Cuban aborigines

Aborigines of the island of Cuba . Historians estimate that at the arrival of Christopher Columbus in Cuba , the island was inhabited by some 300,000 aborigines. They were peaceful and friendly, and were grouped into three main groups: the Guanatahabeyes and Siboneyes (non-potters) and the Taínos (potters).


The noble climate, the varied flora with abundant natural foods from fruits to tubers that even today are part of the diet of Cubans such as sweet potatoes and yucca and the absence of dangerous animals, favored in a special way the life of the original inhabitants of the archipelago. At that time, only hurricanes –whose passage of course was impossible to predict– constituted a threat to life, but even in front of them there was the protective shelter of the caves .


Although the aboriginal culture was practically exterminated, its presence is still recognized in typical Creole foods, such as ajiaco, a stew of meats, tubers and vegetables; and the casabe, a kind of yucca cake. Their language is still used to name places in the city of Havana, such as Uyanó (now Luyanó), the name by which a stream and a Havana neighborhood are designated; Guasabacoa, name of one of the inlets of the Havana bay; and Guanabacoa, a territory that in the aboriginal language means populated between hills and springs, and where very few of its descendants remain mixed with other later cultures.



1 Population of Cuba

2 Periodizations

3 Guanatahabeyes

4 Siboneyes

5 Taínos

6 Aboriginal cemeteries

6.1 Bacuranao Site

6.2 Marien Site 2

7 Aboriginal archaeological sites of Guanajay

8 Oldest aboriginal settlement in Cuba

9 Stages

9.1 Pre-agricultural stage (6000 BC to 1500 BC)

9.2 Early phase (6000 BC – 1000 BC)

9.3 Middle phase (2000 ane to 1000 ne)

9.4 Late phase (100 BC – 1500 BC)

9.5 Proto-agricultural stage (100 ane to 1000 ne)

9.6 Agroalfarera Stage (800-1500)

10 religious creeds

10.1 Animism

10.2 Cemiism

10.3 Shamanism or Behiquism

10.4 Ancestor worship

10.5 Totemism or totemic residues

11 See also

12 Sources

13 External links

Population of Cuba

Among the various theories that exist about how the Caribbean was populated and, in particular, Cuba, are:


  1. Entry from South American lands, through the arch of islands that is off the coast of Venezuela, taking advantage of the marine currents, the winds and the exit to the sea of ​​the Orinoco River. Or exit to the sea up to the Caribbean through the Magdalena River, in Colombia.


  1. Possibility of arriving in Cuba from the Mississippi River delta and the Florida peninsula, through the Bahamas or even directly.


  1. Route related to Central America, specifically the area between Belize and Honduras, whose marine and air currents may have favored navigation through the interior of the Caribbean and the approach to the small nearby islands.



The periodizations of Cuban aboriginal cultures are diverse and compose an unresolved controversy. For its determination, the way of life and production, geographic region, sites with exceptional characteristics, tools, physical appearance, etc. have been taken as a starting point.


In the text Elements of geography and ancient and modern history of Cuba , by [[José María Latorre]] (19th century), the aboriginal communities of the island are classified according to the region in which they lived: those from the east are warlike ; those in the center, peaceful and fearful; those from the West, rude.


[[Fray Bartolomé de las Casas]] bequeaths the concept that there were some wild inhabitants, according to their way of living, called guanahatebeyes and others called zibuneyes or siboneyes; about the Tainos, he says that they come from [[Hispaniola]]. The prevailing nineteenth-century classification divides the inhabitants precisely into Taínos, Ciboneys and Guanacabibes.


Several were the North Americans who visited Cuba interested in archaeological studies and who went on expeditions throughout the largest of the Antilles. One of them, Jesse Walter Fewkes, classified the peoples of the west, the east, and the inhabitants of the southern and northern cayeres of Cuba into Taínos, fishermen of the keys and troglodytes. For him there were two clearly differentiated groups: the original settlers, who were like savages, and those who had reached a higher level, coming from [[Puerto Rico]] and [[Haiti]] or Hispaniola.


In [[1912]], the French H. Beauchat, in the Manual d’Archeologie americaine , stated that the cultures of the island of Cuba could be classified as guanacabibes, chibcha or guetare, calusa or timuka, aruaca or taíno and the caribs. But this nomenclature presented misconceptions.


In [[1921]], [Mark Raymond Harrington] presented the work Cuba before Columbus , in which he explains that two cultures had lived in Cuba: a primitive ciboney-guanahatabey, and the Taíno, with a higher level of development, housing sites and better utensils.


In [[1913]], [Juan Antonio Alejandro de Jesús Coscuelluela y Barreras]], who had been appointed chief engineer of the project to drain and demarcate the swampy lands of the [[Zapata swamp]], ventured into the field of archeology and anthropology. Based on the studies carried out in different places, from physical anthropology, the forms of burial, zooarchaeological investigations, the analysis of lithic and shell pieces, it establishes possible migratory routes, composition of the inhabitants and proposes to classify the population Cuban aborigine in Guanahatabeyes, inhabitants with little level of development in the West; aruacos, in the central territories of Cuba, of Caribbean origin; and the Taínos to the east, coming from the mainland. Years later he rectified his postulates,


In the work Origins of the Tainan Culture , Sven Loven proposes the following classification: guanahatabeyes, ciboneyes or lucayos and taínos.


In [[1926]], Carlos García Robiou defines in his thesis to opt for the academic degree of doctor in Natural Sciences, Idea of ​​the pre-Columbian cultures of Cuba. The first period of archaeological explorations: works carried out by Miguel Rodríguez Ferrer , the existence of four cultures, the first, original or primitive, with a low level of development, called ciboney; the second, subtaína, somewhat more advanced than the previous one, and the third, the taíno, with prosperous agriculture and pottery and rich furnishings. The fourth culture would be the one corresponding to the Caribs, who according to Robiou did not inhabit Cuba, but raided its coasts.


Elías Entralgo, author of Esquema de sociografía indocubana (1937) classified the Cuban aborigines, according to the conceptual currents of the time, in guanahatabeyes or guanahatabibes or guanacabibes, exbuneyes and taínos.


The titular professor of Sociology Roberto Agramonte, in his book Sociology (1940), divides pre-Hispanic societies according to the economic structure on which the political, family and religious structure rested. He named the Taíno Agrarian Complex and divided it into sub-complexes according to the presence of cassava, corn, tobacco, fire, weaving and yarn.


In [[1940]] two professors from Yale University arrived in Cuba: Irving Benjamin Rouse and Cornelius Osgood. In 1942 they published the works La cultura ciboney de Cayo Redondo and Arqueología de las Lomas de Maniabón . Rouse and Osgood proposed to keep Harrington’s proposed subdivision of Taino and Sub-Taino. The ciboney culture was divided into two periods: early Guayabo Blanco and late Cayo Redondo.


In [[1943]], [[Fernando Ortiz]] outlines in The Indian Cultures of Cuba and The Four Indian Cultures of Cuba the existence of four groups: Aunabey Guayabo Blanco, Guanajatabey or Cayo Redondo, Baní and other deposits or Ciboney, and Pueblo Nuevo or Taíno.


For [[Felipe Pichardo Moya]] there were three well differentiated indocultures: guanahatabeyes or archaic culture, characterized by having rough shell instruments and living in caves; ciboneyes or indoculture of the coast, stone carvers; and Taínos or Cuban indoculture of the plateaus, with cranial deformation, agriculture and developed ceramics, mastery of wood and polishing of stone objects such as petaloid axes.


In the work La Caleta: Antillean archaeological jewel (1946) René Herrera Fritot and Charles Leroy Youmans return to the traditional pattern of guanahatabeyes, which would correspond to the White Guayabo de la Ciénaga de Zapata; ciboneyes, which are the remains of the Plurial, the artifacts of Cayo Redondo and the material collected in the keys of the north of the central region; and Taínos, those with agricultural development, make clay, make utilitarian and ritual pottery, and deform the skull.


In [[1950]] the Round Table of Archaeologists of the Caribbean takes place. In this event, it is approved to classify pre-Hispanic cultures by complexes. It was agreed not to use the terms Archaic, Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic, and to use, according to the order of antiquity, periods I for the shell, II for stone and III for pottery. Cultural complex I was characterized by having rustic shell and stone trousseau, isolated settlements proportional to the residents. The cultural complex II for having utensils made of shells, stone and wood, as well as objects made with fish bones and vertebrae. Cultural Complex III dominated pottery, wood carving, and the possible interrelationships between representations of men, animals, and plants; they owned agriculture and knew its techniques. They made objects out of bone material. They had more stable settlements and built houses in various ways. They made fibers and fabrics. They practiced the frontal-occipital-oblique cranial deformation, but not all the inhabitants.


In [[1964]], Professor René Herrera Fritot, who was working at the Cuban Academy of Sciences, postulates a new classification: the ceramic and non-ceramic group. It also establishes four sub-periods: pre-Taíno, early Taíno, middle Taíno, and late Taíno. On the same date, the Department of Anthropology of the Academy designed another model, according to the level of development: ceramic farmers, which included Taíno and Subtaíno as cultures; and non-ceramic collectors, for the ciboneyes Guayabo Blanco look and Cayo Redondo look.


In [[1965]], the archaeologist [[Ernesto Tabío Palma]] and the historian [[Estrella Rey Betancourt]] lay the foundations for a Marxist periodization of Cuban pre-Hispanic cultures in their work Prehistoria de Cuba . The aboriginal communities of Cuba are divided into ceramic farmers (associated with the Aruaco cultural group in which Taínos and Subtaínos are found), with incipient non-ceramic agriculture (Cayo Redondo aspect ciboney) and non-ceramic hunter gatherers (Guayabo Blanco aspect ciboney). Later, they adjust this scheme to the level of socioeconomic development and, in the case of the Aruaco ceramic farmers, add to the division into Taínos and Subtaínos, a new cultural group called Mayarí, which had incipient agriculture and was a potter.


[[Manuel Rivero de la Calle]] provides a new nomenclature, in which he does not incorporate subtaínos, in the book Aboriginal cultures of Cuba (1966): non-ceramicist groups (Guanahatabeyes and Ciboneyes) and ceramicists (Tainos).


In [[1979]], during the IV Archaeological Conference of Cuba and the Caribbean, Tabío Palma proposes a periodization on the pre-Hispanic cultures of Cuba, based on an examination of the evolutionary parameters and analysis of the economic base, in three stages: The first, pre-agroalfarera, groups that did not practice agriculture or ceramics and only carried out gathering, small fishing and hunting, to which three phases corresponded: early, with carved stone utensils, large knives, scrapers and burins; middle phase, Guayabo Blanco ciboney, with mounds or residuals, stone artifacts, shells, hammers, majaderos and gouges; and late phase, Cayo Redondo ciboney, with stone tools, mortars, pestles, daggers and lithic balls.


The second, proto-agricultural, with incipient ceramics, little or no decoration and a predominance of microlithic; its phases refer to geographical places: an early one, Playita Canímar, in Matanzas, and Aguas Verdes, in Guantánamo, while the late one received the names of Arroyo del Palo, Mayarí.


The third stage, agroalfarera, contemplated the groups that had reached the highest level of development, the Taínos, with advanced ceramics, burén to cook cassava and other products, and mastery of agricultural techniques. This periodization was adapted and enriched by [Ramón Dacal Moure] and Manuel Rivero de la Calle, in [1986], when they prepared the work Aboriginal Archeology of Cuba .


In [[1994]], in the first chapter of the book Historia de Cuba. The colony: socioeconomic evolution and national formation. From the origins to 1867, the archaeologists Lourdes Domínguez, Jorge Febles and Alexis Rives, belonging to the Anthropology Center, proposed a chronological table in which they located classical stages and their cultural equivalent. In descending order they appear: Neolithic (developed gentile community); ceramic farmers (Mayarí); towards the year zero, the beginning of the elaboration of ceramics, incipient plant crops (Canímar and Aguas Verdes); the primitive gentile community, archaic Mesolithic (Ciboney Cayo Redondo and Ciboney Guayabo Blanco) and, lastly, the primitive gentile community, hunters, which corresponds to the Paleolithic, protoarchic (Seboruco).


Also in [[1994]], researchers Alexis Rives, Jorge Febles and Gabino La Rosa propose another model for the National Archaeological Atlas , which mixes a variant of the previous classification with that of Tabío Palma: agro-potter, as communities of Neolithic tradition ; protoagroalfarero, communities of incipient Neolithic tradition; preagroalfarero, communities of Mesolithic and Paleolithic tradition.


In [[1997]], Lilián Moreira de Lima defines pre-Hispanic cultures in her text The Community Society of Cuba , according to economic and social characteristics, in four types of communities: those that had hunting as their fundamental sustenance, those that promoted the exploitation of fishing, those that made agriculture incipient and those that reached a higher degree of agricultural development. that is, hunting communities, fishing communities, communities with possible sporadic agriculture, and farming communities.


In the book Aboriginal Archeology. Santiago de Cuba , by José Jiménez Santander, proposes a periodization based on the postulates of Tabío and Guarch, which divides the first stage of appropriation into three historical periods: early period, middle period and intermediate or borderline period. The second stage of production divides it into two periods: late period and late period.


Enrique Alonso, Gerardo Izquierdo and Ulises González, from the Cuban Institute of Anthropology, define an economic and social formation for pre-tribal appropriators and one for tribal producers. For them, culture is not the determining factor, but rather they establish that aboriginal communities in the history of Cuba are structured by economic stages: early appropriators, the so-called Paleolithic, the Seboruco-Mordán complex; protoarchics; paleoarchic; paleoindians, pre-agricultural potters; pre-agricultural pottery communities of Paleolithic tradition and hunters of the Seboruco cultural variant. Middle appropriators, Guanahatabey; Siboney; Ciboney; Auanabey; Complex I and Complex II; culture of the coast and culture of the cavern; pre-agricultural potters Guayabo Blanco and Cayo Redondo from the ciboney phase; Guanahacabibes and Guacanayabo cultural variants, collector fishermen phase; archaic; mesolithic; Mesoindian and communities of Mesolithic tradition. Late appropriators, Mayarí cultural group; formative, proto-agricultural and proto-agricultural phase, cultural variant Canímar and Mayarí. Producers, Indians from the same island; taínos; complex III; Taínos and subtaínos, agro-potters, farmers of the productive economy stage, made up of the cultural variants Damajayabo, Baní, Jagua, Cunagua, Bayamo and Maisí, Neolithic and agro-potters of Neolithic tradition.




Guanatahabeyes Indians

They belonged to the less advanced phase of the Cuban aboriginal cultures and are considered the most primitive inhabitants of the country. Although they were very widespread, when the first Europeans arrived in Cuba they were confined to the extreme west of the island, in the area of Cabo de San Antonio .


Historical references describe that they used the caves and similar rock shelters as refuge, and that they fed on fish and marine mollusks , as well as some fruits that they collected.


In a letter from Diego Velázquez dated April 18 , 1515 , it is stated:


The dwellings of these Guanahatabibes are like savages, because they have no house, no seats, no towns, no farms, nor do they eat anything but meat from the mountains and turtles and fish.

The shell gouge – its main instrument – and vessels, hammers, picks and even snail ornaments have been found in the guanatahabeyes of Cuba, and to a lesser extent flint knives and other stone implements that are supposed to be used to crush and prepare meats and some foods.




Siboneyes Indians

More advanced than the guanatahabeyes, the siboneyes achieved symmetrical shapes and a greater finish of their different instruments.


In most cases, they were obtained from shells or stones to build mortars, hammers, pestles, spoons and cutting instruments.


Around the year 1500 they were located basically in the north of the current province of Villa Clara and in the northern keys known as Jardines del Rey . They also inhabited the entire southern coastal strip of the central-eastern region up to the Gulf of Guacanayabo , and the Jardines de la Reina archipelago , mainly dedicated to fishing. However, from the archaeological point of view, scholars attribute them an almost generalized presence throughout the country.



Like their relatives the Siboneys – whom according to the chroniclers of the time they were subjugated – the Tainos came from the neighboring island of Hispaniola , which today is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti . Located fundamentally in the center and east of Cuba, the Taínos promoted agriculture and pottery, in which they achieved a high level of development. Its communal settlements structured by caneyes and huts , indistinctly, were small but well organized and the chief was the highest authority.


The labors were distributed for the benefit of all, and thus, while the men went out to hunt and fish, for which they already had woven cotton nets and barbed hooks, the women contributed decisively to the plantings, the care of the crops and crops. They were also entrusted with the pottery production, of utilitarian purpose mainly pots, burenes and others, which they used to cook food.


It is known that they cultivated chili , peanuts , sweet potatoes, and cassava, from which they produced casabe – a cake made from this tuber similar to the bread that is still eaten today in Camagüey and the eastern part of the country to accompany meats-; the cotton that used to make hammocks and networks and also the corn and snuff , which ate preferably associated with various ceremonies.

In its deposits, a large number of stone instruments such as mortars, hammers and axes have been found , as well as idols of different lithic nature but of great beauty and perfection, and some pieces of precious wood type stools called dujo that the chiefs used to sit on.


They also developed basketry and cordage. Due to their location in the east of the country, the Tainos were the ones most closely linked to the harsh processes of conquest and colonization.

With the beginning of the divisions and encomiendas in 1514 , they were subjected to extraordinary efforts in exploitation, construction and agricultural work. The forced labor, the massacres of lesson, the massive suicides to save themselves from the cruelty with which some conquerors undertook their mission, the exoduses to islands and cays in the surroundings, and also some epidemics of atypical diseases until then, considerably decimated the aboriginal population whose only current descendants in Cuba are found in the intricate areas of Guantánamo near Yateras .


The story includes organized confrontations against the Spanish and the names of the chiefs Hatuey and Guamá , as the first Cuban rebels.


Aboriginal cemeteries

Aboriginal cemeteries are undoubtedly of great interest to Archeology , hence the study of them allows us to greatly deepen the better knowledge of the first settlers who inhabited the area, bringing to light new discoveries about different somatic aspects and pathological, as well as their funerary customs and the physical-anthropological characteristics of their first settlers, something of which at the beginning there was little information.


On the island, with the progress of field work carried out over many years, some previously reported sites of this type have been studied, and others have been discovered. They are known at present several aboriginal cemeteries among which are: El Chorro de Maita (in Holguín ), [1] the Cave of the Holy (in Havana ), the Cueva de Perico 1 (in Pinar de Rio ) , the Canimar Abajo site (in Matanzas ), the Calero Cave and finally the Marien 2 and Bacuranao sites in Havana .


In the archaeological excavations carried out in these last two aboriginal cemeteries, members of the Guamuhaya Speleological Group participated together with members of other groups already experienced archaeologists from the Anthropology Center belonging to the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment ( CITMA ) of the country.


Bacuranao site

In August 1997 , the Fifth Archaeological Excavation Campaign was carried out at this site, located in the Cueva del Infierno , in the Havana municipality of San José de las Lajas . On that occasion the remains of four individuals were found. The burials corresponded to two adults and two children, one of whom, a minor, was removed en bloc to be exhibited in the local museum.


This excavation was a continuation of the one carried out in 1995 , which culminated in the discovery of a large aboriginal cemetery from which 54 complete skeletons were extracted. On that occasion the find included bones of 66 people, 57 of them under four years of age, being pre-agricultural pottery communities with Mesolithic tradition that populated the area, with an appropriation economy.


La Cueva del Infierno was not only used by communities of this degree of development only to bury their dead, but also as a dwelling place according to the results of the last campaign, in which the presence of three large fireplaces was detected that were used for cooking food. On the other hand, other gentile groups of greater development also made use, apparently for other purposes, of this cave since it is also reported as a hunting ground for agro-pottery groups with Neolithic tradition, having found numerous fragments of ceramic vessels inside .


Marien Site 2

Since the 1950s, the existence of the site known as Marien 2 has been known due to the field work of the Guamá Group at that time and also from the work carried out by the late Cuban archaeologist Ernesto Tabío . The Marien 2 site is located very close to the Bay of Mariel , inside a cave.


In 1992 , the first archaeological excavation campaign of this site was carried out, from which the remains of 50 individuals were exhumed, of them 11 adults, 2 sub-adults and 37 children. Some primary and other secondary burials were extracted and according to the words of Dr. Gabino La Rosa , head of the excavation, a very interesting relationship could be verified in the burial practices and that is that practically all the adults were accompanied by children, which expanded the vision of the social and cultural aspects that these groups had.


In March 1998 , the second excavation campaign was carried out at this site and on this occasion 10 burials were carried out, most of them children, it was possible to verify that in the cave there is a well-defined and delimited area on the left that was used for burials , while the area on the right was a dwelling place and in this an immense hearth was found with abundant remains of the diet of these groups that collected, hunted and fished. There were remains of fish , of bivalves , shells of mollusks , jutías , etc.


On this occasion the presence of offerings in the burials is confirmed, consisting of Isognomus alatus valves , and one of the burials (in the photo) had a large cigua near the skull. Also in terms of funeral customs, sufficient evidence obtained from this and other aboriginal cemeteries studied is accumulating, which allows denying the widespread fable in Cuba in the 1940s and 1950s, of burials with the head facing east. Burials were found with a great difference in the orientation of the bodies without finding an absolute repetition, in this photo it is observed by the arrow that indicates the north that it is not oriented exactly east-west and also that the head is not towards the east but to the West.


All the extracted earth was passed through a sieve to avoid the loss of small phalanx bones or other possible small-sized evidence. Thanks to instant sifting, the proximity of a burial is sometimes detected due to the presence of a small piece of evidence, even when the excavator has not noticed it, allowing from that moment to be even more meticulous and precise in the job.


Aboriginal archaeological sites of Guanajay

Guanajay is a very old municipality, its foundation dates from 1650 , according to the historian Luis Manuel Núñez and it is said that it was founded by the Spanish on an aboriginal settlement. The Guanajay place-name itself is an aboriginal term, which gives more veracity to the previous statement. But this town did not always bear that name, according to the old chronicles it was formerly called Guamuhaya, an also aboriginal place name.


From 1990 to 1995 , the National Archaeological Census was carried out throughout the island by the Anthropology Center of CITMA (Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment). Each province had a specialist in charge of said census and Havana Province was directed by Dr. Gabino La Rosa Corso, a well-known Cuban archaeologist who has worked both Aboriginal and Colonial Archeology, who directly attended in addition to the municipality, the municipalities of Caimito and Mariel that share its borders with Guanajay.


After the visit in 1991to the town by Dr. Gabino La Rosa, all old site reports were discarded, as no consistent material evidence was found in the inspection tour. From this moment, interested in revealing the secrets of Guanajayan history, the members of the Guamuhaya Group began with archaeological surveys in Guanajay, starting from the topographic map of the town and following the possible settlement patterns, given the characteristics of the terrain that were appropriate for this purpose, preferably places with a nearby water source and in areas little affected by flooding rivers or streams. Several field surveys were made in different areas without finding any surface evidence, until in mid-1992, after many searches, the first discoveries began.


Thanks to the methodological guidance and advice received from Doctor Gabino, in 1994 we made the first report of an archaeological site and from then on the group was called Grupo EspeleoArqueológico until January 2001 when it returned to the old name of Grupo Espeleológico, since the purely archaeological activities are not included within the corporate purpose of the Speleological Society of Cuba. From now on, the group has dedicated itself solely to visiting, preserving and protecting the sites discovered and reported by the group.


Thus, to date there are three aboriginal archaeological sites found and reported by the GEG, whose evidence has been analyzed at the CITMA Center for Anthropology. Of these, two open-air sites, both aboriginal settlements (Guanajay 2 and Jobo), and one in a cave that is a hunting camp (Guanajay 1).


The Guanajay 2 aboriginal settlement presents a large flint workshop and it is a Pre-agricultural site with a Mesolithic tradition (Middle Mesolithic), that is, a gentile community with an appropriation economy . Specialists have given the same affiliation to the Guanajay 1 site, while the Jobo site is a Protoagroalfarero (late Mesolithic), a community that worked agriculture and had incipient pottery. To date, this site constitutes the westernmost Protoagroalfarero in the country, the closest of its kind being the Banes 2 site in the neighboring municipality of Caimito .


Oldest aboriginal settlement in Cuba


Farallones de Seboruco

An invaluable historical relic for human knowledge is the archaeological site of the Farallones de Seboruco, the most archaic place of the aboriginal settlement of the Cuban archipelago, located in the municipality of Mayarí, in the eastern province of Holguín, a place of extraordinary scientific and cultural value that essentially integrates the cultural heritage of the Cuban people. [two]


Its discovery, by Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez, a deceased researcher, dates from 1939. The discovery revealed the oldest culture in Cuba, which dates back approximately six thousand years. The first inhabitants of our Island belonged to the proto-Archean group, which did not know the use of agriculture or ceramics and ignored the polishing of the stones, but they knew the secret of wood carving. [two]


Their utensils for work consisted of knives, hatchets, crushers and other instruments made of flaked flint rocks, long and sharp pieces that they used in their subsistence tasks and they are located in the pre-agricultural stage, since this is divided into three phases called: early, middle and late, the first of them correspond to the Levisa and Seboruco residues that are characterized by the flint flakes and tips industry. [two]


The economy of these proto-archaic Indo-Cuban groups, the first inhabitants of Cuba, depended on hunting, fishing and gathering, so their communities were generally nomadic. In the Farallones de Seboruco, today a National Monument, some evidence of carved wood was found, which supposes its function was dedicated to ritual activities according to its structure, since they resemble scepters. According to research, proto-arcaic aboriginal groups took shelter in caves for obituaries. The burials were made with some ritual development; the corpses were buried, placing lithic objects next to them as funerary offerings. [two]


Seboruco is made up of several caves where pictographs appeared for the first time in the eastern area, which are still in good condition and you can see black and white drawings with a rather abstract style and very simple linear strokes that show the rock art of our prehistoric culture, considered the oldest artistic manifestation made in our country. [two]


Other excavations carried out on May 18, 1979, led by Núñez Jiménez, accompanied by José A. Viciedo and Carlos Betancourt, made new contributions of greater value to continue clarifying the ancient aboriginal culture. At a depth of 0.30 meters, bones and other archaeological pieces were discovered that revealed part of their food diet. To the surprise of the researchers, a skeleton was found that despite deterioration over time, its squatting position could be reconstructed and it is estimated to belong to a 13-year-old female. [two]


The Farallones de Seboruco represent a high archaeological significance. Here the Seboruco III, IV, V, VI and VII sites have been found, those that surround the cliff and are the only areas that seem to have been inhabited so far, and also, because they are very homogeneous, they belong to the protoarchic group, the most ancient of our aboriginal history. Farallones de Seboruco is known internationally for constituting a classic and typical place for research in the Antillean area and especially for our country. It has a basic conclave in the geobiological environment and also has an appreciable and indisputable cultural relevance for future generations and the development of the investigations that are carried out there and that have not yet concluded. [two]



Pre-agricultural phase (6000 BC to 1500 BC)

It includes all the Cuban aboriginal groups that did not practice agriculture or use ceramics. In other words, their economic activities were limited to the collection of fruits, tubers, wild roots, and also land and marine mollusks. They practiced river and sea fishing, as well as small game. In its earliest phase it is possible that some groups practiced hunting animals of appreciable size, the last survivors of the extinct Pleistocene terrestrial fauna, as well as some large marine mammals.


Early phase (6000 BC – 1000 BC)

The oldest Cuban aborigines are included in this phase. Some Cuban archaeologists call them “protoarchics.” These very ancient aboriginal groups have been discovered in the last decade and therefore our knowledge of them is not very extensive yet.


In excavations carried out in 1973 by archaeologists from the Academy of Sciences, advised by Dr. J. Kozlowski, from the University of Krakow, at the Levisa I site, discovered by us in 1964, in a rocky shelter of the cliffs of the River Levisa -a short distance, to the south, of the Nicaro mines, Holguín province- were found in the deepest layer of the excavation carved stone instruments (that is, made of very hard stones: flint, chert, chalcedony, which when they are hit by man with another stone they produce cutting flakes) among which were large knives, scrapers, burins, and so on.


It should be noted that this set of stone artifacts does not correspond in any way to the trousseau of the Cuban aboriginal groups known to us until then. In that deeper layer, some fragments of charcoal from very old stoves were found, which, when subjected to radiocarbon analysis (C-14) in a nuclear physics laboratory, yielded a date of five thousand one hundred and forty years old. . Calibrated this dating by even more precise methods gave us a date very close to six thousand years old.


These instruments consist of large flakes, blades, and points, as well as large stone cores.

Regarding the arrival in Cuba of these primitive men, it is very interesting to note that, according to our studies carried out in 1979, at that time the sea level was about twenty meters below the current level, so that the The configuration of the coasts of some Antillean islands, especially the Bahamas and Cuba, was quite different from what we see on current geographical maps, but they were still islands separated from each other. Geology tells us that the union of the Antillean islands with the continental areas occurred many millions of years ago; On the other hand, at the moment the most audacious calculations of the specialists regarding the presence of man in America do not go beyond fifty thousand years. Later, these first Amerindians were forced to reach the Antilles,


Despite the fact that there has been a lot of research and discussion about the origin of these ancient Cuban aborigines and about the routes they followed to reach our coasts, this is something that we do not know for sure yet. However, three potential routes are pointed out: (a) from the Southeastern United States to the Bahamas and from there to Cuba (b) from the Northeast coast of Nicaragua, through a series of islands and islets that emerged then in the Caribbean Sea, to Jamaica and from there to Cuba, and (c) from the Northeast coast of Venezuela to the Lesser Antilles, and then to the Greater Antilles until finally reaching Cuba. Future research will surely clarify this interesting problem that we face today.


Another archaeological site that also corresponds to this early phase (or Protoarchic) ​​of the Preagroalfarera stage is that of the Farallones de Seboruco. It is located five kilometers southeast of the town of Mayarí, in the province of Holguín.


In 1943, Dr. Antonio Núñez Jiménez discovered this site and did some excavations. In the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists from our Academy of Sciences explored and excavated it on various occasions. Now, due to its importance, we are going to refer specifically to the excavations carried out by them in 1978. This work provided valuable data related to some aspects of the culture of these primitive Indo-Cubans, as well as the ecological environment, including the geological one. In the material collected there, there are carved stone artifacts that are the largest and most primitive type found in our country up to that date. Similar stone artifacts are not known from the archaeological literature so far published on the West Indies or Central America. These instruments consist of large flakes, blades and tips,


The existence of several stages of development in the technique of making tools from cut stone could be noted. An important result was to discover the source of supply of flint from where the primitive men who inhabited the Seboruco site obtained the raw material to make the stone tools with which they hunted and worked wood.


One of the problems that were raised, among the results of that excavation -related to hunting-, was the presence of the large carved stone points and their possible involvement with the ancient environment corresponding to this archaeological site, since in that During this period (six thousand years or more) there were large marine mammals on the coast, the so-called ” tropical seals ” ( Monachus tropicalis ) and, at the mouth of rivers, the manatee ( Trichecizus manatus ) .


Also at that time there could be large land mammals in the interior of the country, as the last representatives of the Pleistocene fauna; such is the case of the great sloths (Megalocnus rodens) whose skeletal remains have been found with some frequency, but whose association with human evidence still seems doubtful.


Unfortunately, in none of the expeditions to the Seboruco site it was possible to obtain samples to be able to date this very interesting site by means of radiocarbon (T-14). However, some researchers estimate that the antiquity of Seboruco, especially that of the earliest times, may be well over six thousand or seven thousand years. For this they are fundamentally based on the typology of the large carved stone tools that appeared there.


Middle phase (2000 ane to 1000 ne)

The aboriginal cultural group called Ciboney-Guayabo Blanco belongs to this phase of the Preagroalfarera stage. These aborigines were not known; directly or indirectly, by the Spanish conquerors. The group bears that name because its first manifestations appeared in 1913, at the site of that name, which is located in the Ciénaga Oriental de Zapata, northeast of the Bay of Pigs, south coast of the province of Matanzas.


The aborigines that correspond to this middle Preagroalfarera phase, with regard to their economic activities, were collectors of wild fruits and roots as well as marine and terrestrial molluscs; they practiced fishing and small game (for example, hutías). Their habitation sites are manifested by the evidence of garbage piles, which fluctuate in magnitude from small and superficial waste to large mounds that are up to several tens of meters in diameter and two or three meters high. The evidences of these primitive men are found throughout the Island, almost always in coastal places. Sometimes they lived in caves and rocky shelters, but they also lived outdoors.


Their tools made from the shells of large marine mollusks, such as gouges, which they used to work with wood, are abundant.

A typical case of dwelling, in the open air, of aborigines of this middle Pregroalfarera phase, is provided by the large residue located in front of the Funche Cave, Guanahacabibes Peninsula, at the western end of the Pinar del Río province. In 1966, archaeologists from the Cuban Academy of Sciences carried out extensive and detailed excavations there.


This Aboriginal garbage dump had about forty-six meters on its east-west axis and forty-two meters on its north-south axis, with its maximum height being one and a half meters. As a result of these works, many evidences were collected, consisting of a large number of stone and shell artifacts of large marine mollusks, all of rough manufacture. Among the first, the percussionists or hammers and the majaderos stand out, which were used to crush seeds; between the second, the gouges and ‘vessels. No carved stone tools were found.


Examination of the food debris showed a large number of bones from different species of jutías, many crab shells and abundant shells of marine mollusks of different sizes. The organic samples collected at this site were analyzed by means of radioactive carbon (C-14), which gave dates ranging between four thousand and two thousand years old.


On the funeral practices carried out by the aborigines of the Ciboney-Guayabo Blanco group, typical of this middle Preagroalfarera phase, we have abundant information from different sites; But, as an example, we will say that archaeologists from our Academy of Sciences excavated during the years 1971 and 1972 the important funerary cave known by the name of El Perico I, located near Bahía Honda, Pinar del Río province. There they exhumed about fifty-one Ciboney-Guayabo Blanco aboriginal burials. Of this total, forty were of a primary nature, that is, they had been buried directly in the ground without touching the remains of the individuals at all afterwards; eleven were secondary in nature, that is, the dead had been buried, but later the aborigines had unearthed it.


The excavated human remains corresponded to thirty-three children and eighteen adults. The burials were not observed to be oriented relative to any given geographic point. Primary burials appeared in the middle and late layers; the secondary ones, in the early (or older) layers and were heavily covered with red dust obtained from the mineral known as hematite, made particles and well crushed.


All the skulls collected there did not show artificial deformation, a cultural trait of all the pre-agricultural and proto-agricultural aborigines of Cuba.


Late phase (100 BC – 1500 BC)

The Ciboney-Cayo Redondo aboriginal group corresponds to this late Preagroalfarera phase. This cultural group is so named because, in 1941, the first systematic excavation of a site of this cultural complex was made in Cayo Redondo cayuelo, located next to the swampy and mangrove coastline very close to La Fe, in the Guadiana Bay. , Northern part of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, Pinar del Río province.


The aborigines that correspond to this late Preagroalfarera phase, in regard to their economic activities, were collectors of wild fruits, roots and tubers, as well as marine and terrestrial mollusks; they practiced fishing and small game hunting of hutías and birds. These men inhabited our entire territory from 100 BC. n. and. until the arrival of the Spanish; However, it is probable that some groups continued to live until the seventeenth century in remote and remote parts of our archipelago. According to the chroniclers, they had very little contact with the conquerors. Their remains generally appear located in coastal and boggy sites.


The main areas of Cuba where its residues are found are the southern coast of the provinces of Camagüey and Las Tunas, as well as the areas surrounding the mouth of the Cauto River, in the Granma province. In all these areas, the evidence left by these Indo-Cubans is very abundant.


The tools used by these men, according to the evidence obtained by archaeologists, are formed, first of all, by stone instruments such as pestles and mortars, used to grind and crush grains and seeds of wild plants. Some of these artifacts show bilateral symmetry and good surface finish. They also make good use of carved stone instruments, employing flint, such as knives and scrapers. Tools made from the shells of large marine mollusks are abundant, such as gouges, which they used to work with wood. The use made by this group of mineral colorants is remarkable; for example, from hematite and limonite, with which they obtained red and yellow powders respectively.


The funerary practices of this human group were, in some cases, much more complex than those of the aborigines corresponding to the early and middle phases of the Preagroalfarera stage; An example of this is found in the results of the excavation made in 1941 by Dr. R. Herrera Fritot in the Los Niños funerary cave, in Cayo Salinas, Buenavista Bay or Caguanes, Sancti Spíritus province, on the North coast. There an interesting collective burial of thirteen children was found, ranging in age from one to ten years. On this Dr. Herrera tells us: “With each skeleton they placed a lithic ball, whose size is related to the age of the individual.”


The burials were arranged in a more or less circular way, with a child’s center as the center, apparently the most important, since he presented as offerings two stone “daggers” and also a stone ball, the most polished of all. These stone “daggers” and balls appear to be closely related to the aboriginal burials of this late Preagroalfarera phase. The skulls of these men, like those of the early and middle phases of this Preagroalfarera stage, are not deformed.


Proto-agricultural stage (100 ane to 1000 ne)

The knowledge that we have of the aborigines that correspond to this stage is not very extensive, since they have begun to study in the last ten years. We can say that this stage is transitional between the Preagroalfarera and Agroalfarera stages; In it are framed some Cuban aboriginal communities that generally present a trousseau that corresponds to the late phase of the Preagroalfarera stage, that is, similar to that of the Ciboney-Cayo Redondo, but with evidence of a limited use of ceramic vessels , almost always small and simple, say, with very few decorations, if any.


The “burén” never appears in this trousseau: ceramic cake used by the aboriginal agro-potters to roast the cassava bread made from cassava and which, for archaeologists, is an indirect indication of the well-developed agriculture of this tuber. Other characteristic evidences of this Proto-agricultural stage, especially in its early and middle stages, is the abundance of small carved stone tools: knives, scrapers, burins, etc., which specialists call “microlithic” as a whole.


In 1964 a site was located: the rock shelter of Arroyo del Palo, very close to Mayarí, Holguín province, where a. typical furniture from the Ciboney-Cayo Redondo which, as we know, corresponds to the late phase of the Pregroalfarera stage, but with a very abundant presence of remains of ceramic vessels, sometimes highly decorated but only by means of simple incisions; Ceramic very different from that seen in the Agroalfarera stage of Cuba. Despite the fact that we collected many fragments of ceramic vessels at this site, not a single burén fragment appeared. The same happened in other places in the province of Holguín: Mejías and Santa Rosalía I. At that time we thought that these remains corresponded to a new aboriginal culture of Cuba: the one we call “Mayarí”. However, today we believe that, in reality,


Studies carried out in the 1970s by the archaeologist Ramón Dacal, from the University of Havana, in the Canímar and Playitas sites, near the Bay of Matanzas, as well as in Aguas Verdes, on the north coast of the province of Guantánamo, they give us what appear to be the earliest manifestations of the Proto-agricultural stage.


These aborigines seem to have inhabited the entire Island, showing a certain preference for sites close to the coast in their early phase, and also inland in the late phase. The duration of the Proto-agricultural stage of Cuba is little more than a millennium, from approximately 100 BC. n. and. up to 1000  n. and. ; As can be seen, it transcends in time and economic development to the classic late pre-agricultural pottery manifestations and the earliest agricultural pottery manifestations. The skulls of these men are not deformed.


Agroalfarera Stage (800-1500)


Aboriginal farming-pottery communities.

In this short stage, since it covers only seven hundred years, all those Cuban aboriginal communities whose subsistence economy was based mainly on agriculture of roots, tubers and grains are included; but among these crops, yucca predominated and, somewhat less, sweet potato. They also practiced gathering, fishing, and small game hunting. This stage corresponds to the most studied and best known aborigines of Cuba.


The agricultural systems practiced by the agro-potters of this Island, like those of the other Greater Antilles, were two: the slash, the most widespread among them, which was the oldest and least efficient, and the heaps, the newer and more efficient. Slash farming consisted of clearing certain areas of the forest, cutting down the trees, clearing the bushes and finishing the clearing of the land by means of fire. To fell the trees they used polished stone axes. Then they removed the soil thus obtained with a pointed stick (the coa) and there they planted their crops. After two or three years, due to depletion of the soils, they needed new land and had to repeat the operations already indicated in contiguous areas of virgin forest. They used this system since their arrival in Cuba, around the 8th century.


Mound farming, it seems, came into use around the 11th century. For this, a flat terrain was required, clear of natural vegetation. With the coas they removed the ground and raised small mounds of loose earth, that were two or three meters in diameter, forming rows, and separated from each other by a few meters. In these small mounds they planted yucca tubers or sweet potato vines. This cultivation system gave yields, per unit area, much higher than the slash system.


But despite the greater efficiency of the cultivation of piles, the aborigines continued to use the cultivation of slash, for example, on the slopes of the hills, because the heavy rains, in those conditions, washed away the sown fields of piles. Agroalfarera made extensive use of well-developed pottery, mainly in the form of pots, which they used to cook their food and conserve water, as well as burenes, which were used to toast the casabe bread they made from grated cassava.


Archaeologists have called these Indo-Cuban farmers and potters “subtaínos” and “tainos”, taking into account the greater or lesser degree of socioeconomic development achieved by these communities, as well as for certain characteristics that their grave goods present, mainly in the decorative features of the ceramics .


“… but among those crops the yucca predominates and the sweet potato somewhat less; they also practiced gathering, fishing and small game.”

Both the subtaínos and the taínos correspond to the great South American aboriginal family called “aruaca”. The chroniclers of the Indies, mainly Father Las Casas and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, have bequeathed us valuable information on these primitive Antillean communities; But these works deal almost exclusively with the Arucan groups, farmers and potters, who lived on the island of Hispaniola.The comments focus, naturally, on the situation in that area at the time of the discovery and in the early years of the conquest.


On the other hand, the archaeological works carried out from the last century, but especially those carried out in the last decades of this twentieth century, provide us with increasingly precise data on these primitive communities. Thus we know that the introduction of ceramics and agriculture in the Antilles took place at the beginning of our era, that is, a few days ago. years. Indigenous people of the Arúaco group, with a fairly high level of agricultural and ceramic development, left the Paria Peninsula (on the Northeast coast of Venezuela) at that time and began to emigrate to the Lesser Antilles, arriving in Puerto Rico around the year 150 n. and. , from where they gradually spread over the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, over a period of several centuries.


The arrival of the first subtaíno groups to Cuba dates back to a much greater antiquity than was believed until a few years ago. Radiocarbon dates (C-14) obtained in 1963 by archaeologists from the Cuban Academy of Sciences, in a residue of the Banes area, Holguín province, served as the basis for making estimates that allow us to indicate that the arrival of these aborigines to our country must have taken place by the 8th century .


In a process of many years, the aboriginal farmers and potters settled in the eastern and central part of Cuba, after their arrival from Hispaniola; especially they did so in the area of ​​the current province of Holguín, where they reached their maximum demographic development.


The material testimonies of the subtaine group, very abundant, have been collected by archaeologists in the provinces of Guantánamo, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba and Gramna; in various localities of Camagüey and Ciego de Ávila; and in some places in Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus and Villa Clara, and very few in Matanzas. These materials have been collected from waste dumps which, due to their magnitude, indicate that they were true settlements of settlements. On the other hand, in the provinces of Havana and Pinar del Río, only the remains of small towns or isolated evidence have been obtained so far. Only the odd isolated object corresponding to these Indo-Cuban groups has been found on the Isle of Youth. The study of the dwelling sites of these aboriginal agro-potters, made by archaeologists,


Although some villages were built along the coast, most appear inland, but not far from the sea. Their habitation in caves appears to have been sporadic, but these were mainly used to deposit their dead or as sites for certain religious ceremonies. The dwellings of the aboriginal agro-potters, according to the chroniclers, had a cylindrical body and a conical roof; the walls were made of reeds and the roofs covered with palm leaves; These houses were called “caneyes” by Indo-Cubans. They also made them rectangular in shape, very similar to the huts of our peasants; but this form was not very frequent. They also made sheds with sticks and roofs of palm leaves, which they used, among other things, to protect the canoes.


It can be appreciated, from the material testimonies found in the dwelling places of these aboriginal agro-potters, that their trousseau was very abundant and varied. In them, a large number of fragments of ceramic, stone, shell and bone artifacts are located. We know that they used wood to make various objects, among which canoes stand out; they were skilled basket makers and mastered textile techniques; about these the Spaniards tell us about the making of hammocks that they made with cotton threads, in addition to other utilitarian things. As we have said, ceramic evidence is very abundant, predominantly the remains of vessels of various sizes and shapes, some highly decorated, which they used to cook their food and store water. In most cases,


These techniques do not include the use of paints. Other very frequent ceramic artifacts are burenes, which consist of fired clay discs, with a diameter that varies between thirty and sixty centimeters and with a thickness of one and a half to four centimeters. The upper surface of the disc was polished, on which the grated cassava dough was deposited, from which the casabe cake came out after baking.


The stone instruments are numerous and varied. Among them we will highlight the polished stone axes, called “petaloid axes”. As we have already said, this instrument was essential for the preparation of their fields, but it could also be used for war. Some, very well finished, must have been used for ceremonial purposes. These achieve a high degree of aesthetic value.


Percussion hammers or stone hammers are abundant. Most of these instruments consist of very hard stones or pebbles, used in their natural state; although there are some that have geometric shapes: cubic, discoidal and rectangular. They were used to beat or grind.


Both mortars and stone pestles appear occasionally; the latter can be flared or cylindrical in shape, and of various sizes. Very beautiful charms or ornaments also appear in the agro-pottery trousseau, in not very abundant form. Among them, the so-called “stone idols” stand out, in the form of anthropomorphic or anthropozoomorphic entities, that is, with human and animal features. It is almost always a human figure in a squatting position, with the arms at the sides and the hands on the belly.


The male genitalia are very conspicuous. These idolillos have a transverse hole, at shoulder height, which must have served to suspend them. The stone material used is; as a general rule, quartzite and jadeite, although some facts have been found from the shells of large marine mollusks or animal bones, such as the manatee.


Examining the evidence of food waste in the agro-pottery waste sites, we only found remains of food of animal origin, which vary according to many factors, such as the proximity or not to the coast of the habitation site, the abundance or scarcity of a certain species faunica, etcetera. But, in general, we find bones of jutía, manatee, birds, fish, turtles and other reptiles, as well as shells of mollusks, both terrestrial and marine; also shells of crabs and other crustaceans.


Indirect evidence of plant feeding is provided by the abundant presence, almost always, of fragments of ceramic burenes, which for archaeologists is indicative of cassava agriculture.


Although the human bone material collected in the agro-pottery sites, both subtaíno and taíno, cannot be considered as very abundant, our physical anthropologists consider that all their skulls appear with artificial frontoccipital deformation, of the type classified as oblique tabular. This cultural practice of cranial deformation only appears in Cuba associated with the aborigines of the Agroalfarera stage. The other Cuban Amerindians have normal skulls, that is, not deformed. [3]


Religious creeds

Before the conquest and colonization of Cuba, the aboriginal population did not have a degree of development similar to that of other pre-Columbian cultures, such as the Mayas, the Aztecs or the Incas. The indigenous people of Cuba did not build large temples or cities. The most advanced, the Taínos, built communities called bateyes, with houses that they called bohíos, caneyes and barbecues. They were engaged in agriculture and fishing, and were potters. They had their own rudimentary religious creeds, but they are difficult to know because no traceable traces remain.


One of the most curious manifestations was indigenous mythology itself, particularly the Taíno, which was far from the complex manifestations of Mesoamerican cultures. The Taino mythology was largely based on the Sun, the Moon, the origin of the female and the flood. Some beliefs suggested that the Sun, the Moon and man had arisen from caves or grottos, perhaps because most of their ancestors did not create settlements, and they had their safe refuge from the elements in the caves. Their religious creeds were elemental and consisted of a combination of animism , Cemiism, shamanism or Behiquism; ancestor worship and totemism or totemic residues. [4]



It was the belief, according to which inanimate objects possessed earthly or extraterrestrial life or were endowed with certain magical powers.



It was a slightly more complex belief, according to which the cemí constituted a supernatural, mysterious and enigmatic power, a true deity, who controlled the destinies of humans and nature in its most diverse manifestations. Specialists consider that aboriginal mythology was made up of more than 30 characters, of them about 15 gods or deities, and more than 20 demigods.


According to some specialists, the deities included Atabex, mother goddess of the supreme being and goddess of fertility; Boynay, god of rain; Maidabó, god of drought; Taiguabó, the spirit of water; Baibrama or Mabuya, evil god and one of the voices to define evil; and other demigods, like Opía, a kind of spirit that served as an intermediary with some gods.


Shamanism or behiquism

It was the belief in the magical powers of the behques, that is, the sorcerers or priests. These were endowed with powers to converse with the dead and to divine the future. Supposedly, in different religious ceremonies, such as the cohobao cojoba, the behques maintained communication with the other world.


Cohoba consisted of absorbing tobacco dust through a Y-shaped tube, as well as other juices and herbal concoctions, after a fast that could last several days and even weeks. The chief practiced it first and then everyone present, seated in respectful silence. When everyone was intoxicated or ecstatic, the behíque responded to questions that were asked about the past, the present and the future, the ailments or diseases, the birth of children and other concerns. In addition to their magical powers, the behques combined these powers with those of healers or doctors, who fasted alongside their patients and took the same herbal or purgative concoctions. If patients died, they had to somehow endure the fury of the relatives of the deceased.


Ancestor worship

It came from the belief that the dead, after acquiring this special state, returned to the world as spirits, and not only made an appearance, but helped or cursed living relatives. Each family group had its own and they represented them in idols with human figures, magical symbols, amulets and other consecrated objects.


Although the pre-Columbian or pre-Hispanic Cuban settlers did not build actual temples, they practiced festive and religious ceremonies which they called areítos.


These were the quintessential festivals of the Tainos. Agglomerated in the batey or center of the town, they danced and sang to the sound of drums for long hours, under the direction of a master of ceremony called tequina, who marked both the pace and the beat, and dictated the theme that the choir repeated. In these religious ceremonies the genealogies of the different caciques and their most famous works were recited, the memories of the good and bad times of the past, and other topics of interest for the transmission of knowledge orally from the older generation to the older generations. young boys. The chroniclers of the conquest have pointed out that the aborigines were good dancers. They sang in unison and while hundreds of participants danced and narrated stories the rest kept the rhythm of the dance and the songs, and very few were wrong. These creeds and cultural manifestations, preferably Taíno, were assimilated by the Siboneys, a previous aboriginal community, although less developed.


Totemism or totemic residues

It was the manifestation of a belief system, according to which there was a kind of supernatural kinship between an individual – or even part or all of an aboriginal tribe – and a totem. These totems, in general, were figures of various species of animals, and in the minority of cases some plants and mineral objects, which were considered as protective emblems of the individual or the tribe, and sometimes as their ancestor or progenitor. It is claimed that, in certain cases, there were totem poles of a special type for chiefs and behques; some specific to each of the sexes and others common to all members of a tribe.


Also interesting are the expressions of aboriginal ceremonies and their funeral customs, considered sacred. Indigenous funerals, naturally, differed greatly from the later forms introduced by conquest and colonization. Even those of the Siboney and Arauaco cultures (Taínos and Subtaínos), differed among themselves. The best known —for the findings and evidence— are the Taino burials. In most cases, they buried the deceased in a kind of cemeteries outside the villages. The corpses, in general, were placed face down or with their legs drawn up, and in the surroundings were placed some objects that were useful in the afterlife, especially due to the already mentioned belief that the deceased returned in the form of spirits to protect families.


The exotic diseases brought by the conquerors and the rough slave labor caused that in less than half a century the autochthonous population of Cuba was almost extinct, estimated at some 300 thousand inhabitants, and of them – according to it has been estimated – only about 4 remain. thousand. [5]


The founding of the Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana was carried out in the territories of the former aboriginal chief Habaguanex. Although there are not many remains of these aboriginal communities, evidence of indigenous existence has been found in different areas of the territory of what is currently the city of Havana. There have been finds in the surroundings of the Santa Ana river; in the vicinity of Santa Fe beach; on the west coast of the city, where some valuable objects have been found, such as the “dujes” or ceremonial seats of behíques and caciques. The latter are exhibited in the Montané Museum, one of the institutions of the city of Havana related to aboriginal cultures. Other areas where discoveries have been made have been Colinas de Villarreal, northeast of Havana Bay; those of Rincón de Guanabo, about 28 kilometers northeast of the city; and in Jibacoa, an even more distant place, some 50 kilometers east of the city and on the limits of the Havana province.

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