A detailed analysis of objects produced from stone can provide important information to delineate the processes of contact and interaction among the various indigenous communities of the Caribbean. The circulation of raw material and objects has been studied to document the types of rocks used by the indigenous societies of the Antilles, as well as their distribution.
One material that was one of the most important goods in the trade networks established in the Caribbean islands was flint. The circulation of this kind of quartz has been documented not only among the islands, but also between some that are 500 kilometers apart. In fact, the importation of flint from other islands, particularly Antigua, has been documented in various sites in Puerto Rico. The information currently available indicates that flint was one of the stone items most widely distributed across the Caribbean islands over the years.
Another island that exported stone material throughout the Caribbean in pre-colonial times was St. Martin. Radiolarite and stone used for making cemis came from the western part of that island. Radiolarite is a kind of green rock that was used exclusively for making hatchets, while the cemi stone was used for making the traditional and symbolic three-corner stone pieces.
Jadeitite is another material found in pre-colonial settings in the Antilles and that appears to have been circulated over long distances. This material has been identified in uses such as personal adornments, such as the bird’s beak motif pendants recovered at La Hueca-Sorcé (Vieques), for example, as well as in the production of polished axes. Recent studies have found marked similarities, in respect to mineralogical composition, between the jade found in the Caribbean and that found in the Motagua Valley of Guatemala.
Archaeological evidence of the distribution of jadeitite, flint, radiolarite and cemi stone suggests the existence of various chains of interaction or contact among the different Caribbean islands, and possibly with other continental areas of the Americas.
Author: Reniel Rodríguez Ramos
Published: January 09, 2012.
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