Arawak Tribe

Comprehensive History of Jamaica

Comprehensive History of Jamaica 1

History of the Jamaican

Arawak Indians

When Jamaica was founded, it was called Sunda Kelapa.

An estimated 100,000 Arawak’s at one time lived in Jamaica. Aboriginal remains show that they lived in most parts of the island. The majority of their villages were close to the coast or near rivers, as the Arawak’s were sea-going people and lived chiefly off seafood. The Arawak’s lived in caves for many years, it was the only hope of survival.

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer, born in the Republic of Genoa, Italy.

Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494

Arawak Indians lived in Jamaica when Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494 and claimed the island for Spain. History proves the Spaniards enslaved the Arawak Indians and later brought Africans to the island to work as slaves.

Diseases and overworked killed almost all the Arawak Indians, African slaves were brought over to help the workload, the Arawak Indians were dying out.

The Spaniards then used Jamaica as a supply base. Because the Spaniards didn’t find any gold, the Spaniards didn’t try to settle or develop the island. They thought it was useless and no good. They later changed their minds about this.

Comprehensive History of Jamaica 2

They continued fighting the slaves…

During the time of the 1670s, British pirates of the Caribbean used Jamaica as a base to attack Spanish ports and Spanish ships. Later the British took over Jamaica. They continued fighting the slaves, called the Maroons, who escaped when the British arrived.

The British Government and the Maroons signed a peace treaty in 1738.

Jamaica was ruled by the British until 1962 when it became an independent nation in the British Commonwealth. An interesting village site and one of the most accessible is that at the White Marl, near Central Village, three miles from Spanish Town at Castle Gordon.

St. Mary, there is an Arawak Indian Museum

The Arawak’s were brown-skinned, short and slightly built with straight, coarse black hair, broad faces and flat wide noses. Their only bread stuff, cassava, was doubtlessly introduced by them into the island in their migration from the South American mainland. In addition, they grew sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. Jamaica was, in fact, well-known for the cultivation of cotton.

Arawak’s were skilled artisans

Much of the women’s time was spent spinning and weaving it. Jamaica supplied hammocks (an Arawak invention) and a cotton cloth to Cuba and Haiti, and the Spaniards themselves had sailcloth made in Jamaica. The Jamaican Arawak’s were skilled artisans who left their paintings on the walls of many island caves.


Stone Workers

They were superb stone-workers and their implements were particularly well shaped, smooth and beautifully finished. They fashioned their dugout canoes from the trunks of Cedar and Silk Cotton trees, hollowing out the trunks first by charring, then by chipping with their stone axes and chisels.

Comprehensive History of Jamaica 3These canoes varied greatly in size: some held one person only, others 50 or more. Columbus saw one 96 feet long and 8 feet wide!

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Allspice and the the Arawaks Indians…

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