Compositional analysis of West Indian Saladoid ceramics and their relevance to Puerto Rican prehistory

Date of Completion

January 1991


Anthropology, Archaeology




The aim of this study is to analyze the material components of ceramic artifacts. Compositional analysis was performed on Saladoid series ceramics primarily from Puerto Rico, but also from St. Croix, St. Martin, Antigua, Trinidad, and Venezuela. Samples from the sites of Hacienda Grande (Loisa, P.R.), Punta Candelero (Humacao, P.R.), Maisabel (Vega Baja, P.R.), Sorce/La Hueca (Vieques, P.R.), Salt River and Richmond (St. Croix), Hope Estate (St. Martin), Indian Creek (Antigua) and Saladero (Venezuela). It has been postulated by Irving Rouse (1948) and other Caribbean archaeologists, that the people responsible for these sites had come from mainland South America. The movement of the population is traced through the Antilles by the trail of stylistically homogeneous pottery left behind over a time period of approximately five hundred years.^ Recent excavations at Hope Estate, St. Martin (Haviser, 1989), Sorce/La Hueca, Vieques, P.R. (Baik and Narganes, 1986), and Punta Candelero, Humacao, P.R. (Rodriguez, 1989) have produced a variation of this distinctive artifact assemblage. Some archaeologists (Baik, 1983; Haviser, 1989; and Narganes, 1989) now question whether the mainlanders were a culturally homogeneous group following a single route to their northern frontier in what is now Santo Domingo and Haiti (see Rouse, 1987). Baik and Narganes have proposed that a separate cultural group arrived in the Vieques Channel area (the eastern end of Puerto Rico and outlying islands to Culebra) from the coast of Venezuela following a due north route circumventing the rest of the Antilles. Haviser has linked this group to his findings at the Hope Estate site in St. Martin (1989). The components of these sites that possess the distinctive ceramic assemblage referred to by Rouse as a possible Huecan subseries of the Saladoid series of styles, and by Baik and Narganes as Huecoid, provide the variation, and hence the controversy, on which my research centers. The results of the compositional analysis provide evidence that the La Hueca-style pottery should be classified within the Cedrosan Saladoid series of styles, rather than a distinct series (Huecoid). ^