers. Moreover, each infant had a type of mitochondrial DNA found also in living Native-Americans.

> Bob Stelton, editor

Summer Safari May 12, 2018

A virtual Ancient Maya Tour via the May 12, 2018 Milwaukee Public Museum’s spectacular temporary exhibition, The Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.

The CAS Summer Safari occurs earlier than usual because the spectacular Milwaukee exhibition closes on May 28, 2018. The MPM is hosting the largest Maya exhibition ever displayed in the United States. The exhibition is a combination of hundreds of authentic artifacts, immersive environments, multimedia, and hands-on activities, this exhibit is designed to give visitors a glimpse at a cross-section of Maya life. From divine kings who ruled powerful cities to the artisans and laborers who formed the backbone of society, Maya features spectacular examples of ancient artistry and objects. Additionally, visitors will get a close look at the scientific work being carried out at key Maya sites to understand exactly how we know what we know of this once-hidden culture.

Exhibit Highlights
 Hundreds of authentic artifacts
 Hands-on activities that dig into Maya life, such as building corbelled arches, exploring tombs, and more
 Replica carved monuments, or stelae, that were erected in the great plazas of Maya cities
 An exploration of Maya architecture, such as its awe-inspiring temples
 A re-creation of the elaborate royal tomb of the Great Scrolled Skull in Santa Rita Corozal, a Maya site in Belize
 An examination of the concepts of ritual and human sacrifice that allowed the Maya to transcend the earthly world and speak with the gods of the underworld
 And more!

CAS Member, Mike Ruggeri will be our docent.
Assembly: 1:00 pm (tentative [Assembly must be contingent on rail transportation times from Chicago, Drivers must adjust travel time.]
Admission:[$18 seniors, $25 adults. Group admission $15
Transportation: On your own.

Summer Safari