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  1. David Corbin
  1. Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Bridgetown, Barbados; E-mail: doccpec{at}


Barbados lies in the eastern Caribbean. It is a small coral-capped island (430 km2) that was bypassed by Christopher Columbus during his four voyages between 1492 and 1502. It is thought that later Portuguese explorers, noticing the many trees on the island with long pendulous aerial roots, vaguely resembling bearded men, gave the island its name – barbado is Portuguese for bearded.


There is strong archeological evidence that for more than 1000 years prior to Columbus, Amerindians known as Arawaks populated the island. These early settlers were expert fisherman and farmers who had sailed from mainland South America where relics of their ancestors have been found in the Orinoco basin. For unknown reasons, the Arawaks appear to have left the island during the 16th century so that when English mariners arrived in 1625, they found the island uninhabited. During the latter half of the 17th century, early

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