Slavery of Indigenous People in the Caribbean: An Archaeological Perspective


European enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the Americas began in the Caribbean, quickly spreading to the rest of the continent and impacting the lives of millions. Despite its centrality to the creation of the colonial Caribbean, is still an understudied subject. This article summarizes the archaeological evidence on the topic and discusses the utility of the archaeological approach based on research conducted at the Cuban site of El Chorro de Maíta. The analyses of diet and paleodemography indicate substantial changes when compared to precolonial Indigenous populations. Indicators of ethnic diversity and geographic origin, as well as the mortuary patterns and distribution of material culture help to identify the presence of slaves.

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This research was funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC-NEXUS1492 grant agreement 319209. We acknowledge the Departamento Centro Oriental de Arqueología de Holguín, Museo El Chorro de Maíta and Comisión Nacional de Monumentos of Ministry of Cultures of Cuba for granting permission for our research. Thanks to Vernon James Knight, Jana Pesoutova, Alice Samson, Jason Yaremko, Karen Anderson-Córdova, Sabine Mary Juan and German Bobadilla Guzmán for assistance with translating Spanish text into English. We also acknowledge the use of information provided by Juan Guarch Rodríguez, Lino Valcárcel Rojas and Marlieke Ernst, and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Roberto Valcárcel Rojas.

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Valcárcel Rojas, R., Laffoon, J.E., Weston, D.A. et al. Slavery of Indigenous People in the Caribbean: An Archaeological Perspective. Int J Histor Archaeol (2019).

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  • Indian slavery
  • Caribbean archaeology
  • Spanish colonialism
  • Cuba