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Tracing interactions in the indigenous Caribbean through a biographical approach: Microwear and material culture across the historical divide (AD 1200-1600)

donderdag 18 april 2019
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


Much attention has been paid to the exchange of objects, ideas, and people in the Caribbean. Networks of interaction connected local communities across pan-regional scales, shaping indigenous socio-political integrations and their responses in colonial situations. This work examines the poorly understood cultural trajectories and reinterpretations of celts and paraphernalia exchanged in the late pre-colonial and early colonial Dominican Republic and the Windward Islands.

Reconstructing the biographies of these artefacts traces their ‘object life’ sequences from start to finish. The dissertation principally applies microscopic wear trace analysis supported by experimental archaeology to examine the manufacturing technology and use of the studied objects. Integrated with contextual analysis and provenance data, the reconstructed biographies form a window into cross-cultural patterns of artefact production, function, and circulation. These are interpreted following a relational perspective adopted from Amerindian ontologies.

The exchange of ground stone celts is shown to be closely interrelated with regional network structures. Though only specific communities specialised in production activities, requisite technical knowledge was widely shared. Once acquired, even exotic rocks and tool types were polished, hafted, and used in conventional ways. Conversely, the cultural and social values of most carved shell and bone paraphernalia are foremost expressed in local technological traditions and the preservation of inherited practices. These findings produce a better understanding of indigenous material culture and its relation to social interactions in the pre- and early colonial Caribbean.


  • Prof.dr. C.L. Hofman
  • Prof.dr. A.L. Van Gijn


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