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Archaeologist says find shows Caribbean settled centuries earlier

August 12, 1997

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) _ Clay utensils and bone tools unearthed while a new port was being built show people may have settled in the Caribbean islands centuries earlier than previously thought, a British archeologist says.

The condition of the bones of a woman in her mid-20s also may yield clues about why these first settlers, known as Amerindians, died off so quickly after they were exposed to diseases borne by European explorers, Peter Drewitt of the University of London’s Institute of Archaeology said in a weekend interview.

Drewitt described the find as one of the most significant ever unearthed in the eastern Caribbean.

``Caribbean textbooks will have to be rewritten because the finds indicate that Barbados was first settled as early as 2000 B.C., as opposed to the traditional 400 A.D. to 200 B.C. given by scholars,″ said Drewitt.

Radio carbon-dating, carried out in the United Kingdom, put some of the artifacts at 1980 B.C., said Alessandra Cummins, director of the Barbados National Museum, which is working with Drewitt’s team.

The site was uncovered three years ago during construction of a port on the west coast of Barbados, the easternmost of the Caribbean islands.

Signs of tooth loss and the thinness of the jaw bone in the female skeleton, discovered last week, suggest malnutrition, Drewitt said.

``If this is correct, it helps explain how the Amerindians could have been so easily wiped out by the new European diseases which arrived. The population may have already been weakened and therefore very susceptible.″

Drewitt and his students went back to London this week but plan to return to Barbados next year to continue searching for information that could rewrite prehistory.

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