American gold and European brass: Metal objects and indigenous values in the cemetery of el chorro de maíta' Cuba

Jago Cooper, Marcos Martinón-Torres, Roberto Valcárcel Rojas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Gold was one of the most sought after resources for the Europeans arriving in the New World in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Ethnohistoric sources have long formed the basis for discussions regarding the use' availability' and role of metals among the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean (Szaszdi Nagy 1984). Early European interest in metals has left a second' less welcome' legacy' and that is the paucity of metal artifacts available for study today. There are only a handful of surviving examples of indigenous metalwork from the Caribbean dispersed among museums and private collections around the world (Oliver 2000) and the lack of archaeological sites where metal artifacts have been recovered has greatly restricted the opportunity for the use of new methods and techniques in the Caribbean (Oliver 2000; Vega 1979). However' research elsewhere in Latin America has shown how useful analytical instruments can be for determining the provenance of metals and investigating past technologies with important wider archaeological implications (Bray 1993; Fernández and Garita 2004; Gordus and Shimada 1995; Scott 1991; Silet al. 2004). For the present work' we have used some analytical techniques that are established in the fi eld of archaeometallurgy' but which had not previously been systematically applied to the study of Cuban materials. Namely' we have employed optical microscopy' X- ray fl uorescence and scanning electron microscopy' with microanalysis to investigate an excavated metal assemblage from El Chorro de Maíta cemetery in eastern Cuba. The analytical data reveal particulars of the morphology' microstructure' and chemical composition of these artifacts' which' in turn' will furnish precious information regarding their manufacture and likely origins. This information' when combined with ethnohistorical and archaeological data' provides an interesting insight into the supply' use' and value of different metals' to a level of detail that could not have been achieved without the application of scientific techniques. It is therefore hoped that this may serve as a stimulus for further applications of analytical methods to Caribbean material culture.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCrossing The Borders
Subtitle of host publicationNew Methods and Techniques in The Study of Archaeology Materials from The Caribbean
PublisherUniversity of Alabama Press
Pages34-42
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780817354534
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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