Dr Joanna Ostapkowicz

Research Associate in Caribbean Archaeology

Institute of Archaeology
36 Beaumont St, Oxford, OX1 2PG

Tel: +44 (0)1865 278240

Fax: +44 (0)1865 278254

E-mail: joanna.ostapkowicz@arch.ox.ac.uk

Research interests

Circum-Caribbean art and material culture; object biographies/histories and chronologies; early museum collections 

Primary Geographic Areas 

Caribbean and circum-Caribbean regions; the Americas

Current and on-going activities

ŸSIBA: Stone Interchanges in the Bahama Archipelago (AHRC, PI; 2017-2019; Host institution: University of Oxford).

This international collaborative project, linked with 8 partner institutions in the Caribbean, UK, Europe and US, aims to better understand the connections between the Lucayans (the people of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, ca. AD 600-1550) and the chiefdoms of the Greater Antilles (Cuba/Hispaniola) through the study of over 300 exotic stone artefacts found in the Lucayan archipelago, now in museum collections. The study will use state-of-the-art techniques, developed by Co-I Prof. Gareth Davies (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) as part of the Nexus 1492 project, to determine the original source of the stones, and in so doing, will enable researchers to explore the various connections (social, political, economic) between island peoples. 

Black Pitch, Carved Histories: Prehistoric wood sculpture from Trinidad’s Pitch Lake (AHRC, PI; 2014-2016; Host institution: National Museums Liverpool)


The study investigates the chronological and cultural context of wood artefacts recovered from Pitch Lake, Trinidad – the largest concentration of woodcarvings from the Lesser Antilles. Collections held in three international museums have undergone analysis, including the development of radiocarbon techniques specifically targeting pitch contamination issues, led by Co-I Dr. Fiona Brock (Cranfield Forensic Institute), and the establishment of a strontium ‘isoscape’ for the twin islands.

Pre-Hispanic Sculptural Arts in wood (Getty Foundation Collaborative Research Grant, PI; British Academy Large Research Grant, PI; 2007-2010; Host institution: National Museums Liverpool)


The large-scale collaborative project focused on establishing the first chronologies for Caribbean wood carvings. It involved the collections of 20 institutions in 8 countries, and an international team of colleagues, including the Oxford’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, UK; the USDA Forest Services, USA; the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany and the Department of Chemistry, University of Pisa, Italy.



Ostapkowicz, J., R. Schulting, R. Wheeler, L. Newsom, F. Brock, C. Snoeck, submitted. East-central Florida pre-Columbian wood sculpture: radiocarbon dating, wood identification and strontium isotope studies, for the Journal of Archaeological Science Reports.

Ostapkowicz, J., and R. Wheeler, submitted. Owls, otters and pelicans in watery realms. In The Archaeology, Art and Iconography of Florida’s Watery Landscapes, R. Wheeler and J. Ostapkowicz, editors, University of Florida Press, Gainesville.

Ostapkowicz, J., A. Roberts, J. Thistlewood, F. Brock, A. C. Wiedenhoeft, C. Snoeck, R. Schulting, W. Bray, submitted. The origins of Tradescant’s ‘India occidentali’ wooden clubs: 14C dating, material identification and strontium isotope studies, Antiquaries Journal.

Ostapkowicz, J. in press. New wealth from an Old world: glass, jet and mirrors in the 16th century indigenous Caribbean. In Gifts, goods and money: comparing currency and circulation systems in past societies, Daniela Hofmann, ed., Archeopress,

Ostapkowicz, J., F. Brock, A. C. Wiedenhoeft, R. Schulting, D. Saviola, in press. Integrating the Old World into the New: investigations of an ‘idol from the West Indies’, Antiquity 

Ostapkowicz, J. in press. Capesterre amulette, Institut national de recherches archéologiques preventives (INRAP/CNRS

Ostapkowicz, J. in press. Petite figurines en bois de Guadeloupe, Bilan Scientifique: Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles Guadeloupe 

Brock, F., J. Ostapkowicz, A. C. Wiedenhoeft, in press. Radiocarbon dating wooden carvings and skeletal remains from Pitch Lake, Trinidad, Radiocarbon.


Ostapkowicz, J. 2015. “Either a piece of domestic furniture of the Indians or one of Their Gods”: The Study of Lucayan duhos. Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 15: 62-101.

Ostapkowicz, J 2015a. The sculptural legacy of the Jamaican Taíno, Part I: The Carpenter’s Mountain carvings, Jamaica Journal 35(3): 52-59.

Ostapkowicz, J. 2015b. The sculptural legacy of the Jamaican Taíno, Part II: 18th-21st century discoveries, Jamaica Journal 36 (1-2): 94-106


Ostapkowicz, J. and L. A. Newsom, 2015. ‘Dioses… decorados con la aguja del bordador’: los materials, la confección y el significado de un relicario Taíno de algodón’. In El Cemí Taíno de Algodón, Bernardo Vega, ed., pp 131-179, Academia Dominica de la Historia, Santo Domingo.


Ostapkowicz, J., 2013. “Made… with admirable artistry”: The context, manufacture and history of a Taíno belt, The Antiquaries Journal, 93:287-317.

Ostapkowicz, J., C.B. Ramsey, F. Brock, C. Cartwright, R. Stacey, M. Richards, 2013. Birdmen, cemís and duhos: material studies and AMS 14C dating of Pre-Hispanic Caribbean wood sculptures in the British Museum, Journal of Archaeological Science 40(2013): 4675-4687.


Brock, F., J. Ostapkowicz, C.B. Ramsey, A. Wiedenhoeft, C.Cartwright, 2012. Paired dating of pith and outer edge (terminus) samples from Pre-Hispanic Caribbean wooden sculptures, Radiocarbon, 54(3-4): 677–688.

Ostapkowicz, J. and L A. Newsom, 2012[nbsp]  ‘Gods… adorned with the embroiderer’s needle’: A cotton reliquary from Hispaniola, Latin American Antiquity 23(3): 300-326.

Ostapkowicz, J., C.B. Ramsey, F. Brock, T. Higham, A. C. Wiedenhoeft, E. Ribechini, J.J. Lucejko, S. Wilson, 2012.  Chronologies in wood and resin: AMS 14C dating of pre-Hispanic Caribbean wood sculpture, Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 2238-2251.

Ostapkowicz, J., F. Brock, A. C. Wiedenhoeft and M. Richards, 2012. Carved Histories II: A duho biography, Times of the Islands, Summer 2012: 46-51; 53.

Ostapkowicz, J., B. N. Manco, M. Richards and A.C. Wiedenhoeft, 2012. Hidden Stories: Trees and the charting of Lucayan histories, Times of the Islands, Summer 2012: 22-27.


Ostapkowicz, J., A.C. Wiedenhoeft, C.B. Ramsey, E. Ribechini, S. Wilson, F. Brock, T. Higham, 2011. ‘Treasures… of black wood, brilliantly polished’: Five examples of Guaiacum sculpture from the 10th-16th century Caribbean, Antiquity 85: 942-959.   

Ostapkowicz, J., C.B. Ramsey, A.C. Wiedenhoeft, F. Brock, T.Higham, S. Wilson, 2011. ‘This relic of antiquity’: 5th-15th century wood carvings from the southern Lesser Antilles.  In Communities in Contact: Essays in Archaeology, Ethnohistory and Ethnography of the Amerindian circum-Caribbean, edited by Corinne L. Hofman and Anne vanDuijvenbode, pp. 137-170, Sidestone Press, Leiden.


Ostapkowicz, J., 2010. The Taíno: People of the Sea Islands.  In An Infinity of Nations: Art and History in the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian, Cecile R. Ganteaume, ed., pp 101-103, National Museum of the American Indian, New York.

Ostapkowicz, J., 2010. Nuu-chah-nulth and Makah Black-brimmed hatsChronology and Style, American Indian Arts Magazine, Vol 35(3):52-67; 84-85.


Ostapkowicz, J. 2008. Carved histories: Ceremonial duhos from the Turks and  Caicos Islands, Astrolobe: Times of the Islands, Fall 2008: 103-108.


Ostapkowicz, J., 2005. A Port to the World: Native American Collections at the Liverpool Museum, American Indian Art Magazine 30(2):66-75, 96.


Cooper, M., M. Solajic, G. Usher and J. Ostapkowicz, 2003. The application of laser technology to the conservation of a Haida totem pole, Journal of Cultural Heritage 4(2003):165-173.


Solajic, M., M. Cooper, T. Seddon, J. Rupell and J. Ostapkowicz, 2002. Colourful feathers: multidisciplinary investigation of the Amazonian featherwork from the ethnographic collection at the National Museum and Galleries on Mersyside (NMGM) – initial results.  In The Conservation of Fur, Feather and Skin, Margot M. Wright, ed., pp. 69-79, London.

Ostapkowicz, J., 2002. Codex Fejervary-Mayer. In Aztecs, p. 486, Royal Academy of Arts, London.


Ostapkowicz, Joanna, D. Lepofsky, R. Schulting and A. McHalsie, 2001. The Use of Cattail (Typha latifolia L.) Down as a Sacred Substance by the Interior and Coast Salish, Journal of Ethnobiology, Vol 21(2): 77-90.


Ostapkowicz, J. 1997. To be seated ‘with great courtesy and veneration’: Contextual aspects of the Taíno Duho.  In Taíno: Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the Caribbean, pp. 55-67, Fatima Bercht, Estrellita Brodsky, John Alan Farmer and Dicey Taylor, eds., Monacelli Press and Museo del Barrio, New York. 


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