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Archaeological reconstruction of a vibrant past
For centuries man from the mainland and adjacent islands visited the archipelago Los Roques attracted by natural resources specially Botuto (Strombus Gigas or King conch) the fish from the reefs, lobsters, turtles, marine birds, wood from mangrove, salt and guano. The great distance from the coast, the aridness of its soils and the lack of fresh water did not prevent man form arriving in these islands in search of resources that did not exist or were scarce in the continent. However the economic resources were only part of the attraction of these islands. The archipelago was also food for the world of ideas and the spiritual life of visitors.
Today the many natural settings of the archipelago attract a limited amount of tourists, national and international. The visitor finds great pleasure in the whiteness of the sand, the blue waters of the sea and its spectacular sunsets. But, is modern man the only one destined to value and enjoys the scenic charm and other ethereal properties of Los Roques? Certainly not. This visitor finds himself at the end of a long chain of human beings who have visited these islands and have given them a wide range of meanings that go beyond the search of food and raw materials. From far away times some locations in the archipelago remained in the minds of visitors as favorite places for fishing, fine ports, reference points for navigators, ideal beaches for swimming or places where accidents or unusual things happened. Other meanings of the island landscape could have been deeply symbolic, related to mythical beings that could have lived here or passed through the islands in their adventures of immemorial times.The general aspect of these ocean islands has not changed much in over one thousand years. However, just like the images of a kaleidoscope, the archipelago Los Roques has been part of “different worlds“. We can imagine how different these islands were perceived by the Amerindian navigator who carried out ceremonies with dance and music; the conqueror who raised a flag on the beaches, the pirate who looked for temporary hiding place for his ship and treasure or the fisherman from nearby Margarita who found here “the promised land“.
The following sections summarize results of many archaeological studies, field work and long term historical studies done in these islands. This vision of the past produced by science can be used by a sensitive visitor as a parting point to build his/her own vision of the past of these islands. See also map of Los Roques.
The first humans to set foot in Los Roques left their tracks in the beaches possibly 2000 to 3000 years ago, according to findings discovered on the keys such as the great mounts of Botuto shells blackened over time and attributed to the activity of ancient man.
These men did not know of agriculture nor pottery. Possibly they were hunters and gatherers who came from the mainland and the islands west of Los Roques Curacao or Aruba. Apparently they came here for the catching of Botuto, however little is known about them, their social organization, spiritual life or fishing practices.
How did they cross the open sea 160 kilometers from the mainland?
At the beginning of the the second millennium of the Christian era the first bearers of pottery arrived in the islands. These were farmers and and fishermen who came from the bays of the Venezuelan coast, from Boca Tacagua and Ocumare de la Costa towards the west. These navigators known archaeologically as Ocumaroids brought with them pottery painted with painted parallel lines and triangles in red and white besides a great number of pots and other non decorated pottery.
These peoples chose as their settlement the small key of Dos Mosquises Norte located at the south western end of the archipelago. This is the only Ocumaroid settlement known in the Venezuelan territory. They would come to this settlement for relatively short periods of time. They would transport drinking water, pots vegetables beans and personal jewelry. They also brought small statues made of clay representing men and women. When they went back to the mainland they would carry dried Botuto or salted meat, turtles and fish as well as Botuto Conch.
Around the year 1300 of our time another group known as the Valenciaoids arrived in their canoes in Los Roques.
These peoples made a pretty big settlement in the south of Dos Mosquises. One of the most outstanding features of these people who came from settlements around Lake Valencia were the many elaborated small human ceramic statues. Thousands of these small statues have been found in and around Lake Valencia in the central part of Venezuela, and quite a few in the National park of Los Roques. >>
See also map of Los Roques.