The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana

The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana

The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana

The Barama River Caribs of British Guiana

Excerpt

The original scope of the present study was to gather and interpret data on the social organization and the physical anthropology of the Barama River Caribs of British Guiana. The late Dr. Walter E. Roth, whose death in March, 1933, ended a long and distinguished career as an ethnological investigator both in Australia and in British Guiana, had devoted a period of more than thirty years to a study of the Guiana Indians. Dr. Roth's interests lay most strongly within the fields of material culture. It was felt that his compendious publications (see bibliography) on these aspects of Guiana Indian life left little to be done in that field with the time which could be devoted to the present research. Dr. Roth combined an exhaustive sifting of the literature with the results of his own extensive inquiries carried on in various parts of the colony. He also made valuable contributions to our knowledge of the religion and folklore of the various tribes of the Guianas.

Since the sixteenth century a series of explorers, missionaries, and occasional scientists have published interesting data on the Indians of the Guianas and associated tribes. The problem of the Harvard expedition therefore was twofold: first, to select a tribe which had hitherto been neglected; second, to choose those aspects of primitive life which, on the basis of an examination of the earlier literature, had received scant attention in the past. It was apparent that two tribes which had been most neglected were the Waiwais living at the head of the Essequibo River, and the Caribs of the Barama River in the Northwest District. For financial reasons the latter were chosen.

Only two small anthropometric series had hitherto been collected in the colony. Also it became apparent that there was in existence no sociological analysis of a primitive culture in this area. Physical anthropology and sociology were consequently chosen as the logical fields for research. It was not considered advisable, however, to limit activities strictly to these two fields, to shut them off arbitrarily from other aspects of the native life. It will be seen in the following pages, therefore, that an attempt has been made to present the whole culture, but that detailed description and . . .

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