Project SIBA (‘stone’ in Classic Taíno dialect), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, aims to characterize the regional social networks that bound the Lucayan archipelago to the wider Caribbean region, and so provide an understanding of the creation and maintenance of indigenous exchange networks, and their associated economic, cultural and socio-political impacts. One direct means of exploring these issues is through the study of the imported material culture itself, including identifying an artefact’s provenance through its diagnostic chemical and isotope ‘signature’ using state of the art geochemical techniques. An artefact’s distinctive style or iconography (what the artifact depicts and its possible significance) are a complementary means of ‘sourcing’ artefacts. The absence of convincing stylistic similarities in artefacts from neighbouring regions would imply the local reworking of stone in the creation of a distinctive Lucayan cannon, expanding understanding of Lucayan carving styles, which are themselves poorly known.
The project works from the micro-scale (e.g., materials, manufacture, iconography, local context, etc.) to the macro-scale (Lucayan archipelago distribution of individual materials and their sourcing in the wider Caribbean region) to explore the connections between people and the stones they worked, exchanged and valued. By examining pre-colonial exchange networks in some detail, the project seeks to better understand resilience and sustainability in a resource-poor island context, and to question the core-periphery relations that have dominated discussion in Bahamian archaeology.
A major output of the project will be the physical and chemical characterisation of a large body of worked stone, fine-tuning our understanding of the movement of stone valuables across the ‘Caribbeanscape’. SIBA thus has the potential of making a significant contribution to understanding the establishment and maintenance of new communities in previously uninhabited island settings, as well as fully integrating the archaeology of the Lucayan archipelago within the wider Caribbean perspective