National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago
Three views of the Pitch Lake mortar, 80/A/549. Maximum height 31.5cm, width 19cm, depth 15cm. Courtesy of National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago.
The mortar in the collections of the National Museum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago is in very fragile condition, having lost significant portions of the upper rim due to deterioration. The grey/silver colour to the outer surface is a result of adhering pitch.
Yet despite its condition, it remains one of the few surviving examples from the Caribbean of this useful domestic tool – the only other known archaeological example was found 500km away, in the Bahamas, and dated to AD 1290-1465.
Dating the Trinidad example could potentially confirm that mortars were used prehistorically across the entire span of the archipelago, documenting both local and Caribbean-wide approaches to processing tuber and seed crops.
Updates on the radiocarbon, wood identification and strontium results for these pieces will be added here soon.
Winter, John and Deborah M Pearsall, 1991. A wooden mortar of the Lucayans, 'Proceedings of the Fourteenth International Congress for Caribbean Archaeology', pp 586-590, Barbados Museum and Historical Association.