Our venues
Our museums and galleries

Pre-Hispanic Caribbean sculptural arts project

detail of computer generated image of sculpture's face, showing grid lines 

Image combining photo and scan mesh of the Museé Barrois reliquary.


The Taíno, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean’s Greater Antilles (ca. AD 600-1550), created some of the most accomplished sculpture of the Ancient Americas. In addition to their work in stone and ceramics, they excelled at wood carving and weaving cotton. Remarkably, over 300 organic sculptures have survived, discovered in island caves where they were safely deposited for centuries or brought back to Europe after 1492, where some eventually entered museum collections. These carvings offer a rare window onto past activities, from how people interacted with their environment to the labour they invested in each creation, ultimately reflecting the deep history, meaning and value of these objects.

These web pages explore five sculptures, studied as part of the Pre-Hispanic Caribbean Sculptural Arts project, supported with a research grant from the Getty Foundation

Each artefact underwent wood identification and four pieces were AMS radiocarbon dated, to establish firm chronologies and provenances and give insights into the materials used. Each was also part of a 3D scanning study, which recorded surface qualities in sub-millimetre detail.

The sculptures

Background information

Investigative techniques


The material used on this website is intended for research and private study. All images, videos, interactives and text are subject to copyright under UK, US and international laws. Please contact Dr Joanna Ostapkowicz for further information on copyright holders.