Columbus’ cannibal claims on Caribbean may be true

Washington: Scientists have found new evidence supporting Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ accounts of the Caribbean that include harrowing descriptions of fierce raiders who abducted women and cannibalised men. Using the equivalent of facial recognition technology, the researchers from Florida Museum of Natural History in the US analysed the skulls of early Caribbean inhabitants, uncovering relationships between groups and upending longstanding hypotheses about how the islands were first colonised.

One surprising finding was that the Caribs, marauders from South America and rumoured cannibals, invaded Jamaica, Hispaniola and the Bahamas, researchers said. The findings overturns half a century of assumptions that they never made it farther north than Guadeloupe, an island group in the southern Caribbean Sea.

“I’ve spent years trying to prove Columbus wrong when he was right: There were Caribs in the northern Caribbean when he arrived,” said William Keegan, Florida Museum of Natural History curator of Caribbean archaeology. Columbus had recounted how peaceful Arawaks in modern-day Bahamas were terrorised by pillagers he mistakenly described as “Caniba,” the Asiatic subjects of the Grand Khan, the researchers said.

His Spanish successors corrected the name to “Caribe” a few decades later, but the similar-sounding names led most archaeologists to chalk up the references to a mix-up.They wondered how Caribs could have been in the Bahamas when their closest outpost was nearly 1,000 miles to the south, according to the researchers. However, skulls reveal the Carib presence in the Caribbean was far more prominent than previously thought, giving credence to Columbus’ claims, they said.

—PTI

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