Excavations at Los Buchillones, Cuba

Article excerpt

Between 1989 and 1994, north coast fishermen Nelson Torna and Pedro Guerra salvaged approximately 195 well-preserved wooden artefacts, mostly of lignum vitae, from recently disturbed marine sediments near their village of Punta Alegre, in Ciego de Avila, Cuba. They had collected the artefacts from a shallow lagoon, and from the shoreline near their village at a place known as Los Buchillones. The wooden artefacts include pins, eyed needles, hooks, fragments of dishes, handles for axes (including two that retained the stone tools), duhos or stools that served as badges of rank in Taino society, and zemis or male deity figures. In 1994, on an official Royal Ontario Museum visit to Cuba, then curator David Pendergast was shown these artefacts, and discussions began between Pendergast and Cuban archaeologists Dr Jorge Calvera and Lic. Juan Jardines concerning the possibility of launching an investigation of the contexts from which the artifacts had come. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) thereby established a jointly directed and jointly funded project with the Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnologia, y Medio Ambiente (CITMA) of the government of Cuba, and investigations began in 1997. In 1999-2000, the base of operations for the Los Buchillones Project changed from the Royal Ontario Museum to the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Co-Directors of the Project are David Pendergast (IoA), and Jorge Calvera (CITMA); Sub-Directors are Elizabeth Graham (IoA) and Juan Jardines (CITMA).

Excavations have been carried out in 1997, 1998 and 1999. No excavations are planned for 2000, but a major investigation will be launched in 2001. Investigations in 1997 focused on the lagoon, and a dam of sandbags and plastic sheeting, plus a sump pump, enabled a broad view of a portion of the lagoon floor near the lagoon mouth. A number of wooden artefacts were recovered, but had been secondarily deposited. Excavations in 1998 focused just offshore, on a semi-circular line of submerged post butts previously discovered by Torna and Guerra. Sandbag damming and pumping, and initial removal of c. 5 cm of sediments, revealed the primary, secondary and tertiary rafters of a conical roof, with smaller transverse members that were clearly the stringers on which the palm leaves of roof thatch would have been hung. …