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Indigenous adornment in the circum-Caribbean: The production, use, and exchange of bodily ornaments through the lenses of the microscope

  • Defense - Catarina Guzzo Falci
Date
Thursday 26 March 2020
Time
Address
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden
Room
Senate Chamber

Research Abstract

Adorning one’s body was a widespread practice in the pre-colonial Caribbean, notably during the Ceramic Age (400 BC–ca. AD 1500). Despite the abundance of beads, pendants, and other portable items recovered from the region and the scientific interest they have raised, much remains unknown concerning how people made use of them. This dissertation aims to elucidate evolving patterns in the production, use, and exchange of ornaments through technological and microscopic analysis of wear traces. 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, types, and preservation state. A critical evaluation of the potential of decontextualized or legacy collections for new studies is carried out. Furthermore, an ethnographic museum collection, including whole necklaces, is studied as basis for interpretation. In the second part, Caribbean collections from two time periods marked by increase in ornament production and circulation are analysed: 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 differential presence of certain technical products and of use-wear are combined to provide insights on exchange patterns. This approach contributes toward a new assessment of previous ideas concerning 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.

Stone beads and pendants from the sites of El Flaco, El Cabo and Playa Grande (Dominican Republic) (figure: Catarina Guzzo Falci)
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