700AD is said the be the year a group of Tiano people called the Lucayan migrated from Cuba and Hispaniola to the Bahamas, becoming the first inhabitants of the archipelago. The Lucayans inhabited the Bahamas for eight hundred years or more, their population reached around forty thousand at its height. Archeological evidence showed that most of the population inhabited the largest islands in the archipelago, but they also inhabited the smaller islands. Evidence also shows the Lucayans inhabited the Turks & Caicos Islands. The Lucayans are described as a Western Tiano group. The Western Tiano inhabited Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Though they were closely related to other Tiano groups, the Lucayans did have cultural differences that helped to distinguish them from other groups of Tiano. They spoke a Tiano language that was distinct to their culture. I do not know the name of the language, but as they developed as a culture, their language developed as well. They were known to live in chiefdoms that consisted of many families living in thatched huts made of plant and animal materials. The Lucayan word for the hut is Caney.
Christopher Columbus and his men described the Lucayans as very beautiful people. They considered the Lucayan women as some of the most beautiful women in the world. Many of the European men left their homes to be with the Lucayan women. The Lucayan men were regarded as very tall, dark, and handsome. Their skin was bronze-colored and their hair was straight and black and usually cut short. Both the men and women wore customary body paint, tattoos, and traditional scarification. The women wore cotton skirts, while the men wore cotton lion cloths. They decorated themselves with gold and other precious metals and stones as nose rings, earrings, bracelets, and more. They were said to have practiced head flattening to elongate their skulls. Hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming are how they sustained themselves. Their crops usually consisted of cassava, agave, tobacco, cotton, sweet potatoes, peanuts, beans, papayas, guava, pineapples, and more. Lucayans were also very skilled craftsmen. They created pottery that is classified as Palmetto Ware, Abaco Redware, and Crooked Island Ware. They also carved canoes to travel between the islands to engage in trade with the other islanders. Weapons, tools, bowls, and other everyday items were also expertly carved by the Lucayans.
1492, is the year Christopher Columbus and his men arrived in the Bahamas. In less than thirty years, the Lucayan population was either completely or almost wiped out by the Europeans. As a child growing up in the State of Florida, in the 80s and 90s, I was taught that Columbus discovered America. I always asked, how could he discover something people already inhabited? I also always wondered who the original inhabitants of the Caribbean islands were. Now I know, and you know as well, that the Tiano and other groups of indigenous people lived on the islands close to a thousand years before dusty ole Columbus got lost. To the Lucayans of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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