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Researchers of Sapienza University bring to light rare Pre-Columbian settlement
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Researchers of Sapienza University bring to light rare Pre-Columbian settlement

Categories: Archaeology and Heritage

new discoveries in the Dominican Republic.

Delegation from the Museo del Hombre Dominicano visiting the El Pozito site (Las Galeras
Delegation from the Museo del Hombre Dominicano visiting the El Pozito site (Las Galeras

An archaic settlement referable to a community of pre-agricultural tradition was recently discovered in El Pozito (Las Galeras) in the Samana peninsula (north-east of the Dominican Republic) by researchers from the Mission of the SARAS Department of Sapienza University, supported by MAECI.

The inhabited can be dated between 4000 and 500 a.C. and it is a sensational discovery, given the lack of archaeological information on the first population of the islands of Central America. The only data referable to the island of Hispaniola date back to about fifty years ago and refer to sporadic research not addressed in a scientific way and not published in a systematic way. In addition, the subsequent population characterized by the intense spread of groups dedicated to agriculture has almost always erased the traces of the oldest population especially in the major islands, while the only traces of ancient settlements have emerged in the archipelago of the lesser Antilles.

This important discovery comes about a year after the publication in the prestigious journal Nature of an article on the genomics of pre-Columbian populations in the Caribbean. The article clearly indicated the pattern of the population of Taino agriculturalist groups, but left unresolved the origin of the archaic pre-Germanic populations, whether from the northern part of South America or from Meso America.

Of great interest is the production of artifacts on shell made on large gastropods of which shapes and preforms arefound at different stages of processing. The pre-agricultural occupation of the Caribbean islands, in fact, is characterized by groups with seasonal mobility that based their subsistence on the hunting of small animals, fishing and above all the collection of large and small marine and terrestrial molluscs. A large portion of a workshop processing raw materials such as large marine gastropods emerged alongside an incredible amount of terrestrial molluscs, exploited both for food use and for the production of tools. The most characteristic tool that also allows us to limit the site to the archaic phases is the maripooid axe, or butterfly-shaped, distinctive of the late pre-agricultural groups.

The most significant discovery refers to the identification of a ritual well in which 12 pestles (majadores) of very fine workmanship were laid. On the surfaces of some of these instruments are visible traces of wear and numerous perfectly preserved residues.

In particular, the presence of plant tissues identified at low magnification and numerous starches suggests the use of majadores as pestles to chop and grind tubers before their deposition. It seems that this is a sort of ritual offering referable to the cultic sphere of these groups, but also connected to subsistence practices.

The value of this discovery is measured on the basis of our knowledge, almost non-existent, on the practices of daily life, on those connected to the subsistence economy and on the ritual sphere of the archaic groups that inhabited the Caribbean before the advent of the main cultures dedicated to agriculture. The start of a new season of research in this new site with archaic characters finally projects us on the trail of the first communities that colonized the islands of Central America.

The mission is directed in the field by Dr. Francesco Genchi, with the collaboration of researchers from the Departments of Odontostomatological and Maxillofacial Sciences and Environmental Biology (Prof. Emanuela Cristiani and Prof. Alfredo Coppa) and in collaboration with researchers from the Museum of Dominican Hombre in Santo Domingo.


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