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Q: What evidence has linked the Taino of the Caribbean to mainland New World peoples?
A: If you have ever paddled a canoe, napped in a hammock, savored a barbecue, smoked tobacco or tracked a hurricane across Cuba, you have paid tribute to the Ta?no, [ the Indians who invented those words long before they welcomed Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492. Their world, which had its origins among the Arawak tribes of the Orinoco Delta, gradually spread from Venezuela across the
Antilles in waves of voyaging and settlement begun around 400 B.C. Mingling with people already established in the Caribbean, they developed self-sufficient communities on the island of Hispaniola, in what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic; in Jamaica and eastern Cuba; in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. They cultivated yuca, sweet potatoes, maize, beans and other crops as their culture flourished, reaching its peak by the time of European contact. Read more: Some scholars estimate the Ta?no population may have reached more than three million on Hispaniola alone as the 15th century drew to a close, with smaller settlements elsewhere in the Caribbean. Whatever the number, the Ta?no towns described by Spanish chroniclers were densely settled, well organized and widely dispersed. The Indians were inventive people who learned to strain cyanide from life-giving yuca, developed pepper gas for warfare, devised an extensive pharmacopeia from nature, built oceangoing canoes large enough for more than 100 paddlers and played games with a ball made of rubber, which fascinated Europeans seeing the material for the first time. Although the Ta?no never developed a written language, they made exquisite pottery, wove intricate belts from dyed cotton and carved enigmatic images from wood, stone, shell and bone. The Ta?no impressed Columbus with their generosity, which may have contributed to their undoing. ?They will give all that they do possess for anything that is given to them, exchanging things even for bits of broken crockery,? he noted upon meeting them in the Bahamas in 1492. ]
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Asked 8/8/2013 6:20:03 PM
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