Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Mobility and exchange

Dynamics of material, social and ideological relationships in the pre-Columbian insular Caribbean

Corinne Hofman
  • Dr. A. van As (Leiden University, Institute of Pottery Technology, Faculty of Archaeology)
  • Prof. dr. S.B. Kroonenberg (Delft University of Technology, Department of applied earth sciences)
  • Dr. G.R. Davies (Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of earth and life sciences)
  • Dr. P. de Knijff (Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC), Forensic laboratory)
  • Dr. J. van der Plicht (University of Groningen, Centre for isotope research)
  • Dr. T. van Kolfschoten (Leiden University, Science section, Faculty of Archaeology)

To what extent are the different aspects of material, social and ideological relations involved in the mobility of the insular inhabitants and the pan-Caribbean exchange and interaction networks in which they participated? Where are the sources of raw materials located and how are material items and exotics distributed amongst the islands? What was de general health and mortuary practices of a specific burial population? How is cosmology involved in exchange relations amongst the pre-Columbian Caribbean inhabitants?

Short Abstract

This research constitutes an integrated multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary study of mobility and exchange. It considers the interactions and feedback loops of the dynamic relationship among the material, social and ideological dimensions of insular Caribbean culture during the Ceramic Age of the pre-Columbian period (400 B.C. – A.D. 1492).

Project description

The Lesser Antilles, including also Trinidad and the Virgin Islands, represent the research core region. This area is considered ideal for a research of this kind because of its geographical constitution as a chain of islands between the landmasses of the South American mainland and the Greater Antilles.

The programme may be considered new and innovative as it involves the application and combination of archaeological and archaeometrical methodologies that offer the prospect of significant synergy. These methods, never employed in the region on this scale and in this combination, require the inter-institutional, multi-technique character of the present programme. To enhance the profile and multi-disciplinary character of this programme the applicant suggests to include a number of international aspects in this research proposal.

Petrographic analysis and isotopic provenance studies of raw materials and exotics as well as the study of the distribution patterns of these materials can be used to gain insight into the exchange of goods among insular societies. Ancient DNA and radiogenic isotopic analysis, palaeopathology and the study of mortuary ritual are proposed to be applied to human skeletal remains from the Antilles to target issues such as mobility, marital and residence rules and descent among the island groups. Ethnohistoric accounts from the islands and ethnographic information from the South American mainland are put forward to be used to support the archaeological data to provide an integrated view of the interaction networks evinced by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the insular Caribbean in the light of their spiritual or cosmological experience.

PhD research

Dynamics of Material, Social and Ideological Relations in the Pre-Columbian Insular Carribean

PhD research on the identification of the provenance areas of pre-Columbian exchange items from the Caribbean within the Vidi-project 'Mobility and exchange. Dynamics of material, social and ideological relations in the pre-Columbian insular Caribbean' (funded by NWO). This research focuses on a technological study on the provenance areas of pre-Columbian Caribbean lithic, clay and temper raw materials. It entails the establishment of a database of lithics, raw clay and pottery samples from the different islands along the Lesser Antillean chain.

The study is aimed at complementing the currently available data in the form of a database, to contribute towards filling the void regarding the provenance of the exotic materials in the Caribbean area and to reconstruct contact networks on the basis of the occurrence of lithic and clay source materials and temper constituents. Furthermore, it aims at broadening our views regarding the socio-cultural parameters and choices, which may have influenced the establishment of regional interaction.

Drs. Daan Izendoorn
e-mail: a.j.d.izendoorn@arch.leidenuniv.nl
Planned promotion: april 2008

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