Banwari Trace in Trinidad - The Oldest Site in the West Indies!
November 1969, the Trinidad and Tobago Historical Society discovered
the remains of a human skeleton at Banwari Trace. Lying on its left-hand
side, in a typical Amerindian “crouched” burial position
along a northwest axis, Banwari Man (as it is now commonly called)
was found 20-cm below the surface.
important archaeological site at Banwari Trace in Southwest Trinidad
was recently featured in World Monument Watch 2004, an internationally
acclaimed magazine that highlights the world’s 100 most endangered
sites. Dr. Basil Reid, Head of The University of the West Indies
Archaeology Centre and Lecturer in Archaeology at UWI, recently
wrote about the importance of this historical site to our cultural
heritage and pre-Columbian history.
to about 5000 B.C. (years Before Christ) or 7000 B.P (years Before
Present), it is the oldest pre-Columbian site in the West Indies.
Banwari Trace sheds considerable light on the patterns of migration
of Archaic (pre-ceramic) peoples from mainland South America to
the Lesser Antilles via Trinidad between 5000 and 2000 B.C. The
site provides rich insights into the lifeways of one of the earliest
pre-Columbian settlers in the Caribbean. The Trace has also yielded
human remains of Trinidad’s oldest resident.”
Reid explained that Banwari Trace’s antiquity holds much significance
for understanding the migratory patterns of Archaic peoples from
South America into the Caribbean region. Also as the oldest Archaic
site in the West Indies, Banwari Trace clearly indicates that southwest
Trinidad was one of the first migratory “stops” for
northward-bound Archaic settlers who eventually colonised several
islands in the Caribbean archipelago.
Reid went on to detail the artifacts found at the site and their
relevance. He stated that: “ The Banwari Trace complex shows
a highly distinctive cultural assemblage, typically consisting of
artifacts made of stones and bones. Objects associated with hunting
and fishing include bone projectile points, most likely used for
tipping arrows and fish spears, beveled peccary teeth used as fishhooks,
and bipointed pencil hooks of bone which were intended to be attached
in the middle to a fishing-line…”
3,127.2-m² property on which the site is situated is now Government-owned,
having being acquired from a private landowner in March 2000; while
the skeletal remains of Banwari Man are presently in the custody
of the Life Science Department, U.W.I., St. Augustine. Preserved
with cellulose-in-acetone, the skeleton is in a secure environment
and is very much available for future studies by a physical anthropologist.
Trace, given its tremendous importance to the pre-Columbian history
of Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean, requires that we
commit significant financial and technical resources to its protection,
preservation and professional research,” Dr. Reid concluded.