This monograph summarizes what is presently known of Cuban prehistory. There are five chapters, each of which deals with an archaeological culture period. The culture sequence follows Rouse (1942) with whom the authors are in essential agreement. Starting with the earliest, the periods are: Ciboney-Guayabo Blanco Aspect, Ciboney-Cayo Redondo Aspect, Mayari, Sub-Taino, and Taino. The significant innovation is the Mayari period, which is based on the recent research of Tabio and Guarch (1966) at the Arroyo del Palo Site in Oriente Province. This new culture, dated between 800 and 1100 A.D., represents the earliest ceramic period known for Cuba.
The authorship of each chapter is divided, with the section on archaeology written by Tabio and on that paleoethnography by Rey. Tabio’s material is presented under various headings, including Patrón de Asentamiento (settlement patterns), which involves a listing of ceremonial sites, cemeteries, and habitations. Under Ajuar is a discussion of ceramics, stone, shell, bone, and whatever else is pertinent. Specialists will probably find the account of previous investigations and excavations, the distributional data, and the bibliography the most useful. The site and artifact descriptions, as well as the illustrations, however, are too brief to give anything other than a general idea of each culture period.
Rey’s contribution is an effort to see the archaeological material in terms of its implications for a way of life and for its relationship to dialectical materialism. The paleoethnography sections are oriented, therefore, in terms of productive forces, technology, economic activity, and the relationship of all of these to social organization. The interpretations are basically sound at the level of primary inferences based on the kinds and quality of artifacts, nature of the food supply, and the distribution of sites, but the application of dialectical deductions seems to give little further insight. We are told, for example, that the Ciboney were organized into gens, and that property and the means of production were collectively owned. Also, it is noted that the Mayari cannot conceivably have had any type of social organization other than communal, for their economic level did not require anything more complicated. The interest in the evolutionary continuum pervades these sections, and such terms as “more evolved” and “superior grade of development” are liberally scattered throughout. Some clues to the bias of the manuscript are seen in the bibliography. Of about 180 items listed, 130 are archaeological, 6 are historical sources, and about 35 are Marxian. Only 14 items are directly concerned with Cuban archaeology since 1955.
Those concerned with the present status of archaeology in Cuba will welcome this monograph. It is not only an excellent guide to previous research, but is also an indicator of some current thinking on history and prehistory in modern Cuba.