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Student Theses

NEXUS1492 supports and encourages many undergraduate and graduate students to write their thesis within the context of the project. Beyond providing students with a wide range of topics for research, the Nexus team also supervises and guides students in the process of thesis writing.

This page presents the variety of topics that have been studied by NEXUS1492 students, resulting in excellent theses and the graduation of students at Bachelor, Master, and Research Master levels.

In case of any questions please send an e-mail to Emma de Mooij


Mounded Landscapes. The distribution of past human activities associated with pre-colonial mounds at El Carril, Dominican Republic. 

Abstract: Humans shaped the landscape of El Carril in the northwestern Dominican Republic, in pre-colonial times, by creating flattened areas and forming mounds. However, the function of these mounds remains a scholarly debate, since they are associated with mortuary, agricultural and domestic activities. This study aimed to complement the ongoing discussion concerning the EL Carril mounds, to shed light on the number of mounds and their associated human activities, and whether these activities (and thus mounds) are related to intrasite location, to provide insight in the spatial distribution within the site. To achieve these aims, the data acquisition was done through an intra-site full-coverage survey using a Trimble GPS, and an auger to extract one cylindrical sediment sample per mound. Additionally, I tested this methodology to determine whether one core was an adequate representation of an entire mound by extracting a cross-section of cores over two entire mounds. The collected data is approached from an intra-site taskscape perspective, combining Ingold’s theory of taskscape and Schiffer’s theory of contextual archaeology. The results reveal the presence of 107 pre-colonial mounds. This must be seen as the absolute minimum of constructed mounds in pre-colonial times since modern land use and formation processes over time provide evidence of the constant modification and re-creation of this landscape. The mounds are not homogenous in their composition and when compared with each other. It seems that mounds were formed by primary and secondary refuses of domestic, house building, burial and agricultural activities, and were intentionally raised for agricultural and conservation purposes. The mounds in the south show a pattern of pre-defined and systematized mounds for agricultural purposes, which is not the case in the rest of the site. This suggests the hypothesis of an unintended approach to mound formation processes, in the beginning, followed by an awareness of the advantages of mounds for agriculture, resulting in the creation of raised fields in more recent times.

Supervisor: Corinne Hofman

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

Artisans of the Arauquinoid A study into craftsmanship in the skeletal population of the 9th to 12th century site of Tingi Holo in Suriname

Abstract: The many ceremonial and prestigious paraphernalia in both completed and semimanufactured states encountered at Tingi Holo have led researchers to conclude that the inhabitants were heavily involved in crafting (Versteeg 2003). To research if this can also be observed in the part of the skeletal population of Tingi Holo that was excavated in 1963 by Geijskes, entheseal development, osteoarthritis and spondylosis have been studied in this thesis. A selection of studied skeletal elements has been made based on observations done by Becker (2016) on a female craftswomen from the Ch’iji Jawita Site in Tiwanaku, Bolivia. Following Sofaer (2006), the theoretical framework employed in this research is that of ‘the body as material culture’. This theory bridges the Cartesian divide by considering the bones of the human body as a material with a specific characteristic, which is it’s plasticity. This plasticity allows the bones to react to both natural influences, such as age, sex and disease, as well as social influences such as food consumption and activity. It is particularly applicable to this research for it acknowledges the unique way in which humans both shape and are shaped by the creation of their own material culture. To conceptualize the range of crafting activities and the divide of labour between men and women and old and young people, ethnographic and historic sources have been employed. Among the studied communities are the Maroni River Caribs of Suriname, the Barama River Caribs of British Guiana, the Wayana of French Guiana, the Waiwai of northern Brazil and British Guyana and the Xingū of central Brazil. Through their habits regarding crafting, some general trends have been inferred. Although men and women alike craft with all available materials, there is a distinction in the type of objects both are allowed to make. This becomes particularly clear when looking at ceremonial and prestige artefacts, which almost are always done by men. Old age was not observed to increase the status of craftspersons within the studied societies. Combining the results of the ethnographic and osteological data allowed for a meaningful conclusion about the activities of the Tingi Holo population. In accordance with the ethnography, men showed indications of being more involved

Supervisor: Menno Hoogland

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.


Child Burials of the Lesser Antilles. A bachelor thesis on the mortuary practices of non-adults in the Lesser Atnilles, during the Late Ceramic Age.

Abstract: Mortuary practices are one of the most important sources in archaeological research. In case of the Caribbean area, there is still much to learn about the cultures that lived here before the arrival of Columbus. Still under a lot of discussion are the mortuary practices involving non-adults in the Late Ceramic Age sites in the Lesser Antilles. Data on this age category is quite scarce and thus research about it would provide new insights in the general mortuary practices of this region and time period. This thesis tries to answer the main question of what the mortuary practices of non-adults are in the Lesser Antilles, during the Late Ceramic age. The focus lies on the sites of Kelbey’s Ridge 2, San I Manzanilla, Anse à la Gourde, Lavoutte and Tutu in particular. This is done by conducting a literary study, using existing literature on excavations in the Caribbean area, and answering a few sub questions. These include what is already known of the mortuary practices in the Caribbean area, at what age an individual would be considered an adult, what the mortuary practices are for both adults and non-adults, and what differences and similarities there are between the two. The mortuary practices in the Lesser Antilles area during the LCA are very complex and highly varied. However, most individuals, both adults and non-adults, are buried in a flexed position, are located in relation to a house structure, rarely have grave goods, and are buried in primary, secondary as well as composite burials. These are only a few of the many practices that are quite widespread within the area. The biggest difference between non-adult and adult burials is the general under representation of non-adults on many of the sites. In the end the mortuary practices that apply particularly on non-adults are probably related to the under representation of infants and other non-adults because these age categories were most likely intentionally buried separately from adults and sometimes older non-adults. However, more research needs to be done, creating a bigger sample size, in order to get a solid conclusion on this subject.

Supervisor: Jason E. Laffoon

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

The Re-creation of Decoration: A research on decoration techniques on Meillacoid and Chicoid pottery from El Flaco, Dominican Republic.

Abstract: The ERC-Synergy project Nexus1492: New World Encounters In A Globalising World is, amongst others, investigating past activities in the indigenous Caribbean. One of these activities was the production of pottery. This thesis aims to investigate the chaîne opératoire of pre-colonial pottery through studying the 'act' of incising and punctating ceramic vessels during the Late Ceramic Age. This research was executed through the macroscopic analysis and comparison of 35 Meillacoid and Chicoid pottery sherd samples with 44 experimentally manufactured clay-slabs which were incised and punctated with 16 different experimental tools of various material types. The archaeological samples which were studied in this research are all originating from the pre-Columbian archaeological site of El Flaco, Dominican Republic. An inland site situated along the 'Ruta de Colon' and at the southern foothills of the Cordillera Septentrional at a distance of approximately 20km from the ocean. The main focus of this research is the potter's toolkit re-creation, comparing archaeological sample sherds with experimental clay-slabs with the goal of figuring out which tools were probably part of the potter's toolkit for the sake of incising and punctating ceramic vessels and which were not. Other variables like the dryness of clay vessels at the time of incising and punctating and the different possible gestures or motions are also discussed in this study. Preliminary conclusions include, but are not limited to a probably extensive toolkit with many tool-types as possible utensils for producing specific incisions and punctations, with tools from the category plant matter (read small wooden sticks and twigs) as the most important part of this toolkit. Additionally, it seems plausible that incisions and punctations were more likely to be applied to pre-colonial pottery on a relatively plastic clay, as opposed to a drier vessel.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman & Jason E. Laffoon.

External Profile: Wilmer Claessens

The reconstruction of a Taíno multiple burial deposition at El Flaco, Dominican Republic.

Dietary change through colonisation. A comparative research non starch grains from El Flaco (13th-15th century AD) and La Vega (1495-1564), Dominican Republic.

If you are interested to read more of this thesis,  please click the link.

Supervisor: Jason E. Laffoon

External Profile: Anika Hellemons

The Island without Water: The cisterns of St. Eustatius in the colonial era.

Abstract: This thesis presents and discusses the results of a survey of colonial cisterns on St. Eustatius. St. Eustatius was and is an island without any natural fresh springs or rivers. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century the island became one of the most important trans-shipping centres for enslaved Africans and commodities of the entire world. At the end of the eighteenth century it harboured a population of over 8,000 people that had many different nationalities and cultures. To maintain this population there had to be a steady supply and storage of water. Therefore, this research is an effort to contribute to the topic of colonial water management on St. Eustatius. Water was incorporated in religious, political, social and economic practices. The way these practices were carried out or experienced differed for the Europeans and the Africans on the island. To ensure a supply of water for all these different peoples, cisterns were constructed on the island of St. Eustatius. After a thorough analysis of 94 cisterns, differences in shape and construction have led to the establishment of a new typology for these structures. As an experiment, the chemical composition of mortar is analyzed with the use of a principal component analysis. Ultimately, suggestions for the management of these cisterns are presented.

Supervisor: Menno L.P. Hoogland, Dennis J.G. Braekmans & Ruud Stelten

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

External Profile: Fred van Keulen

Expressive and Performative Material Culture: Investigating the Social Roles of Ceramic Adornos from the Site of El Flaco (10th -15th century) in the Northwestern Dominican Republic

Abstract: Ceramic adornos are found widely distributed throughout the archaeological record of the circum-Caribbean, and it has been argued that they are connected to an immensity of cosmological concepts, including the creation of the world and the roles of nonhuman beings therein based on ethnohistorical accounts (see Moravetz 1999; 2005; Oudhuis 2008; Petitjean Roget 1975a; 1975b; 1997; Waldron 2010, 2016; Wauben 2016). Moreover, the study of adornos is considered to hold great potential to contribute to our understanding of indigenous peoples’ conceptions of human-nonhuman relations. Nevertheless, previous studies on adornos are few in number and, as a result, many questions concerning the cultural relevance and social role(s) of adornos remain to great extent unanswered. However, the systematic excavation of an assemblage of 277 adornos and/or their fragments from the site of El Flaco (northwestern Dominican Republic), directed by Professors Corinne L. Hofman and Menno L. P. Hoogland as part of the ERC-synergy NEXUS1492 project, provides a unique opportunity to address these issues. The adornos from El Flaco are analyzed according to the method developed by Marlena Mackowiak de Antczak (2000), which combines the analysis of the form (the object and its image), content (its expressive potential) and context (archaeological and social). The main objective of this research is to contribute to a better understanding of the potential social roles of adornos (understood here as their expressive and performative potential) within the society of their creators and users. It is proposed that the adornos from El Flaco may have expressed a multitude of cosmological concepts, which are interpreted to emphasize access to esoteric knowledge, a link to the ancestral lineage, and/or household or communal identity. In this research, the performative potential of the adornos refers to their possible roles as co-enactors in the maintenance of good social relations with particular nonhuman beings and/or as intermediaries between the three planes of cosmos. Finally, the adornos are proposed to have been conceived of as dividual and partible persons, and could, therefore, have played a significant part in the maintenance of social relations among communities through the exchange of adorno-models.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

Feeding Opiyelguobirán. A multidisciplinary analysis of human-canid relations in pre-colonial Hispaniola.

Abstract: The introduction of the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) in the insular Caribbean likely occurred during the Early Ceramic Age (c. 400 BC – AD 500), coinciding with the arrival of Saladoid peoples and the fluorescence of Huecoid cultures in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. However, the precise regional origins of this animal are currently unknown. Numerous studies have indicated the feasibility of using dogs as an isotopic surrogate for palaeodietary reconstruction in humans, which is telling of the high level of entanglement of humans and dogs expressed in the sharing of foodways. Shared dietary relationships with humans, ritual interment and symbolic depictions of dogs raise questions about the nuanced placement of this animal within the indigenous cultural taxonomies of the insular Caribbean. Dog remains are found both ritually interred and in domestic contexts throughout the region, suggesting that dogs were both highly valued as companions, and also possibly seen as a viable source of food. In order to understand this dichotomous treatment Viveiros de Castro’s “Amerindian perspectivism” and Descola’s notions of “animism” provided theoretical frameworks in which to analysis how dogs featured within the cosmological and cultural taxonomy of pre-colonial peoples in the insular Caribbean. For this study, data generated from archaeozoological and multi-isotopic analyses of dogs from the pre-colonial sites of El Flaco and El Carril in the Dominican Republic was compared to findings from three select sites in the Lesser Antilles: Cathédrale de Basse-Terre and Morel in Guadeloupe, and Hope Estate in St Martin. The aim of this research was to: a) establish the effectiveness of the isotopic surrogacy approach in the Caribbean; b) examine any regional differences reflected in the diets of dogs; c) determine if there are any observable distinctions in the morphology and diets of buried dogs and those uncovered from non-burial contexts; d) and to interpret why this dichotomous treatment was occurring using a perspectival theoretical framework. The results indicate that there may have been at least two morphologically distinct types of dogs in Hispaniola in support of what is mentioned in the ethnohistorical sources. These types likely underwent differential treatment by humans, with one particular type more inclined to be buried suggesting a higher value placed on this breed as a valued companion and consubstantial nonhuman person. The burial of one individual dog alongside the deceased at El Flaco may be a funerary offering, representing a psychopomp in the likeness of the ‘Taíno’ guardian of the dead cemí, Opiyelguobirán.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman & Jason E. Laffoon

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

External Profile: Gene Shev

Conceptualizing the Caribbean Archaeological Record. Interpreting features from an ethnographic perspective at the Late Cermaic Age site of El Flaco in the northwestern Dominican Republic.

Abstract: Ethnoarchaeological studies in the pre-colonial Caribbean are limited. This research presents a pilot investigation that employs an innovative approach to understanding the spatial and temporal developments of the Late Ceramic Age site of El Flaco, northwestern Dominican Republic (excavated in the context of the ERC-synergy project Nexus1492: New World Encounters in a Globalising World), through the study of three key features: postholes, hearths, and mounds. These are material manifestations of past human activities and inform archaeologists on issues of structure building activities, cooking activities, and the myriad activities that result in the stratigraphic build-up of mounds. Following Ingold (1993, 2000), this research approaches each sample of studied features as a place-based taskscape. This allows each feature to be studied separately, as well as in relation to each other. To subsequently arrive at a well-informed interpretation, the archaeological record is conceptualized with the use of an interpretative visibility (sensu Mans 2012, 179). The interpretative visibility is developed and enhanced by consulting archaeological and ethnographic sources focused on the pre-colonial and modern Indigenous lifeways of Amazonia, as well as on archaeological sources focused on Indigenous lifeways of the pre-colonial Insular Caribbean. Moreover, it is supplemented by three informal ethnographic case studies of present-day living situations in the northwestern Dominican Republic. To translate the interpretative visibility to the archaeological record of El Flaco, methodological parameters have been extracted from the ethnoarchaeological studies conducted in modern Amazonia by Mans (2012) and Duin (2009). The interpretative visibility intends to function as a source of inspiration for the interpretation of the archaeological record of El Flaco. It does not intend to equate one with the other. By contrasting and comparing the interpretative framework with the archaeological data, using the methodological parameters extracted from the studies by Mans (2012) and Duin (2009), this research has developed meaningful interpretations of the spatial interrelationships and developments of the features studied. The analysis of posthole features confirms the presence of a large habitation structure that was periodically repaired or perhaps fully rebuilt over time. Hearth features evidence a use in both domestic and ritual spheres and are characteristically different dependent on their use. Finally, the stratigraphy of the mounds attests to both long- and short-term activities that take place on the mounds, such as the burning of trash, or elsewhere at the site, such as the building of new structures. The results of this study successfully contribute towards the understanding of the dynamics and developments of the pre-colonial village of El Flaco through space and time.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

External Profile: Emma de Mooij


Analysing visibility patterns from multiple viewsheds during the Late Ceramic Age (AD 800-1500) in the coastal zone of the Montecristi Province, Dominican Republic.

Abstract: In this thesis an attempt was made in order to (re)construct ancient indigenous landscapes through visibility analyses, during the Late Ceramic Age (AD 800- 1500) in the coastal zone of the Montecristi, the Dominican Republic. The northern part of the Dominican Republic has been very important in understanding the Spanish conquest of the island, since is one of the first areas where indigenous communities encountered the Europeans. At the time the Europeans arrived in the New World, complex indigenous exchange networks connected the Caribbean islands with the mainland of South America. The information that the indigenous peoples gave to the Spaniards about these networks was crucial for the conquest of the Caribbean. Visibility is considered to be an important parameter to (re)construct the indigenous socio-political dynamics in the Caribbean. In the defined case-study area, 44 sites were categorized by altitude and size and used to carry out multiple viewshed analyses in order to analyze the relationship between the sites and the visual prominent geomorphological areas in the casestudy area, the reconstruction of role of visibility in the determination of site location, the relationship between multiple viewsheds and site clusters and the possible role of visibility in the control of marine resources and indigenous communication networks. The multiple viewshed analyses revealed that it is possible that the low-elevated (Meillacoid) sites in the coastal lowlands are able to visually control the coastal and coastal lowland area, the (Meillacoid) hilltop sites overview the hinterland, that most of the (Meillacoid) sites can see at least three other surrounding sites, that sites within a similar geomorphological area are more likely to overview each other then sites without such a shared aspect and that there could have been an indigenous visibility network, in which the large (Meillacoid) hilltop sites had indirect control over the coastal zone.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

External Profile: Sven Ransijn

Amerindian daily activities in the Pre-Colonial Caribbean: A study of Entheses and Perishable Material Culture.

Abstract: This research has attempted to see if we can distinguish daily activities of a land-focussed population from a sea-focused population based on entheses and material culture. To do this the perishable material culture of the Yanoama, Yekuana and Warao has been taken as an example by using ethnographic sources from S.M. Wilson, J. Wilbert and W.J. Smole. From the material culture, several daily activities have been derived and based on this an idea was created about muscle activities. To validate the model, the entheses of two Amerindian populations in the Dominican Republic have been studied, namely from the site of El Flaco (13th-15th century) in the north-western part of the island and situated on a mountain slope, and the site of El Atajadizo (8th century), situated in the south-eastern part near the coast. The method used to study the entheses is the method developed by Mariotti and colleagues in 2007. The results of the case study indicated that the population of El Atajadizo most likely did not frequent rowing as much as hypothesised, as their entheseal scores for both rowing related and walking related muscles were on par with the population of El Flaco. Combining the men and the women from both sites and comparing them to each other showed equal entheseal scores, which could suggest that women were responsible for tougher labour in these societies. For further and better research into the daily activities of non-Western populations, more and differently adapted entheseal scoring methods are needed for different muscles. 

Supervisor: Menno L.P. Hoogland

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link

External Profile: Finn van der Leden


Schelp als afvalproduct. Een onderzoek naar het schelpmateriaal in monticulo A op de site El Flaco, Dominicaanse Republiek, 2014.

Abstract: In the summer of 2013 and 2014 research was conducted by the Nexus-1492 project on the Amerindian site El Flaco in the Dominican Republic. This site contains platforms and montículos. Montículo A is excavated in diagonal 2 by 2 m units by using the box-grid method. These units are excavated in arbitrary layers of 10 cm. Montículo A contained a lot of archaeological material, such as ceramics, shell and fauna material. This research contributed to the reconstruction of the formation process of montículo A, which is investigated by J.A.M. Vermeer. Vermeer is investigating the formation process of the montículos on the site El Flaco. He does this by looking at the geological and archaeological components used for the phasing of the montículos. This study contributes to this research by examining the taphonomy and larger context of the shell material. The results of the shell material support Segaar’s hypothesis that there were two phases of occupation on the site, a possible Meillacoid and a Chicoid occupation. Next to that, the composition of the shell material is analyzed and divided into three classes: bivalves, gastropods and crustaceans. Furthermore, the habitat of the shell species is investigated to provide an indication of the food strategy or the ‘food network’ that was used by the Amerindian inhabitants. It is likely that a large portion of this diet consists of one gastropod, the Pleurodonte formosa. However, palynology is needed to provide a definitive answer to this problem.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman & Julijan A.M. Vermeer

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click the link.

External Profile: Fred van Keulen

Adornos and Cosmological Expression.

Abstract: A sample of zoomorphic adornos, unearthed at the site of El Flaco (13th - 15th century CE) in the northwest of the Dominican Republic, has been ichnographically analyzed, based on the three-stage model as developed by Panofsky (1939), to discover the cultural meaning of the animals identified on the adornos in the known creation narratives and cosmology of the Taíno peoples. This is expected to contribute to the generally unknown cultural relevance of adornos to the pre-colonial communities in the Caribbean archipelago. The iconographical analysis has revealed a close association between the adornos, and the known cosmological views and creation narratives of the Taíno peoples, as recorded by Ramón Pané. A diversity of animals have been identified on the adornos, which include bats, turtles/tortoises, frogs/toads, primates, crocodiles, lizards, rodents and birds. These animals appear to be associated with the spirits of departed ancestors, seduction/deception, fertility, shamanism and the maintenance of a balance between the three realms of the Taíno cosmos.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman

If you are interested to read more of this thesis, please click this link

External Profile: Noortje Wauben

Molluscs that matter: The use of molluscs on five late pre-colonial sites (~AD1000-1500) in the north-western Dominican Republic.

Seasonal Seafarers. A Complex Systems exploration of Archaic Age mobility strategies and social dynamics in the North-Eastern Caribbean.

(Ex)changing the Potter's Process. Continuity and change in the non-European ceramics of Cotuí, the first colonial mine in Hispaniola, after 1505.

Abstract: Colonial Hispaniola was a stage in which several innate different cultures met, sought contact, and established new exchange networks in which goods, ideas and information were transmitted cross-culturally. These exchanges led to the process of transculturation: the merging and converging of cultural aspects. The colonial mining site number 11 of Cotuí (1505-1562) on Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic and Haiti) gives important insights in the way colonists interacted with colonized and enslaved peoples after the initial encounter. In order to work the mine, Spanish colonists needed workforces of local Amerindians, supplemented by Amerindian slaves from the Caribbean and African slaves. These circumstances created a multicultural community, of which the interactions are studied through the non-European ceramics excavated from site number 11; a colonial mining camp. Colonial processes on the site are addressed through the low-tech study of continuity or change in the chaîne opératoire of the non-European ceramics. Subaltern agency in the manufacturing and use of the ceramics is studied through a multi-disciplinary approach of pre-colonial and colonial archaeology, ethnohistory and social studies. Which gives insight in indigenous and slave survival and the mechanisms of colonial power relations. The discussion centers on colonial strategies and colonized and enslaved reactions towards these strategies. This cannot be done without the study of the dynamics, interactions and exchanges of the colonial encounter through the cultural historical backgrounds. The second part of this thesis describes the material culture of the site’s assemblages with a particular focus on the non-European an transcultural ceramics in order to answer the main questions: What can the study of the chaîne opératoire of the non-European ceramics at the site of Cotuí (1505-1562) tell us about the changes that occurred after the Spanish conquest, can a continuity or change be detected and what can this continuity or change tell us about the social changes within the post-colonial society of Cotuí? When combining pre-Columbian and post-Columbian archaeology this assemblage offers an interesting dataset, which, when compared with the current state of affairs, offers a dataset on Amerindian, African and Spanish life in the colony.

Supervisor: Corinne L. Hofman

External Profile: Marlieke Ernst


Eén van de heuvels. De relatie tussen de stratigrafie en het aardewerk in de mound op de site van El Flaco, Dominicaanse Republiek, 2014.

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