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stepping stones of maritime history


The region, coastlines, and the salina of Malmok has been used since the beginning of the habitation period on Aruba. The habitation period of Aruba began circa 1500 BC when the first indigenous people migrated from Latin America to Aruba during the Archaic period (1500 BC – 900/1000 AD) [1] [2]. The indigenous individuals survived on the island by consuming marine and terrestrial foods, namely shellfish, fish, sea turtles and their eggs, herbs, seeds, snails, and small game. These individuals led semi-nomadic lifestyles in small groups up to 15 people, and preferred to stay relatively close to the coast or inner water ways [1] [2] [3]. The coastlines situated on the leeward side of the island were preferred as this side had calmer and shallower waters which were more easily accessible by the inhabitants [2]. The region of Malmok was exploited for a long time by indigenous individuals who lived on Aruba during the Archaic period (1500 BC – 900/1000 AD) and the Ceramic period (900/1000 AD – 1515 AD).

Malmok was used for different activities, namely (temporary) settlements, catchment areas for the exploitation of marine resources where shell middens were left behind, and as a cemetery [4] [5].

In 1989, an excavation was carried out at a pre-Colombian cemetery in Malmok, North Aruba. Malmok is known as the latest pre-Ceramic site on the ABC islands and dates to ad 300–900, at a time when there were already Ceramic Age populations on these islands as well. There the remains of forty individuals were exhumed and examined; the report was published in 1990 by the Aruban archaeological museum.


The Malmok cemetery spanned circa 200 meters long and circa 50 meters wide spanning parallel to the salina, and contained different clusters of skeletal remains. A pile of shells were located north of the cemetery [4] [5].


The cemetery at Malmok was first discovered in 1942 when one skeleton was discovered during sand extraction activities at Malmok. Another 2 skeletons were discovered at Malmok in 1968 followed by an excavation of 16 individuals by E. H. J. Boerstra in 1972 [6]. A survey was conducted in 1988, where it was determined that multiple intact skeletons were still present at Malmok. It was therefore concluded to conduct another excavation for this reason, in addition to the fact that construction work would begin in the vicinity of Malmok in 1990, bones of indigenous individuals are scarce on Aruba and should be excavated and investigated when the chance arises, and publications on skeletal remains were also scarce on skeletal remains from Aruba. The cemetery was partially excavated again in 1989, where a total of 40 individuals were lifted from Malmok. Not all the skeleton remains were excavated, and Malmok cemetery still contains in situ skeletal remains hidden under the soil and vegetation [4] [5].

[1]. Dijkhoff, R. A. C. F., Linville, M. S. (2004). Aruba, “Island of shells”. In R. A. C. F. Dijkhoff and M. Linville (Eds), The Archaeology of Aruba: The marine shell heritage (pp. 1-8). The Archaeological Museum of Aruba.
[2]. Kelly, H. Hofman, C. L. (2019). The Archaic Age of Aruba: New evidence on the first migrations to the island. In C. L. Hofman and A. T. Antczak (Eds), Early settlers of the insular Caribbean. Dearchaizing the Archaic (pp. 147-162). Sidestone Press.
[3]. Boerstra, E. H. J. (1982). De Precolombiaanse Bewoners van Aruba, Curacou en Bonaire. De Walburg Pers.
[4]. Versteeg, A. H., Tacoma, J., van de Velde, P. (1990). Archaeological investigations on Aruba: The Malmok cemetery. Intern Rapport Archaeological Museum Aruba.
[5]. Versteeg, A. H., Tacoma, J., van de Velde, P. (1991). Investigacionnan Arqueologico di Malmok e Santana di Indiannan. Publication of the Archaeological Museum Aruba nr. 2. 
[6]. Boerstra, E. H. J. (1973). Skeletten van oude Indianen op Aruba. Sticusa Journal 3 (1), 8-10.


  • A. H. Versteeg, J. Tacoma, P. van de Velde (1990).
    Archaeological Investigations on Aruba: The Malmok Cemetery.
    Archaeological Museum Aruba.

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