José Cruxent

José Cruxent

Archaeologist, paleontologist and ethnographer from Catalan. His work includes more than 200 titles and he is recognized as one of the most important figures in Venezuelan anthropology. Cruxent proposed the existence of two independent centers of cultural development in South America, through which he linked the inhabitants of the Antilles to the cultures in the Orinoco basin, Guyana and the Amazon.

He was born in Sarriá, Catalan, Spain on January 16, 1911. He studied archaeology under the direction renowned historian Pedro Bosch Gimpera, although he was mostly self-taught. During the Spanish Civil War, he fought alongside the Republican troops. He was exiled to France and moved to Venezuela in 1938, where he settled for good.

He was a professor and museum director. He founded the Anthropology Department at the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Research and participated in the creation of the School of Sociology and Anthropology at the Central University of Venezuela. From 1948 to 1962, he was director of the Caracas Museum of Science.

He did his archaeological, ethnographic and paleontological research in various parts of the country. Among his most notable research were studies related to the early presence of humans in South America. In his work, he examined indigenous and colonial pottery and cave drawings. He excavated and studied the colonial site of New Cadiz on the island of Cubagua, and along with K. Deagan, he excavated La Isabela in the Dominican Republic, the first Spanish settlement in the Americas.

Among his many works, the one that had the greatest impact in the Caribbean was Arqueología cronológica de Venezuela (1961), written in collaboration with U.S. archaeologist Irving Rouse. It was based on descriptions and comparisons of the non-pottery-making complexes and the pottery-making styles of Venezuela. He also created a timeline by using a wide range of chronological studies, including radiocarbon dating. As a result, the ancient indigenous presence in Venezuela, including a pre-pottery-making stage not previously known, was established.

Also as a result of this study, he proposed the existence of two independent centers of cultural development. The first, in the east in the Orinoco basin, was related to Guyana, the Amazon and the Antilles and was based on the cultivation of cassava. The second was located in the Lake Maracaibo area and related to Central America and the Andes. This western development appeared to be earlier and was concentrated in the lowlands. The influences of this culture, including raising corn and complex ceremonies and funerals, spread throughout the western side. This thesis contradicted Steward’s ideas about the Andean origin of the cultures of the Orinoco and Amazon, shifting the focus to an analysis of the interactions between the two groups in the zones between them.

Cruxent implemented changes in the names used by Rouse to refer to the pottery-making cultures of the Antilles that allowed the creation of an integrated view that emphasized the links between the islands and Venezuela. This served as the basis for later outlines by Rouse that were used to explain the processes of migration to the islands.

He was known for his particular views on the relationship between humans and the landscape and environment, which he developed through numerous scientific expeditions, including trips to the sources of the Orinoco and Guasare Rivers.

He died in Coro, Venezuela, on February 24, 2005.

Author: Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
Published: April 12, 2012.

Related Entries

This post is also available in: Español


The Puerto Rico Endowment for the Humanities welcomes the constructive comments that the readers of the Encyclopedia of Puerto Rico want to make us. Of course, these comments are entirely the responsibility of their respective authors.