Barbados is the most Easterly of the Caribbean islands, 100 miles East of St. Vincent and 150 miles North of Trinidad and Tobago. Having two distinctive names "Little England" and "Gem of the Caribbean". Barbados is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. These 167.5 square miles, boast of hills covered in lush green but is otherwise flat.
GEOGRAPHY & HISTORY:
The settlement of Barbados by the English Colonist and Africans taken from slave ships in mid-Alantic occurred in the 1627. However, settlements by Arawak peoples moving North from Orinoco and Guyana regions had occurred some 2000 years before, the exact date of their arrival is unknown. However,what is known is that four distinct Culture groups inhabited the island at varying times. First to arrive were a pre-ceramic people, a true Stone Age people, who had not yet discovered the secret of firing clay to make pottery.
Archaeological excavations on the west side of the island, north of Speightstown have revealed traces of their presence. They made tools from the large conch (stombus gigas) and many examples of this have been found at Heywoods, St. Peter Some time around 100 AD a second culture arrived from South America and occupied the island, they were characterised by a highly developed ceramic assemblage which included finely made wares.
Several hundred years later a third group appeared whose ceramic patterns differed. This group is known as the Troumassoid culture.
Around 1300 AD, the fourth culture group, Suazoids entered the island. Their occupation lasted until the early part of the 16th Century, when they either abandoned the island or were removed by Spanish slave-raiding expeditions. The Suazoid ceramic tradition was cruder than that of the preceding groups with a preponderance of thick, unlipped, undecorated wares, many of which are footed griddle forms used to prepare cassava bread. An interesting feature of their potting tradition, however, is the inclusion of lugs or handles to bowls, frequently shaped in animal and human forms. These are called adornos. More than any of the preceding culture groups, the Suazoids tended to use shell tools made from large conchs.
Barbados is a coral island and possesses no hard volcanic material used elsewhere in the Caribbean to make tools. The early people living in Barbados had two choices - either, to bring in volcanic material from other islands, or secondly, to use the material at hand. For convenience, not durability, they chose the latter alternative, though one occasionally finds a basalt hatchet or petaloid celt transported from neighbouring islands.
The social and economic lifestyle of the Amerindians of Barbados did not vary noticeably during their 2000 - 3000 year occupation of the island. They left no written records, coming closest to this is the petroglyph carved in Springhead Cave, St. James. Reconstruction of their lifestyle has had to depend heavily on the archaeological record, supplemented by ethnographic data from the Guianas, Venezuela and Brazil. Thus far, an incomplete picture has emerged. Excavations have been too few in number to make accurate generalisations and the nature of the evidence relating to material culture is skewed in favour of the inorganic materials which survive in great numbers: for example, one thinks about the large quantity of Amerindian ceramic shards scattered across the face of Barbados. We know from comparative ethnographic evidence that much Amerindian material culture derived from the use of organic materials such as wood, cotton, leaves, gourds, lianas, feathers and other highly perishable materials which have simply not survived the harsh tropical elements, negative soil conditions and the passage of time.
Despite these negative factors, we still know enough about the Amerindians to offer the following broad picture. They had many settlements on the island. Known ones amount to 50, located mostly on the coast with a few inland. The consensus is that at a peak there may have been as many as 150 settlements on the island. The size of the population is believed to have fluctuated between 1000 to a high of 8000 individuals. The three areas which is said to have had large settlement is in the Bridgetown area stretching back to Batts Rock, Heywoods in the North and Chancery Lane in the South.
For food resources, both the sea and land were used. The Amerindian fishermen were adept at using lines and nets as well as spears, practicing both in-shore or reef fishing and deep-sea fishing. Fish traps, were built by using leaves and vines with poisonous properties to stun fish. They caught fish of all sizes and species, ranging from sharks to flying fish. The Amerindians had a fondness for shellfish, especially conchs, whelks, crabs, lobsters, and turtles as well as many species of land and sea birds. Their garden plots showed that they planted cassava, beans, peppers and an assortment of squashes. Cotton was cultivated for the making of clothing, nets, carrying sacks, rope and fishing lines. Roucou was for making of red dyes and body paint.
Their political and social organisation was loose, centered around the extended family and the leader or cacique. Some families may have been accorded higher status than others, but it would not seem as if a true elite existed. Higher status was usually derived from a combination of economic military and religious consideration. Ownership of an ocean-going canoe, with its related knowledge of sea currents and the geography of the islands was important, as were valour, and leadership qualities.
A good relationship with a shaman or the possession of shamanic qualities was also very important, since Amerindians had a profound understanding of the harmony and inter-relationships of the natural world with the supernatural. They had polytheistic, animalistic beliefs and the shaman knew the correct rituals which opened lines of communication between the natural and the supernatural world. Their world vision was based on the concept of a balance of forces and energy in which their society existed and it was essential that harmony among these forces be maintained in order to guarantee continuity.
Excavation of their graves provides us with some clues about the nature of their belief in the afterlife. Grave goods were often interred with the dead. These included the three-pointed stones or zemis which facilitated movement to the spirit world. Dogs were sometimes sacrificed to accompany their owners to the spirit world, and since the idea of the ancestor was integral to the family unit of the Amerindian, bones were at times disinterred, hung in the long house for a period and then reburied, a practice which gave rise to the charge to cannibalism, although it is entirely possible that the Amerindians practiced ritual cannibalism.
The Arawak occupation of Barbados seem to have come to an end sometime before 1520. This may be related to 1512 Cedula issued by Ferdinand of Spain authourising Spanish subjects in the Greater Antilles to raid islands in the Lesser Antilles including Barbados and to capture and enslave inhabitants found there.
Thus far, there is no evidence that the people known as Caribs (though they referred to themselves as Kalinago) ever permanently occupied Barbados, though they often visited it, paddling their canoes from the neighbouring islands of St. Vincent and St. Lucia. These visits continued into the 17th Century after English settlement, for contemporary observers saw and recorded some of these visits. The Carib name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim, which has been translated as redstone island with teeth outside (reefs).
Barbados was finally settled by the English in 1627. It has the distinction of never changing hands since then and has been British for over 300 years until independence on November 30, 1966. Barbados' parliament is the third oldest in the world. Barbados has a population of 288,000 60 % of whom live in the urban areas and the remainder in quaint little villages scattered throughout the island. The Capital of Barbados is Bridgetown, a sight to behold with attractive buildings like the House of Parliament, more familiarly known as the Parliament Buildings, the Careenage and the famous / infamous statue of Lord Nelson in Heroes Square.