for National Geographic News
Bodies, structures, and rock art thought to belong to an indigenous pre-Columbian culture have been unearthed at an ancient settlement in Puerto Rico, officials recently announced.
Archaeologists say the complex—which dates from A.D. 600 to 1500—could be the most significant of its kind in the Caribbean.
"This is a very well preserved site," said Aida Belén Rivera-Ruiz, director of Puerto Rico's State Office of Historic Preservation.
"The site seems to show two occupations: a pre-Taino and a Taino settlement."
The Taino are thought to be a subgroup of the Arawak Indians who migrated to the Caribbean from Mexico or South America hundreds of years ago, experts say.
(Related news: "Jade Axes Proof of Vast Ancient Caribbean Network, Experts Say" [June 12, 2006].)
They were among the first tribes to encounter Europeans.
The ancient Taino settlement was discovered in southern Puerto Rico (see map).
Archaeologists have known since 1985 that the area contained indigenous artifacts.
But the scope of the site became clear only recently, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on a new dam meant to protect the region from flooding.
Perhaps the most significant find is a large plaza covering an area of about 130 by 160 feet (40 by 50 meters).
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