Florida Museum of Natural History


The Caribbean Archaeology Program

Caribbean Photo

The Caribbean Archaeology Program was founded in 1960 by Ripley P. Bullen. The program is based around one of the largest systematic collections of pre-Columbian artifacts in North America. What the collection lacks in size is compensated for by its diversity. The collection contains systematic collections from sites on the islands of Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, Tobago, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Venezuela, each collection has accompanying documentation.

The Bullen collection was recently reinventoried and reorganized. A type collection, composed of all the artifacts illustrated in Bullen's publications was also created. These collection catalogs, which are based on the tables published in the Bullens' reports, are available for all of the islands and sites represented in the collection. We are in the process of converting the catalogs to a database that will be accessible through this web page. Presently a map of the West Indies and a list of the islands and the sites represented in the collection are available.

Artifacts recovered during excavations directed by Dr. Charles A. Hoffman, Jr. on the islands of Antigua and St. Kitts, there is also a study collection derived from the excavations directed by Dr. Kathleen A. Deagan from the sites of En Bas Saline and Puerto Réal, Haiti, are also in the collection. In 1985 Mr. Leon Wilder donated a collection of important artifacts that were surface collected from sites in Grenada, and a number of artifacts recovered from sites in Jamaica and Grenada, were recently donated by Mr. Geoffrey Senior. Artifacts recovered during research directed by the present Curator, Dr. William F. Keegan, have remained in the host country.

Ripley Bullen's books and papers are curated in the Ripley P. and Adelaide K. Bullen Library of Caribbean Archaeology. This library was founded in 1987 with the Bullens' personal books and with a grant from the Florida Museum of Natural History Associates. The library has continued to grow through other contributions including Linda Sickler Robinson's generous donations of her personal library. The library now contains copies of the majority of recent publications from the region. The Bullen Library first published its Bibliography of Caribbean Archaeology in 1990. This list of over 2000 publications, most of which were published since 1975, was revised in January 1996, and is accessible on the Internet through this page. In addition to this bibliography, a list of recent publications, most since 1995, was added to this page in August 1997. In 1994 the bibliography was connected to the Handbook of Latin American Studies of the Library of Congress. Annotated bibliographies are accessible in the Handbook of Latin American Studies, and review articles on West Indian archaeology have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Research (2 :225-284, 1994 and 4 :265-294, 1996). The library also has for sale back issues of the Proceedings of the International Congresses for the Study of the Precolumbian Peoples of the Lesser Antilles (sale publications).

Survey and excavation projects are an integral part of the Caribbean Archaeology Program. Since 1987, Keegan and his students have undertaken surveys and excavations in Antigua, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Information about recent projects is available by clicking Field Research. A large number of these projects involve the participation of Earthwatch volunteers. Earthwatch is a not-for-profit organization that matches people who want to volunteer on a scientific project with scientists who enjoy working with the public. One component of this research has also been to undertake salvage archaeology at sites on the verge of destruction, and to identify and preserve sites before industrial or urban development. Participation in Cultural Resource Management projects is arranged through SEARCH, Inc.

One of the major responsibilities of all museums is to make new information available to the public. Presently you can obtain general information about the Precolumbian Peoples of the West Indies by clicking on Native Peoples. This page also provides links to other web sites on archaeology and the Native Caribbean. Native West Indians were the subject of two traveling exhibitions organized by the Florida Museum of Natural History: First Encounters and Better than Gold (Public Education). In addition, we participated in the creation of New World Harvest, a teacher's manual, about the plants and animals encountered by Europeans on their arrival in the Americas.

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