Luis Chanlatte

Luis Chanlatte

Dominican anthropologist and archaeologist. Through his archaeological studies at La Hueca on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, Chanlatte Baik identified a new indigenous American culture prior to the Igneri that he called the Huecoid. He also proposed the theory that the Taino culture resulted from the social evolution of the Huecoid, and not the Igneri as had been theorized up to that point.

He completed his university studies at the Institute of Anthropological Research at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo in 1945. He later continued his studies under the tutelage of famed professor of anthropology Dr. René Herrera Fritot at the University of Havana and Emil de Boyre Moya, founder of the Institute of Anthropological Research and chair of archaeology at the University of Santo Domingo. He later conducted archaeological work along with distinguished Venezuelan archaeologist José M. Cruxent of the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Research, with whom he directed a well-known archaeological project on the island of Jamaica and conducted important research into pre-Columbian peoples in Venezuela.

He later served as Technical Advisor to the National Museum of the Dominican Republic and the country’s Institute of Anthropological Research. Among his research into the indigenous people of what is now the Dominican Republic is his documentation of the oldest archaeological site discovered on the island to date: Barrera Mordan, which dates to 2500 B.C. He also worked on excavations of the coastal settlement of La Caleta, where an indigenous cemetery was identified, a finding that led to the construction on the site of the Museum Pantheon, which attracts both tourists and scholars.

His greatest contribution has been in the study of indigenous cultures of Puerto Rico. In 1965, he joined the Archaeological Center for Investigation of the University of Puerto Rico, then directed by Dr. Ricardo Alegría. After taking the reins of the institution in 1968, he began archaeological excavations at various important sites on the island, such as Monserrate in Luquillo, Las Cuevas in Trujillo Alto, Hacienda Grande in Loíza, Punta Ostiones in Cabo Rojo, Tecla in Guayanilla and Caguana in Utuado.

In 1977, he began excavations in La Hueca area of Vieques, where he discovered vestiges of a culture never before documented on the island or on the other Caribbean islands. He called it the Huecoid culture. This finding led to a complete redefinition of archaeological understanding of the pre-Spanish cultural sequence of Puerto Rico and the rest of the Antilles, by proposing that this culture represented another migration of farming and pottery making groups prior to the Ingeri, whose origins were traced not to the Orinoco, but to the Andes region in the northwestern part of South America.

He also proposed a new ethno-genetic model for the Taino culture that was considerably different from previous theories. He proposed that the original societies on the islands were not eliminated by the migratory waves of Agroceramic groups, but rather, through interaction with those immigrants, those archaic societies evolved and transformed themselves into the various ways of life that have been included under the “Taino” umbrella.

These contributions have been presented in lectures both locally and internationally, in more than a dozen books and museum exhibition catalogs, as well as in various articles in scientific journals, such as the recent publication of his work Agricultural Societies in the Caribbean: The Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, which was included in the book General History of the Caribbean, published by UNESCO.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: April 12, 2012.

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