Wooden figures


British Museum

British Museum

The majority of objects collected from the Caribbean (as in other parts of the world) during the 'voyages of discovery' of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were natural history specimens. Sir Hans Sloane published an account of his voyage to Jamaica in 1687, describing the natural history of the island. The earliest representation of wooden artefacts from Jamaica comes from a map of 1752, drawn around the borders with other 'curiosities' from the West Indies.

Duhos (ritual seats) are among the best known Caribbean wooden artefacts. In this example the back of an extended human figure is used as a seat; although some authors have suggested it was used as a snuff or offering tray.

The figure with a canopy, probably used for the ritual inhalation of a hallucinogenic substance called cahoba, was found in a cave in the Carpenter mountains in Jamaica with two other Taíno figures now in the British Museum. The three wooden artefacts were first exhibited in London in 1799, at the Society of Antiquaries.

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  • Title: Wooden figures
  • Date Created: 1297/1405
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 21.00cm; Width: 29.50cm; Depth: 72.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: Am.9753
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Puerto Plata
  • Period/culture: Taino
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: wood
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Campbell, Alexander Augustus Melfort. Collected by Imbert