Irving Rouse

Irving Rouse

Archaeologist and botanist. He adapted the taxonomic methodology for classifying plants to the task of cataloging the collections of archaeological artifacts from Caribbean sites, thus developing one of the most important methodological advances in historical-cultural archaeology. His contributions to the discipline also included the development of theoretical-methodological approaches to studying migrations and cultural phylogeny that were applied not only to the Caribbean, but also to other regions, such as the northeastern and southeastern United States, Venezuela and Asia. Rouse conducted important archaeological research in the Caribbean region.

He did his first field work in the Caribbean in 1935, when he was invited by Froelich Rainey to help with excavations being done in the Antilles, particularly in the area of Ft. Liberté in Haiti, by Yale University’s Caribbean archaeology program, directed at that time by Cornelius Osgood. He based his doctoral thesis, titled Contributions to the Prehistory of the Ft. Liberté Region of Haiti (Yale, 1938) on that experience.

Between 1936 and 1938, Rouse did important work in Puerto Rico as part of the Scientific Survey of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Following the lead of local amateur archaeologists such as Montalvo Guenard and Robert Junham, as well as researchers such as Adolfo de Hostos y Ayala, Rouse chose 44 sites on the island for archaeological excavations, with the goal of developing a sequence of the indigenous cultures that settled on Puerto Rico.

Based on the materials obtained through his excavations in Puerto Rico, in combination with other research he did in Cuba, Haiti, the Lesser Antilles and Venezuela, Rouse developed a reconstruction of the pre-Columbian historical stratigraphy in the Caribbean. Initially, his research led him to propose that the marked differences observed in the pottery of the Antilles were representative of two different cultural traditions that were the product of two migrations to the islands: one from South America and another from the southeastern United States. Later, however, he modified his position and proposed that instead of two migrations of two pottery-making groups to the Caribbean, as postulated by Froelich Rainey, there was one migration of pottery-making people from northeastern South America. Under this model, the Saladoid groups eliminated, displaced or acculturated the Archaic groups that they encountered. According to Rouse, what is known as the Taino culture evolved from that culture.

The archaeologist served for decades as a professor in the Anthropology Department at YaleUniversity and was curator of anthropology for the Peabody Museum at the college. His research has been widely published. His most-cited works are Migrations in Prehistory (1986) and The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People who Greeted Columbus (1992).

Irving Rouse was born in Rochester, New York, on August 29, 1913 and died on February 4, 2006.

Author: Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
Published: May 01, 2012.

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