Aruba Past and Present: From the Time of the Indians until Today

By Johan Hartog; J. A. Verleun | Go to book overview

FIRST CHAPTER
ARUBA'S PREHISTORY: THE PERIOD OF THE INDIANS

ARUBA WAS DISCOVERED ABOUT 1500, WHEN IT WAS STILL IN A stone age. Not a single written historical source about Aruba's discovery is extant today. From excavations it is known that our island was inhabited before that date. In order to form a picture of how conditions were on Aruba before 1500 recourse must be had to the results of excavations here and elsewhere. It is the period of Aruba's prehistory.

Not even a rough guess can be made as to the exact time when the first human beings set foot ashore here. Considering its poverty in natural resource the island is likely to have been no more than a halting-place for a succession of tribes and clans. This must have been so both before the discovery and after: the Indians came and went. The opposite coast was close. Perhaps the Indian population of Curaçao and Bonaire was smaller than that of Aruba, but the former islands presumably possessed more aboriginal inhabitants. The principal cause of this difference will be the closer proximity of Aruba to Paraguaná. An examination of the artefacts excavated on Aruba and in Venezuela justifies the conclusion that at time of the discovery and conquest Aruba was inhabited by a clan of the Arowak tribe of the Caiquetíos. This tribe lived in what are at present the Venezuelan states of Lara and Falcín. It might be supposed that there was among the clans of this Indian tribe one named Curacaos, in which case the word Curaçao would not be the name of an island, but of an Indian tribe. This conclusion could be arrived at on the strength of documents about Curaçao preserved at Sevilla, to which we will return presently. Whether or not this clan also inhabited Aruba, however, is anything but certain. There are sufficient indications making the supposition plausible that at the time of the discovery Aruba was inhabited by a clan of Indians different from those living on Curaçao and Bonaire. Of any intercommunication among the settlers on these islands nothing whatever is known. Even until the introduction of a steamship- service, about half a century ago, traffic from Aruba to Curaçao was extremely difficult. It seems more obvious to look for a link between Aruba and its natural hinterland, ethnologically as well as in other

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