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Title: Black pitch, carved histories: radiocarbon dating, wood species identification and strontium isotope analysis of prehistoric wood carvings from Trinidad’s Pitch Lake

Source: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 16(2017): 341-358.

Author(s)Ostapkowicz, Joanna ; Brock, Fiona ; Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.; Snoeck, Christophe ; Pouncett, John ; Baksh-Comeau, Yasmin ; Schulting, Rick ; Claeys, Philippe ; Mattielli, Nadine ; Richards, Mike ; Boomert, Arie

Publication Year: 2017  View PDF »

Category: Journal Articles

Abstract: 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 particular challenges for analysis. There is a loss of any contextual association beyond that of the lake, and specific methodologies are required to deal with pitch contamination. A surprising taxonomic range of woods was employed for the various utilitarian and ceremonial items recovered. The 14C results range from ca. 3200 BCE to ca. 700 CE, and include the earliest known wooden carvings in the entire Caribbean. The strontium isotope results -interpreted with the aid of an isoscape developed for the project, based on extensive samples of modern trees across Trinidad and Tobago indicate that most carvings are consistent with the site's immediate environs; however, a ‘weaving tool’ came from a more radiogenic region that is unlikely to be found on Trinidad, suggesting links with the South American mainland.

Keywords: Pitch Lake; Trinidad; wood carvings; radiocarbon dating; wood identification; Strontium isotopes; Circum-Caribbean

Publication Review Process: Formally Refereed

File size: 2,048 kb(s)

Date posted: 07/17/2018

This publication is also viewable on Treesearch:  view
RITS Product ID: 90599
Current FPL Scientist associated with this product
Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.
Research Botanist
  

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