Joanna Ostapkowicz

Joanna Ostapkowicz
University of Oxford | OX · School of Archaeology

PhD

About

35
Publications
32,208
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246
Citations
Introduction
Current projects: jagWARS: Jaguars, Raptors and the Patterns of War: 14th-18th century South American Indigenous sculptural arts Gerda Henkel Stiftung Research Grant (2019-2022) SIBA: Stone interchanges in the Bahama archipelago Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2017-2019 Black pitch, carved histories: Prehistoric wood sculpture from Trinidad's Pitch Lake Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, 2014-2016

Publications

Publications (35)
Article
A small number of pre-Columbian black lithic carvings have been found at archaeological sites across the Caribbean, as well as in parts of neighbouring mainland South America. The identity of the material used to create these artefacts is often unknown, but suggestions include lignite, wood, petrified wood, manja(c)k, jet (or ‘jet-like’ materials)...
Article
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UK museum collections hold an important and largely unexplored corpus of Caribbean pre-Columbian cultural heritage, including seminal pieces that can offer new insights into the development of complex rituals in the region. This paper re-establishes the cultural context and significance of a previously undocumented carving related to cohoba drug ri...
Book
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https://www.sidestone.com/books/lucayan-legacies This book is about Lucayan legacies – the heritage of the people who made the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands (the Lucayan archipelago) their home from the 8th to the 16th centuries. This legacy is not simply the surviving physical record, consisting of artefacts of stone, shell and wood – it i...
Article
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This article charts three hundred years of collecting and curating Jamaican pre-Columbian heritage in international institutions. The 17 th century marks the first documentation of Jamaican artifacts entering private collections in Britain-including those acquired by Hans Sloane, who visited Jamaica in 1687, and Ralph Thoresby, whose "Museum Thores...
Article
The limestone islands of the Bahamian archipelago provide a challenging environment for human settlement, one that was not taken up until after AD 700. The analysis of human skeletal remains offers new insights into how this challenge was met. A substantial program of AMS ¹⁴C dating on pre-Columbian humans (n = 66) provides a robust chronological f...
Article
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Strontium isotope ratios (87 Sr/ 86 Sr) are commonly used in archeological and forensic studies to assess if humans and fauna are local to the place they were found or not. This approach is largely unexplored for wooden artifacts recovered in archeological contexts, as wood-in the rare instances it does survive-is often poorly preserved. One of the...
Chapter
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This chapter explores the context of the three monumental animal and bird carvings found at the Hontoon/Thursby site on the St. Johns River: the owl, otter, and pelican. Archaeological and ethnographic information from Florida and surrounding areas is brought to play in interpreting the carvings and their placement at the site.
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This article serves as an introduction to the use of beads – both indigenous and European – in surviving examples of body ornaments from the early colonial Caribbean: a cemí/belt in the collections of Rome’s Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico “L. Pigorini,” a belt from the Weltmuseum Wien, and a cache of beads in a wooden vessel from the colle...
Article
Absence of Saharan dust influence on the strontium isotope ratios on modern trees from the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands – ERRATUM - Rick Schulting, Mike Richards, John Pouncett, Bryan Naqqi Manco, Ethan Freid, Joanna Ostapkowicz
Chapter
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One of the most momentous cross-cultural collisions occurred in the Caribbean in 1492, heralding a period of rapid change in both ‘New’ and ‘Old’ Worlds. During the early years of the colonial period, when new relationships were being established, material objects became active agents in the interactions between the indigenous Taíno and the Spanish...
Article
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This paper focuses on the material study (radiocarbon dating, wood identification and strontium isotope analyses) of four large ‘India occidentali’ clubs, part of the founding collections of the Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, and originally part of John Tradescant’s ‘Ark’, in Lambeth (1656). During the seventeenth century, the term ‘India occidentali...
Article
Here, we report on the analytical findings and their cultural implications of a multidisciplinary study of the pre-Columbian Codex Fejérváry-Mayer. Today conserved at the World Museum in Liverpool, it is one of the finest Mesoamerican codices among the few extant. Thanks to the exploitation of non-invasive analytical methodologies accessible throug...
Article
We report on strontium ( ⁸⁷ Sr/ ⁸⁶ Sr) isotope results from 91 modern trees growing on the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. The average ⁸⁷ Sr/ ⁸⁶ Sr ratio of 0.709169±0.000010 is consistent with the late Quaternary limestone of the islands and with the modern ocean value. The absence of any detectable influence of ⁸⁷ Sr-enriched Saharan dust i...
Article
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We report on the results of a multi-disciplinary project (including wood identification, radiocarbon dating and strontium isotope analysis) focused on a collection of pre-Columbian wooden carvings and human remains from Pitch Lake, Trinidad. While the lake's unusual conditions are conducive to the survival of organic artefacts, they also present pa...
Article
We report on the results of a multi-disciplinary project (including wood identification, radiocarbon dating and strontium isotope analysis) focused on a collection of pre-Columbian wooden carvings and human remains from Pitch Lake, Trinidad. While the lake's unusual conditions are conducive to the survival of organic artefacts, they also present pa...
Article
The Pigorini cemí is an icon of Caribbean colonial history, reflecting early trans-Atlantic cross-cultural exchanges. Although well documented, the piece has received surprisingly little systematic study. We present the first structural analysis and radiocarbon dating of the sculpture (modelled at AD 1492-1524), and a brief discussion of the materi...
Article
Since the mid-19th century, rare prehistoric wooden carvings and human skeletal remains have been dredged from Pitch Lake, Trinidad, during commercial asphalt mining. Establishing a chronology for these objects is challenging, due to both a lack of stratigraphic and contextual information and the necessity to completely remove any pitch to ensure a...
Article
Highlights •14C results for four east-central Florida carvings (Hontoon Island; Tomoka State Park) range ca. AD 1300-1600, spanning the proto-historic/historic periods •87Sr/86Sr results for two of the three Hontoon carvings are consistent with the immediate locale, while the third suggests a different provenance •Pinus sp. was used at Hontoon, whi...
Article
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Of the 26 duhos known from the Lucayan archipelago – the largest concentration of wooden ceremonial seats in the entire Caribbean – fifteen have survived. This paper summarizes recent studies of their chronology, materiality and stylistic range, with the aim of interweaving pieces with good provenance back into the (pre-)histories of the islands. T...
Research
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Jamaica has a remarkable artistic heritage, its ancestral roots stretching back in time to the original inhabitants of the island. A small group of Taíno wood sculptures have survived centuries in dry caves, where they were placed for ceremonies or for safekeeping. Some of these carvings have long been held as prime examples of Taíno artistry – the...
Article
Full-text available
Jamaica has a remarkable artistic heritage, its ancestral roots stretching back in time to the original inhabitants of the island. A small group of Taíno wood sculptures have survived centuries in dry caves, where they were placed for ceremonies or for safekeeping. Some of these carvings have long been held as prime examples of Taíno artistry – the...
Chapter
Full-text available
Un relicario taíno de algodón, el único en su género conocido hasta la fecha, nos permite una mirada sin precedentes dentro de las complejas ceremonias y rituales del Caribe prehispánico. El presente ensayo explora el contexto cultural asociado al relicario a través de los registros realizados por los primeros cronistas y misioneros españoles y fra...
Article
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"This paper presents 19 AMS radiocarbon dates from nine pre-Hispanic Caribbean (Taíno/Lucayan) wooden sculptures in the British Museum collections, provenanced to Jamaica, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. Together with strontium isotope results and wood and resin identifications, these data build a material and chronological context for some of the m...
Article
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Vienna’s Museum für Vökerkunde holds in its collections a rare sixteenth-century Taíno cotton belt from Hispaniola (today’s Dominican Republic/Haiti) – one of only two surviving Taíno cotton artefacts to feature European ‘exotics’, including mirrors, jet beads and brass. This complex woven structure – a wearable work of art – offers a rare windo...
Article
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"A unique cotton Taíno reliquary— the only extant example currently known— provides an unprecedented window onto the complex mortuary and ritual ceremonies of the pre-Hispanic Caribbean. This study explores its cultural context as recorded by the early Spanish and French chroniclers and missionaries who were witness to the use and beliefs surroundi...
Article
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This paper establishes a chronological framework for selected pieces of Caribbean (TaÃno/Lucayan) wooden sculpture, enabling previously ahistoric artefacts to fit back into the wider corpus of pre-colonial material culture. Seventy-two 14C AMS determinations from 56 artefacts held in museum collections are reported, including 32 ceremonial duhos, o...
Article
Full-text available
Radiocarbon dating of historical and archaeological wood can be complicated, sometimes involving issues of "inbuilt" age in slow-growing woods, and/or the possibility of reuse or long delays between felling and use of the wood. Terminus dates can be provided by dating the sapwood, or the outermost edge of heartwood, while a date from the pith can g...
Article
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Five wooden sculptures from the pre-contact Caribbean, long held in museum collections, are here dated and given a context for the first time. The examples studied were made from dense Guaiacum wood, carved, polished and inlaid with shell fastened with resin. Dating the heartwood, sapwood and resins takes key examples of ‘Classic’ Taíno art back to...
Article
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The results of AMS dating and wood identification on three carvings recovered from the southern Lesser Antilles (Dominica, Battowia and Trinidad) are discussed, placing the objects in the context of events and interactions that spanned the region's prehistory from the fifth to fifteenth centuries AD. Each hints at a rich legacy - of their passage t...
Article
This paper describes the cleaning of a 19th-century Northwest coast Native American totem pole using laser radiation. The surface of the pole (carved from western red cedar) was extremely fragile in places, making removal of ingrained surface dirt and residues of previous conservation treatments extremely difficult using mechanical or chemical tech...

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Projects (2)
Project
At the cusp of European contact, north-eastern South America - what would later emerge as the countries of Venezuela, the Guyanas and northern Brazil - was the centre of some of the continent's richest iconography, captured in masterpieces of wood and stone sculpture. These include drug-related paraphernalia depicting jaguars and raptorial birds attributed to the 'Rio Trombetas' region and large, double-handed weapons with elaborate two-dimensional designs in wide circulation from the Guyanas north to the Lesser Antilles. These two unique carving traditions are tightly constrained by their form and iconography, making them excellent case studies for addressing the development, range and source of their individual styles. Examples of these carvings are widely dispersed, predominantly in European collections, and, as a result, have never been studied as a corpus. Some can be traced back to early 16-17th century collections, and likely reflect a style of carving contemporary with the first explorations of the 'New World,' if not earlier. If, taken at face value, the block-headed clubs are an overt expression of physical power, the Trombetas materials reflect the power of ritual, linking the user with the numinous through hallucinogen-inspired trance. Both inform on the myriad interrelated issues central to the escalating socio-cultural complexity in pre-/post-colonial South America. The jagWARS project, supported by a Gerda Henkel Stiftung Research Grant, brings together more than 100 surviving carvings from over 30 international museums in a study of their material, chronology and iconography. In providing an overview of the dispersed corpus, the project is in a position to place this little-known artistic heritage within its cultural and historic context for the first time.