Treating "Trifles": The Indigenous Adoption of European Material Goods in Early Colonial Hispaniola (1492-1550)

Author(s): Floris Keehnen

Year: 2017


This paper discusses the cultural implications of European materials recovered from early colonial indigenous spaces on the island of Hispaniola. The exchange of exotic valuables was vital for the emergent relationships between European colonists and indigenous peoples during the late 15th- and early 16th-century Caribbean. As the colonial presence became more pressing and intercultural dynamics more complex, formerly distinct material worlds increasingly entangled. Archaeologists have long given minimal attention to these material correlates of indigenous colonial transition. Nevertheless, more than fifty years of archaeological work in Hispaniola has revealed a select number of indigenous sites yielding such foreign artefacts, or objects with European influence, occasionally appearing in reworked, repurposed, or copied forms. Among these are glass beads, metal items, and glazed ceramics, found in a variety of contexts and ranging from singular finds to direct associations to indigenous valuables. This paper presents an overview of these findings in order to explore indigenous agencies in the ways of handling these objects related to the differential impacts of colonial power on the island. As such, this paper aims to advance our understanding of the materiality of things in these encounters and the transformations they brought about in indigenous material culture repertoires.

Cite this Record

Treating "Trifles": The Indigenous Adoption of European Material Goods in Early Colonial Hispaniola (1492-1550). Floris Keehnen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431370)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16668