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‘Treasures… of black wood, brilliantly polished’: five examples of Taíno sculpture from the tenth–sixteenth century Caribbean

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Joanna Ostapkowicz
Affiliation:
World Museum Liverpool, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EN, UK (Email: Joanna.Ostapkowicz@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk)
Alex Wiedenhoeft
Affiliation:
Center for Wood Anatomy Research, USDA, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, 1 Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, WI 53726-2398, USA
Christopher Bronk Ramsey
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Erika Ribechini
Affiliation:
Dipartimento di Chimica e Chimica Industriale, Universita di Pisa, Via Risorgimento 35, Pisa 56126, Italy
Samuel Wilson
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA
Fiona Brock
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
Tom Higham
Affiliation:
Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK

Extract

Five wooden sculptures from the pre-contact Caribbean, long held in museum collections, are here dated and given a context for the first time. The examples studied were made from dense Guaiacum wood, carved, polished and inlaid with shell fastened with resin. Dating the heartwood, sapwood and resins takes key examples of ‘Classic’ Taíno art back to the tenth century AD, and suggests that some objects were treasured and refurbished over centuries. The authors discuss the symbolic properties of the wood and the long-lived biographies of some iconic sculptures.

Type
Debate
Copyright
Copyright © Antiquity Publications Ltd 2011

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