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Black pitch, carved histories: radiocarbon dating, wood species identification and strontium isotope analysis of prehistoric wood carvings from Trinidad’s Pitch LakeAuthor(s): Joanna Ostapkowicz; Fiona Brock; Alex C. Wiedenhoeft; Christophe Snoeck; John Pouncett; Yasmin Baksh-Comeau; Rick Schulting; Philippe Claeys; Nadine Mattielli; Mike Richards; Arie Boomert
Source: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 16(2017): 341-358.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Forest Products Laboratory
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DescriptionWe 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.
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CitationOstapkowicz, Joanna; Brock, Fiona; Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.; Snoeck, Christophe; Pouncett, John; Baksh-Comeau, Yasmin; Schulting, Rick; Claeys, Philippe; Mattielli, Nadine; Richards, Mike; Boomert, Arie. 2017. Black pitch, carved histories: radiocarbon dating, wood species identification and strontium isotope analysis of prehistoric wood carvings from Trinidad’s Pitch Lake. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 16(2017): 341-358.
KeywordsPitch Lake, Trinidad, wood carvings, radiocarbon dating, wood identification, Strontium isotopes, Circum-Caribbean
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