A History of Jamaica from Its Discovery by Christopher Columbus to the Year 1872: Including an Account of Its Trade and Agriculture; Sketches of the Manners, Habits, and Customs of All Classes of Its Inhabitants; and a Narrative of the Progress of Religion and Education in the Island

By W. J. Gardner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III

THE ABORIGINAL INHABITANTS

THE West Indian Islands were at the time of their discovery occupied by two distinct races of Indians. The most warlike of these, called Caribbs, were not found in Jamaica. They mostly inhabited what are now known as the Windward Islands. The Bahama Islands, Cuba, Hayti, Porto Rico, and Jamaica, were occupied by a far more gentle race: indeed, the smaller islands were once inhabited by the same people, but an incursion of the warlike Caribbs from South America destroyed the more effeminate tribes; and probably it was only the distance and extent of the larger islands that preserved them from the same fate.

Any inquiry into the origin of the race which formerly lived in Jamaica would not be attended with satisfactory results, and would, moreover, occupy considerable space. Leaving this question, an attempt will be made to describe them as fully as the imperfect records handed down will permit.

Their complexion was of a tawny or copper hue, but they were painted with a variety of colours. They were destitute of beards, but their hair was long and straight; they were of medium height and gracefully proportioned, but that they were so very beautiful as some assert is fairly open to question. No doubt a few of the women were so, but such cases must surely have been exceptional. As a rule their faces were broad, and the nose flat and wide. But the habit of preternaturally compressing the forehead in infancy gave an unnatural elevation to the hinder part of the head, and must have imparted a most unpleasant aspect to the countenance. The only advantage that appears to have resulted from this practice, was the hardening of the skull to such a degree as not only to enable it to resist the blow of their wooden swords, but, it is said by Herrara, to blunt and even break Spanish blades.

Their clothing was scanty in the extreme, but they were exceedingly fond of paint and feathers. When Columbus first saw the multitude who crowded the shore on his

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A History of Jamaica from Its Discovery by Christopher Columbus to the Year 1872: Including an Account of Its Trade and Agriculture; Sketches of the Manners, Habits, and Customs of All Classes of Its Inhabitants; and a Narrative of the Progress of Religion and Education in the Island
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