Universiteit Leiden

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Floris Keehnen

Researcher/Guest Steaff Member

F.W.M. Keehnen MA
+31 71 527 6506

Floris Keehnen is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Archaeology.

More information about Floris Keehnen


Values and valuables in the early colonial Caribbean. The role of material culture in encounters between Amerindians, Europeans and Africans, 1492-1800.

One of the iconic images associated with the encounter between the New and the Old World is that of indigenous Caribbean peoples bartering gold in exchange for beads and other small items with the Europeans. Despite dramatic differences in worldview, values and aesthetics, European trade wares were absorbed into indigenous networks within a couple of days after the first encounter. This research will critically reassess the role of material culture in the interactions and exchanges of Amerindians with Europeans and Africans in the early colonial Caribbean (1492-1800). The objective is to examine the Amerindian attitudes towards new types of material culture related to the differential impacts of early colonial encounters in the Caribbean. The main questions to be answered are what items were exchanged in cross-cultural interactions in what contexts, and how were these exotic objects valued by and integrated into indigenous society? This research will specifically focus on European trade objects in early colonial Amerindian settings in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, recovered from archaeological excavations. The approach taken will be a multidisciplinary, diachronic, and multiscalar comparative analysis of European material culture in indigenous communities, based on three phases of the encounter in three case-study areas (Dominican Republic, Cuba, Lesser Antilles) and comprises a study of European materials in post-contact (indigenous) sites and museum/private collections in the Caribbean and Europe. These data will be integrated with (ethno-)historical and ethnographical information. The nature and dynamics of the social and material relations between Amerindians, Europeans and Africans will be put into perspective by applying insights from colonial encounters, value systems and material culture theory. The research will contribute to the construction of a more nuanced view of the indigenous engagement with the new material culture after contact and, as such, contribute to current debates regarding material culture and cross-cultural interactions in colonial encounter situations.

Main research interests include: the pre-Columbian and historical archaeology of the Caribbean, colonial encounters, cross-cultural interactions, trade, exchange, social valuables, cosmovision, value systems, material culture theory, and ethnohistory.

Curriculum vitae

Floris Keehnen holds both a Bachelor's (2008) and Research Master's (2012) degree in Caribbean archaeology from Leiden University. He wrote his thesis Trinkets (f)or Treasure? about the exchange of goods between the Greater Antillean ‘Taíno’ Indians and the Spanish in the first decades after contact. In 2012, Floris was awarded the Volkskrant-IISH Thesis Award for the ‘best master thesis written at a Dutch university, in the field of national or international history’. In 2013, he was nominated for the Leiden University Thesis Prize. In September 2013, Floris started as a PhD student at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, where he became a member of the Caribbean Research Group. His PhD project, Values and valuables in the early colonial Caribbean (see below), is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) within their program ‘ PhDs in the Humanities’.

Researcher/Guest Steaff Member

  • Faculteit Archeologie
  • World Archaeology
  • Caribbean and Amazonia

Work address

Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room number A2.04




  • No relevant ancillary activities
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