News Releases

Challenging the Myths of Caribbean History: UWI Archaeology Lecturer launches book & debunks Myth

For Release Upon Receipt - April 16, 2009

St. Augustine

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. That may be true, but a new book from a UWI Archaeology Lecturer says that Caribbean history actually started 7,000 years ago, long before Columbus sailed.

Myths and Realities of Caribbean History, a new text by Dr Basil Reid, challenges many cherished Caribbean myths. Reid proposes that contrary to popular belief, the history of the Caribbean did not begin in 1492, but 7,000 years ago with the infusion of Archaic groups from South America and the successive migrations of other peoples from Central America for about 2,000 years thereafter. The book will be launched regionally at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in Barbados on Monday 27th April, and at the Jamaica National Heritage Trust in Kingston, Jamaica on Tuesday 5th May, 2009.

Myths and Realities seeks to debunk eleven popular and prevalent myths about Caribbean history. Using archaeological evidence, it corrects many previous misconceptions promulgated by history books and oral tradition as they specifically relate to the pre-colonial and European-contact periods. It informs popular audiences, as well as scholars, about the current state of archaeological and historical research in the Caribbean, and asserts the value of that research in fostering a better understanding of the region’s past. In addition to discussing this rich cultural diversity of the Antillean past, Myths and Realities of Caribbean History debates the misuse of terms such as “Arawak” and “Ciboneys,” and the validity of Carib cannibalism allegations.

The book has received positive reviews. According to Professor William F. Keegan, Curator of Caribbean Archaeology, Florida Museum of Natural History: “This is an extremely important book. Dr. Reid has selected some of the most cherished beliefs about the native peoples of the insular Caribbean and demonstrates that these beliefs are wrong. The book provides a new view of the past, and clears away much of the colonialist baggage associated with the history of the region as it is currently being taught.” Dr. Antonio Curet, Field Museum states that “Myths and Realities of Caribbean History is well organized and well written. Arguments are easy to follow and it includes a large number of references. Figures and tables are of good quality and appropriate. This book will be of interest to a wide variety of people in the entire Carib¬bean, tourists, Americans interested in the region, and various kinds of scholars that specialize in this area.”

The text is expected to be of particular interest to CXC and CAPE officials as well as history, geography and social studies teachers and students throughout Trinidad and Tobago and the Anglophone Caribbean. Published by the University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa USA, Myths and Realities of Caribbean History is the second edition of Popular Myths About Caribbean History, which was launched at the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port of Spain in August 2007. Copies of both books are available at the UWI Bookshop, UWI St. Augustine Campus.End

ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Basil A. Reid is Lecturer in Archaeology, Department of History, University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago, where his major research interests are the pre-Colombian history of the Caribbean, archaeology and geoinformatics, and forensics in the Caribbean. His articles have appeared in the Journal of Caribbean History, Caribbean Quarterly and Caribbean Geography, and he is the editor of both Archaeology and Geoinformatics: Case Studies from the Caribbean and A Crime Solving Toolkit: Forensics in the Caribbean. Dr. Reid is currently an external evaluator with the Accreditation Council of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) and a member of the editorial boards of The Historic Environment and the Journal of Caribbean Archaeology. He was also Chairman of the 21st Congress of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology (IACA) which was held in Trinidad and Tobago in July 2005.

ABOUT UWIOver the last six decades, The University of the West Indies (UWI) has evolved from a fledgling college in Jamaica with 33 students to a full-fledged University with over 40,000 students. Today, UWI is the largest and most longstanding higher education provider in the English-speaking Caribbean, with main campuses in Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Centres in Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Christopher (St Kitts) & Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines. UWI recently launched its Open Campus, a virtual campus with over 50 physical site locations across the region, serving over 20 countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. UWI is an international university with faculty and students from over 40 countries and collaborative links with over 60 universities around the world. Through its seven Faculties, UWI offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Engineering, Humanities & Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Pure & Applied Sciences, Science and Agriculture, and Social Sciences.