A good-sized Barbados shell adzehead

A good-sized Barbados shell adzehead

Code: 2739


Description: A good-sized shell adzehead with curved blade and plano-convex in cross-section, with a slightly asymmetric posterior taper and curved at the butt end. Some chips to the cutting edge and with a dull patina, but a nice example.

Size: 133 mm/5.2 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 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.

References: Compare Fig. 19.1, p. 404, in Hicks, D. and Cooper, J. 2013, The Caribbean, in Hicks, D. and Stevenson, A. (Eds.), World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: A Characterization, Archaeopress, Oxford, for a very similar example donated to the Ashmolean Museum in 1869 by the Rev. Greville J. Chester.