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Indigenous adornment in the circum-Caribbean

The production, use, and exchange of bodily ornaments through the lenses of the microscope

C. Guzzo Falci
26 March 2020
The publication in Open Access

Adorning one’s body was a widespread practice in the precolonial Caribbean, notably during the Ceramic Age (400 BC–ca. AD 1500). Despite the abundance of ornament collections recovered from the region, much remains unknown concerning their biographies.

This dissertation aims to elucidate evolving patterns in ornament production, use, and exchange through technological and microwear analyses. It is composed of four articles published in peer-reviewed journals. The first half proposes a research strategy for studying circum-Caribbean collections, which are markedly diverse in their origins, raw materials, and preservation state. Furthermore, an ethnographic museum collection, including whole necklaces, is studied as basis for interpretation.

In the second part, collections from two time periods are studied: 1) the early part of the Early Ceramic Age in the eastern Caribbean; and 2) the Late Ceramic Age in the Greater Antilles. In each case-study, the presence of technical products and use-wear are combined to elucidate exchange patterns. This approach contributes toward a new assessment of large-scale interactions and the social mechanisms responsible for them.

The dissertation concludes by reflecting on the changing ways people have handled, engaged with, and ultimately regarded ornaments over the course of the Ceramic Age period.

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