Invaders nearly wiped out Caribbean’s first people long before Spanish came, DNA reveals
New genetic data from ancient bones suggests a wave of South American seafarers wreaked havoc on Caribbean islanders.
Spanning a million square miles and dotted with more than 700 islands, the Caribbean Sea was one of the last places colonized by Native Americans as they explored and settled North and South America. Archaeologists have long struggled to pinpoint the origins and movements of those intrepid seafarers. Now, thanks to genetic material gleaned from the bones of ancient Caribbean residents, the invisible history of this tropical archipelago is coming to light.
Among the surprising findings is that most of the Caribbean’s original inhabitants may have been wiped out by South American newcomers a thousand years before the Spanish invasion that began in 1492. Moreover, indigenous populations of islands like Puerto Rico and Hispaniola were likely far smaller at the time