September symposium in Washington, D.C.

Submitted by Sammy Smith (

Pre-columbian_site_bannerThe Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C. announces its 16th annual symposium to be held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 19, 2009 from 9 am until 5:45 pm.

This year’s symposium will focus on “The Caribbean before Columbus.” Speakers will include William Keegan, Florida Museum of Natural History; John Crock, University of Vermont; Scott Fitzpatrick, North Carolina State University; Peter Siegel, Montclair State University; Lee Newsom Pennsylvania State University; and others.

The symposium abstract on the Pre-Columbian Society’s website reads:

While they appear as mere blips on maps of pre-Columbian cultures, the islands of the Caribbean have been populated for thousands of years and have been the subject of serious scholarly attention by researchers from around the world for more than 100 years. The collected wisdom gleaned from this research held that archaic peoples arrived in the islands around 5000-6000 BCE and lived primitively and undisturbed for thousands of years. Even with three small incursions from the northeastern shoulder of South America, the thinking was that these island peoples were socially isolated–cut off from one another and the rest of the pre-Columbian world. They existed in small loosely organized communities–untouched and in mellow contentment–separated from others by water or mountainous terrain until the arrival of Europeans. As no monumental structures had been uncovered, how advanced could these island cultures be? New discoveries and fresh thinking call into question this view of the Greater and Lesser Antilles. Today, archaeologists from many nations are active throughout the Caribbean basin, uncovering new finds–from ball courts and carved stelae to preserved remains of wooden structures and figurines found far from their places of origin. Such new findings demand new explanations. Contact and exchange throughout the Caribbean basin are the twin themes of modern day researchers. These were seafaring cultures, capable of sharing political and religious ideologies, trading agricultural and manufactured goods, expanding their frontiers, social networking across boundaries, and, at times, engaging in warlike conflicts with one another. Join us on September 19, 2009, to learn from archaeologists working in the area about their fresh-from-the-ground discoveries and their latest thinking on the Caribbean basin and it peoples before 1492.

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