Continuity and change in the evolution of religion and political organization on pre-Columbian Puerto Rico

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Trajectories of cultural evolution are diverse, depending on unique blends of social, economic, and ideological factors. Assessing case-specific historical circumstances is crucial when identifying underlying processes of change. In this paper, I detail a model of cultural evolution based on the historical circumstances of the island cultures in the pre-Columbian Caribbean. We see continuity in key elements of cosmology and structural organization within a framework of evolving social complexity, leadership roles, and inequality. In the case of Puerto Rico, cosmology and ideology were intertwined over approximately 2000. years, spanning tribal to chiefdom sociopolitical formations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-326
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Anthropological Archaeology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2010



  • Ancestors
  • Chiefs
  • Cognized landscape
  • Pre-Columbian Caribbean
  • Religion
  • Shamanism
  • Sociopolitical evolution
  • Symbolism

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