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Wood carving: a Taíno cultural expression


Some of the rich diversity of Taíno wood carving: (left) SLAM duho, St. Louis Art Museum (168:1981); (centre) the MMA cohoba stand (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.206.38) and (right) the Musée Barrois reliquary (850.20.38).

Wood made up the bulk of Taíno material culture, furnishing everything from shelter, heat, tools and weapons to highly prized valuables – but it rarely survives in the archaeological record. It is among the most insightful of materials, lending itself to such analyses as AMS radiocarbon dating and stable isotope measurements, and through each carving scar, echoing the movements of the artists who laboured over them. It retains direct evidence for people’s interaction with their environment and the creation of their material world. It is out of this interest in wood as a medium of cultural expression that the pre-Hispanic Caribbean sculptural arts project emerged.

Further information

The wood sculptures featured in these pages were all carved from Guaiacum sp.