I.A.C.A. History

This short history of the I.A.C.A. has been prepared by Desmond Nicholson and Peter Harris.

The first Congress of the I.A.C.A. was held in Martinique in July 1961. The meeting was called by the Reverend Father Robert Pinchon, who had, during the previous fifteen years, excavated several Amerindian sites in Martinique. It was his wish, in the advancement of science, to compare his finds with those from other territories of the Caribbean.

The meeting assembled at Fort St. Louis, Fort-de-France. Father Pinchon and the President of the Historical Society, Jacques Petitjean Roget, exhibited their collections in the Fort and others from overseas were invited to do likewise. Amongst these were Edgar Clerc from Guadeloupe, Father Jesse from St. Lucia, Neville Connell from Barbados and Tom Cambridge from Tobago, while D.C. Geijskes brought material from Surinam. Other participants at the meeting were Prof. Irving Rouse, Dr. William Haag, J.A. Bullbrook, Jean Delumeau, Drs. Ripley and Adelaide Bullen, Leonard Devaux, Ronald Taylor, R.P Barbotin, Dr. Ricardo. Alegría, Dr. Fred Olsen and Charles Hoffman.

A report on the first Congress may be found in the “Nieuwe West Indische Gids” (New West Indian Guide), 41st Volume, No. 3, written by D. Geijskes. It includes the following amusing passage (translated from the Dutch), “All this work had definite results and couldn’t be eliminated by a lot of champagne at the end of the Congress”! The Proceedings of the Congress were published in two volumes, in 1963 and 1964.

The second Congress was organised by Rip and Adelaide Bullen in Barbados in 1967. They also saw that the Congress proceedings were published. It is due to the Bullens’ efforts and enthusiam that the Congress remained a reality. Officers were appointed at the second meeting and a trilingual biennial congress was formalised, to be hosted in voluntary rotation by the Historical Societies and Governments of different Caribbean countries. Papers are present in English, Spanish and French.

Founders of the Association to whom special recognition should be given are:

  • Ben Rouse of Yale University, who established a preliminary chronology for the Amerindian Caribbean in the 1930’s, which he and many Caribbean researchers continue and expand.
  • Reverend Father Pinchon of Martinique, who emphasised in the 1950’s the essential link between Amazonian ethnography and Caribbean archaeology.
  • Jacques Petitjean Roget of Martinique, who brought Caribbean ethnohistory and archaeology up to contemporary international standards of theory and method with his work in the 1960’s.
  • Ripley and Adelaide Bullen of the University of Florida, Gainesville, who rapidly added test-pit data from a number of islands in the 1960’s, and personally undertook publication of early congress proceedings.
  • Ricardo Alegría of Puerto Rico and his Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, who have given all Caribbean peoples pride in their Amerindian cultural heritage.

The original name of the association was the International Congress for the Study of Pre-Columbian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles. A name change took effect after a decision at the business meeting of the 10th Congress at Martinique in 1983. The reasons for the change were that the name was too long, it did not incorporate the South American Mainland and that it was unable to include historical archaeology.

The Association is now known as the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. It was incorporated in the 1990’s as a Caribbean body with a head office in Martinique. Since 1961, nearly every Caribbeanist, whether professional, amateur or student, Caribbean or international, has belonged or still belongs to the Association.