Applying the legend of the ""stranger king"" to Caonabo, the mythologized Taino chief of the Hispaniola settlement Columbus invaded in 1492, Keegan examines how myths come to resonate as history - created by the chaotic interactions of the individuals who lived the events of the past as well as those who write and read about them. The ""stranger king"" story told in many cultures is that of a foreigner who comes from across the water, marries the king's daughter, and deposes the king. In this story, Caonabo, the most important Taino chief at the time of European conquest, claimed to be imbued with Taino divinity, while Columbus, determined to establish a settlement called La Navidad, described himself as the ""Christbearer."" Keegan's ambitious historical analysis - knitting evidence from Spanish colonial documents together with data gathered from the archaeological record - provides a new perspective on the encounters between the two men as they vied for control of the settlement, a survey of the early interactions of the Tainos and Spanish people, and a complex view of the interpretive role played by historians and archaeologists. Presenting a new theoretical framework based on chaos and complexity theories, this book argues for a more comprehensive philosophy of archaeology in which oral myths, primary source texts, and archaeological studies can work together to reconstruct a particularly rich view of the past.
William F. Keegan is curator of Caribbean archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and professor of anthropology and Latin American studies at the University of Florida. He has authored or edited four books, including The People Who Discovered Columbus: The Prehistory of the Bahamas (UPF).