Archaeologist and historian. He was the son of Puerto Rican patriot and intellectual Eugenio María de Hostos.

He was born in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, on January 8, 1887. He began his studies in Chile and the United States. He graduated with a teaching degree from the Normal School in the Dominican Republic. He completed his professional preparation at the American School of Prehistoric Studies in France. From 1915 to 1919, he worked in important military posts in Puerto Rico and Panama.

He built an archaeological collection from materials obtained in large part from the grounds of his property in Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic. Studying some of these pieces was part of his first research, which centered on ceremonial objects and iconographic elements. Much of this work was published in American Anthropologist and in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Later, it was compiled in his work titled Anthropological Papers (San Juan, 1941).

In addition to providing very detailed descriptions and documenting numerous objects, including ceremonial benches, stone rings and various idols, Hostos attempted to show the religious meaning of indigenous art. He related pieces such as the “trigonolitos,” or three-cornered stones, with agricultural fertility rituals. He took an evolutional perspective in his analysis of artistic expressions, which were linked to the physical and cultural surroundings where they developed. Irving Rouse, who recognized the importance of his work, believed that Hostos was the first researcher to take note of the stratigraphic order of certain pottery forms. The location of unpainted pottery and other pottery with red pigments was, to Hostos, an indicator of two different styles and two different moments in the history of the indigenous cultures of Puerto Rico.

He also studied colonial texts. A notable work on that topic is his book Investigaciones históricas: las excavaciones de Caparra (1938). He combined his archaeological focus with a detailed understanding of documentary and ethno-historical sources.

He was an active defender of archaeological heritage, a cause that he promoted among archaeologists and public and political figures, as well as from his institutional positions. Thanks to his efforts in Panama, laws were passed that prohibited the export of archaeological items. He also encouraged the idea of the need for a focus on Antillean archaeology and for making archaeology a tool that would favor cultural integration in the region.

From 1936 to 1950, he was Historian of Puerto Rico and remained active in his research while holding that post. His work in that era included: Investigaciones históricas (1938), índice hemero bibliográfico de Eugenio María de Hostos (1942), Al servicio del Clío (1942) and Ciudad murada (1948), one of the most important histories of the city of San Juan.

He directed the work on the índice histórico de Puerto Rico, (1936) which included an inventory of the historical literature of the island and the existing materials in the Puerto Rico Historical Archives, an institution of which he was director.

He was a member of various professional associations in Puerto Rico, Cuba and other countries.

Adolfo de Hostos is considered one of the most important Antillean archaeologists in North America and Europe from the first half of the 20th century.

He died in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1982.

Author: Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
Published: March 04, 2012.

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