Archaeologists discover slaves were wealthy and astute business men

Caribbean archaeologists say recent discoveries have forced them to rethink traditional views about the region's history.

They have just held their biennial conference in Jamaica, where the role of archaeology in understanding the Caribbean history came up for discussion.

The archaeologists say their findings are sometimes in direct contrast to what has been written by the "planter class", especially as it relates to the period of slavery.

Roderick Ebanks, who chaired the Jamaica conference, is one of the archaeologists doing research into the Caribbean's past.

He explained that they have come across the villages of enslaved workers and what they found is very different from what was written by contemporary planters.

At an excavated African workers village in Seville on the North coast of Jamaica there were keys and large padlocks in the buildings indicating there was a lot of material wealth.

As he pointed out the wealth is not surprising when you remember that the slaves create the internal marketing system. Many slaves were wealthy during slavery. Their wealth came not from handouts from planters but from their work in the grounds, their trading and their farms in the hills.

From oral tradition it was known that there was a close relationship between Africans and native Arawaks who were called Taino. Now DNA evidence is showing that the maroons carry a lot of genes of the Taino people. The African male slaves who escaped took Taino wives and those were the people who became the maroon population.

*Source: http//www.cbc.bb (Friday, July 27, 2007)

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Mr Ebanks told Neil Nunes of the BBC about some of their findings.

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