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Metallic encounters in Cuba: The technology, exchange and meaning of metals before and after Columbus

Martinon-Torres, M; Valcarcel Rojas, R; Saenz Samper, J; Guerra, MF; (2012) Metallic encounters in Cuba: The technology, exchange and meaning of metals before and after Columbus. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology , 31 (4) 439 - 454. 10.1016/j.jaa.2012.03.006. Green open access

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Abstract

Metals held important symbolic and political values for the indigenous communities of the Caribbean islands. However, metal objects are not abundant in indigenous archaeological sites, and their study has hitherto been very limited. This paper presents the results of the first analytical programme focused on metal artifacts recovered in a range of Taíno sites in Cuba, chronologically covering the periods before and after contact with Europeans. Our aims were: (a) to identify metallurgical traditions related to a diversity of cultural or learning backgrounds; (b) to investigate the origins of different metal artifacts found in Cuba, as a proxy to reconstruct patterns of exchange and interaction among indigenous communities and between these and Europeans; and (c) to approach the meaning and symbolism of different metals by considering their contexts of appropriation and use. The techniques employed included optical microscopy, SEM–EDS, pXRF and PIXE. The results allow a diachronic picture of the procurement, transformation, use and symbolism of metals in Cuba with broader implications for Caribbean archaeology. We reveal culture-specific Taíno choices in their interaction with materials and value systems from continental America and Europe. We also discuss the selective appropriation, recontextualization and meaning of different metals in the indigenous cultures.

Type: Article
Title: Metallic encounters in Cuba: The technology, exchange and meaning of metals before and after Columbus
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2012.03.006
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jaa.2012.03.006
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Keywords: Archaeometallurgy, Gold, Caona, Guanin, Brass, Cuba, Caribbean, Life-histories, pXRF, SEM-EDS
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1361950
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