A small Barbados shell adzehead

A small Barbados shell adzehead

Code: 2741


Description: A small shell adzehead with curved blade and plano-convex in cross-section, with a slightly asymmetric posterior taper and the butt damaged. Some tiny chips to the cutting edge and with a dull patina, otherwise condition good.

Size: 59 mm/2.3 ins. in length

Culture: Caribbean, Barbados

Date: Archaic, c. 3000-500 B.C.

Provenance: Ex F.S. Clark Collection, Woking, Surrey, with his collection label.

Background: Fred Sydney Clark (1923-2016) ran the Old Curiosity Shoppe, The Quadrant, Onslow Street, Guildford, Surrey, in the 1970’s-1980’s selling a range of collectables. A passionate collector and field-walker, he built up a fine collection of antiquities, notable for British prehistoric items, a significant number of which he obtained through trade with Dr. H.A. Fawcett. Like Fawcett, he was meticulous in documenting his collection, even the most humble tools were catalogued and fully labelled with locality, accession number and his characteristic monogram.

Notes: Tool quality stone is uncommon in Barbados given its predominantly limestone geology, hence the use of shell as a tool material by Amerindian inhabitants. Most shell tools were crafted from the great conch shell (Strombus gigas) and were probably used in cultivation. When a Portuguese expedition led by Pedro a Campos arrived on Barbados in 1536, the island’s Amerindians were apparently gone, perhaps wiped out by disease or by slavers. Amateur archaeological interest and collecting of the islands prehistoric shell artefacts dates back to the 18th Century when a brisk trade in shell tools developed, the tools often found in gullies and fields by agricultural workers.