Archeological Investigations in British Guiana

Archeological Investigations in British Guiana

Archeological Investigations in British Guiana

Archeological Investigations in British Guiana

Excerpt

BACKGROUND OF THE BRITISH GUIANA ARCHEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Contributions to the archeology of British Guiana can be traced sporadically for nearly a hundred years. The pioneer was W. H. Brett, whose interest in the local shell middens was aroused during his residence as a missionary in the Pomeroon District in the latter half of the 19th century. During approximately the same period, E. F. Im Thurn devoted considerable time to the investigation and reporting of ethnography and archeology in the colony. Since the bulk of our own monograph deals with pottery, it is somewhat surprising to note Im Thurn's comment that "up to February in the present year (1884), in the course of much digging and collecting of the stone and other implements of the old inhabitants of Guiana, I had met with surprisingly few pieces of pottery; nor had I even heard rumors of any large deposits of such objects" (1884, p. 123). As is typical in the development of scientific archeology, the attention of most travelers was attracted principally to petroglyphs. Unfortunately, they are among the most difficult type of archeological remains to place in a chronological or cultural framework and therefore of little use in the reconstruction of local prehistory.

During the 20th century, a number of coastal sites were visited by A. Hyatt Verrill, Walter E. Roth, J. E. L. Carter, Vincent Roth, and Cornelius Osgood. These people laid the basis for a generalized picture of coastal archeology, leading to the formulation of various theories about the racial, tribal, and linguistic affiliations and origins of the people who left the sites. The data accumulated up to 1945 and the hypotheses they inspired have been admirably summarized by Osgood (1946, pp. 21-42), and the reader who wishes more details on the history of archeology in British Guiana will find them in his report.

As long as intensive archeological work remained largely restricted to the Andean portion of South America, there was little reason to . . .

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