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Real, Recent, or Replica? Nexus 1492 at the 83rd annual meeting of the SAA

During the upcoming 83rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Washington DC the Nexus 1492 team will be well represented! Read the various abstracts that will be presented by our researchers below!

Cultural diversity and transculturation in the pre-Columbian indigenous universe in the North of Hispaniola.

Jorge Ulloa Hung (Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo)

The island of Hispaniola has been considered an initial place by the formation of creoles cultures in the Caribbean and the Americas. This consideration has been founded on the study of the socio-economic dynamics and cultural transformation generated by the European colonial irruption, specially the creation of first Spanish colonial settlement on the island. At the same time, generate an excessive dependency of archaeological data of ethnohistorical sources, and formalized a reductionist interpretation and a historical division in the study of the creolization process. This point of view has ignored essential aspects of cultural diversity, socio-cultural interactions, and the transculturation among indigenous communities since pre-Columbian times.

This presentation addresses, from archeological data and historical criticism, cultural plurality and transculturation among indigenous communities that inhabited northern Hispaniola prior to the European colonial invasion. It also evaluates its possible impacts on the emergence of a Creole culture in that region.

Reemagining Creole - The Deep History of Mixed Identities in the Windward islands, Lesser Antilles

Menno L. P. Hoogland (Leiden University)
John Angus Martin (Leiden University)
Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University)

The Lesser Antilles are known as an arena of to- and froing of peoples from different areas of the insular Caribbean and coastal mainland areas of south America during its entire pre-colonial history. Migration, and intensive networks of human mobility and exchange of goods and ideas have created diverse ethnic/cultural communities across these small islands. These, coupled with constantly shifting alliances among the various peoples have resulted in what can only be described as Creole communities. This paper will examine the ideal of Creole in terms of the mixed identities that emerged among the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles in pre-colonial times and we will look into the historiographical and emerging archaeological information we have on the formation of Kalinago and Garifuna identities during early colonial times.

Quantitative Paleodietary Reconstruction with Complex Foodwebs: An isotopic case study from the Caribbean

Jason E. Laffoon (Leiden University and Free University Amsterdam)
William J. Pestle (University of Miami)

Stable isotope analysis is one of the most effective tools for paleodietary reconstruction and has been widely applied to a vast array of archaeological contexts including the Caribbean region. This region, however, possesses a particularly complex isotopic ecology, including both a large number of isotopically variable food sources and a high degree of isotopic overlap between different food groups. As such, to date, most regional paleodietary studies have been limited to descriptive and qualitative conclusions concerning the relative contributions of different food sources. In this study we apply an iterative Bayesian multi-source mixing model (FRUITS) to human stable isotope data from the prehistoric population of Tutu, St. Thomas, USVI, to generate quantitative and probabilistic individual paleodietary reconstructions. The isotope dataset includes both bone collagen (δ13Cco and δ15Nco) and apatite (δ13Cap) data. The results of two different dietary models using four and five distinct food groupings, respectively, are compared and assessed relative to other relevant archaeological evidence concerning past diet at the site. We highlight the potentials and limitations of multi-source mixing models for regional paleodietary studies, and their relevance to ongoing debates within Caribbean archaeology concerning the relative importance of different food sources such as manioc, maize, and seafood.

Fingerprints of Communities: Decolonizing Archaeological Data Analysis through Networks

Lewis Borck (Leiden University)
Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University)
Manfred Schäfer (Konstanz University)
Angus A. A. Mol (VALUE Foundation/Prince Claus Fund)
Daniel Weidele (Konstanz University)

This paper uses the Nexus 1492 database, built over approximately 30 years of fieldwork, to examine ceramic attribute variability throughout the Antillian islands. Regional ceramic analyses often focus on the construction of ceramic typologies that are then used to compare typological proportions, differences, and similarities at various spatial resolutions across temporal periods. Long-standing critiques of the use of typologies and taxonomies (sensu Brew 1946; Gnecco and Langebaek 2014; Henry et al. 2017; Wylie 1992) focus on reifying power of their fixed nature. Essentially, typologies become the epistemologies within which we examine the archaeological record, and create the historical narrative. This can become an issue when we also acknowledge that we interpret the past through our modern framework. Thus, in order to more fully separate ourselves from the analysis of the archaeological record, or to decolonize the analysis of archaeological data (sensu Rizvi 2015), we use a networked approach to examine the distribution of ceramic attributes within and between the Antillean Islands. Our goal is to approach a more emic understanding of how communities of practice emerged and to help construct an indigenous social history prior to, and after the violent arrival of Europeans.

Archaeological heritage market and museums in the Dominican Republic

Arlene Alvarez (Leiden University and Museo Arqueológico Regional Altos de Chavón)
Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University)

The first Dominican heritage legislation indicates that there were private collecting practices of local archaeological materials already by the end of the 19th Century. Heritage museums formed archaeological collections with donations or purchases from private collectors who often depended on individuals that made a business out of locating sites with the desired pieces. The continued institutionalization of collections without context that gave rise to several museums has contributed to the perpetuation of an antiquities market that has negatively impacted the community’s connection to the country’s indigenous heritage and its perceived value and relevance.

Heritage legislation regarding the protection of pre-Columbian archaeological materials continues to be weak. Despite the bureaucratic control over international scientific research, there are no local regulatory mechanisms that register the sale of archaeological objects by street vendors, huaqueros, or between private collectors that continue, at a lesser but impactful rate, to expand their collections, prestige, and market value.

Examining lessons learnt, museums can work towards a more coordinated effort to minimize looting of archaeological sites. Through collaborations, museums can develop internal policies that discourage acquisitions of looted objects, and create best practices to provide contextual information, improving the way communities access collections on display.

Plain Ware and Polychrome: Quantifying Perceptual Differences in Ceramic Classification

Jan C. Athenstädt (Konstanz University)
Lewis Borck (Leiden University)
Leslie Aragon (University of Arizona)
Corinne L. Hofman (Leiden University)
Ulrik Brandes (Konstanz University)

In the course of the NEXUS 1492 project in the Caribbean, we became interested in potential differences in the perception of archaeological ceramic sherds between various groups. A pilot study was conducted across four states in the US Southwest, to explore how different groups of peoples cognitively sift experiential information of ceramic sherds.

In different sorting exercises, study participants were asked to arrange the sherds according to their perceived similarity based on standardized questions. The spatial arrangement of the sherds was averaged within the groups and used to quantify variation and similarity between individuals and between groups.

In this presentation we will discuss the results of the study and evaluate the results in regard to the following questions:

- Does the perception of pottery differ within and between groups of peoples?

- Are there implications of these differences for archaeologists?

Ideally the results can help archaeologists refine their social interpretations of ceramic data