José R. Oliver
- BA, MA, PhD
- Reader in Latin American Archaeology
- Course Co-ordinator: ARCL2039 Ancient Civilisations of Andean South America
- Course Co-ordinator: ARCL3049 Archaeology of the Caribbean
- Course Co-ordinator: ARCL3059 Archaeology of Chiefdoms
- Course Co-ordinator (with Manuel Arroyo Kalin): ARCL3060 Ancient societies of Amazonia
- Departmental Equal Opportunity Liaison Officer (DEOLO)
- Departmental Freedom of Information Act Co-ordinator
- Departmental Affiliate Tutor
research focuses on the ancient history (archaeology, ethnohistory) of the
aborigines of the Caribbean, particularly in Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. Recently research has focused on the
archaeology of personhood and ‘archaeo-ethnicity’, through an examination of
politically and religiously-charged pre-Columbian material culture and on how
such materials (ranging from cemi idols, and houses to cultural landscapes such
as caves, ceremonial plazas and bateyes [ball-courts]) were used to construct
and negotiate identities and ‘Maussian’ webs of social, economic and political
relations in a multicultural and multi-linguistic setting. Dr. Oliver directs a multi-year research, Macorix de Arriba Archaeological Project
in northern Dominican Republic to further explore webs of inter-ethic groups
and identities, and the ethnogenesis of the ‘Taino’ (Arawakan speakers) and
‘Macorix’ (non-Arawakan) and their eventual transformation due to European
Research Directory Records
- Early Peopling of Central and South America
- Macorix de Arriba Archaeological Project
- Metals and Metallurgy in the Americas
- The Macorix de Arriba Archaeological Project, is a five year field archaeological research program (2010-2014) conducted in the Punta Rucia coastal area of northern Dominican Republic, some 30 Km west of La Isabela, the first settlement founded by Christopher Columbus in January 1493. This multi-cultural (Taino, Macorix and others) is ideally suited to explore the nature of inter-ethnic relationships, the construction of identities and the first large-scale impact of Europeans in the New World. The Macorix Project is currently funded by the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology-UCLA and the Albert Reckitt Archaeology Fund of the British Academy.
- The Macorix Project has the collaboration of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, Secretaría de Cultura of the Dominican Republic and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology-UCLA-Archaeology Field Program, which also runs a formal archaeology field school. Student from the MA Archaeology Program of the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe participate as volunteers in the Project.
- The Project´s co-principal is archaeologist Jorge Ulloa Hung of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano; and includes collaborations with paleo- and ethnobotanist Jaime Pagán Jiménez of the University of Puerto Rico; zooarchaeologists Renato Rímoli (Museo del Hombre) and Yvonne Narganes (University of Puerto Rico); palaeobotanist Joaquín Nadal of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano. The project is also assisted in geoarchaeology by Isabel Rivera Collazo (PhD research student) and in archaeometallurgy by Marcos Martinón-Torres both at the Institute of Archaeology-UCL.
- BA (1977) in Anthropology Miami University at Oxford, Ohio
- MA (1981) & PhD (1989) in Anthropology, the University of Illinois at Urabana-Champaign
- Ford Foundation Post-doctoral Fellow at Yale University, New Haven
- Oliver, J. R. (2013). Caguana: legado historico. San Juan, PR: Institute of Puerto Rican Culture. ISBN: 978-0-86581-662-6
- Oliver, J. R. (2009). Caciques and Cemi Idols. The web spun by Taino Rulers between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press.
- Hofman, C.L., Hoogland, M.P.L., Samson, A.V.M., Oliver, J.R. (2008). Investigaciones arqueológicas en El Cabo, oriente de la República Dominicana: Resultados preliminares de las campanas 2005 y 2006. Boletín del Museo del Hombre Dominicano 35(42), 307-316
- Oliver, J.R. (2008). Tiempos difíciles: Fray Ramón Pané en La Española. in Oliver, J.R., McEwan,C., Casas Gilberga,A. (ed.) El Caribe precolombino: Fray Ramón Pané y el universo taíno. Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona-Institut de Cultura, Museu Barbier-Mueller, Ministerio e Cultura-Madrid and CaixaGalicia, 1st edition, 72-95. ISBN: 978-84-9850-105-6
- Oliver, J.R. (2008). El universo material y espiritual de los taínos. in Oliver,J.R., McEwanC., Casas Gilberga,A. (ed.) El Caribe precolombino: Fray Ramón Pané y el universo taíno. Barcelona: Ajuntament de Barcelona-Instut de Cultura, Museu Barbier Mueller, Ministerio de Cultura-Madrid and CaixaGalicia, 1st edition, 136-221. ISBN: 978-84-9850-105-6
- Oliver, J.R. (2008). The Archaeology of Agriculture in Ancient Amazonia. Chapter 12 in Silverman,H., Isbell,W.H. (ed.) Handbook of South American Archaeology. New York: Springer Science+Media, LCC, 1st edition, 185-216. ISBN: 978-0-387-74906-8
- Oliver, J.R., McEwan,C., Casas Gilberga,A., editors (2008), El Caribe precolombino: Fray Ramón Pané y el universo taíno,Barcelona, España [Spain]: Ajuntament de Barcelona-Institut de Cultura, Museu Barbier Mueller, Ministerio de Cultura-Madrid and Fundacion CaixaGalicia. ISBN: 97-84-9850-105-6.
- Pagán Jiménez,J., Oliver, J.R. (2008). Starch Residues on Lithic Artifacts from Two Contrasting Contexts in Northwestern Puerto Rico: Los Muertos Cave and Vega de Nelo Vargas. Chapter 11 in Hofman,C.L., Hoogland,M.P., vanGijn,A. (ed.) Crossing the Borders. New Methods and Techniques in the Study of Archaeological Materials from the Caribbean.. Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory series. Series edited by Curet,L.A.. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1st edition, 137-158. ISBN: 13: 978-0-8173-5453-4
- Oliver, J.R. (2007). Estudio acerca del significado y funcione de los aros líticos, piedras en codo y trigonolitos de Puerto Rico y La Española. El Caribe Arqueológico (10), 43-68. ISSN: 1682-7562 [ Online ]
- Turvey,S., Oliver J.R., Narganes,Y., Pye.P. (2007). Late Holocene extinction of Puerto Rico native land mammals. Biology Letters . ISSN: 1744-9561
- Hofman,C., Oliver, J.R., Hoogland,M., Samson,A. (2006). Investigaciones arqueologicas en El Cabo, Oriente de la Republica Dominicana: Resultados de la campaña del 2005. El Caribe Arqueologico 9(2006), 95-106. ISSN: 1682-7562
- Oliver,J.R. (2001). The Archaeology of Forest Foraging and Agricultural Production in Amazonia. Chapter 2 in McEWan, C., Barreto C., Neves, E. (ed.) Unknown Amazon: Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil. British Museum Press, 1st edition, 50-85. ISBN: 0 7141 2558 X
- Oliver,J.R., Fontan,J.R., Newsom,L.A. (1999). Arqueologia del Barrio Caguana, Puerto Rico: Resultados preliminares de las temporadas 1996-1997. in Fontan,J.R. (ed.) Trabajos de Investigacion Arqueologia en Puerto Rico - 3er Encuentro de Investigadores. Division de Arqueologia, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena, 7-26
- Drewett,P.L., Oliver,J. (1998). Prehistoric Settlements on the Caribbean. Archaeology International (1), 43-46. ISSN: 1463-1725
- Oliver,J.R. (2006). Book Review: Oyuela Caycedo & R. M. Bonzani's "San Jacinto-1. A historical ecological approach to an Archaic site in Colombia (Alabama Press, 2005). Antiquity 80(309), 739-741. ISSN: 0003-598X
- Oliver,J.r. (2006). People of the Caribbean: Cuba and Puerto Rico. Antiquity 80(308), 475-477. ISSN: 0003-598X
- Oliver ,J. R. (2005). The Proto-Taino Monumental Cemis of Caguana: A Political-Religious Manifesto. Chapter 7 in Siegel, P. E. (ed.) Ancient Borinquen-Archaeology and Ethnohistory of Puerto Rico. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1st edition, 230-284. ISBN: 0-8173-1471-7
- Oliver, J.R., Narganes Storde,Y. (2005), The zooarcheaological remains from Juan Miguel Cave and Finca de Dona Rosa, Barrio Caguana, Puerto Rico. Proceedings of the International Congress of Caribbean Archaeology series. Series edited by Tavares Maria,G., Garcia Arevalo,M.. ISBN/ISSN: 99934-813-6-X
- Rivera-Fontan,J., Oliver, J.R. (2005), Impactos y patrones de ocupacion historica jibara sobre componentes tainos: El sitio Vega de Nelo Vargas (Utu-27) Barrio Caguana, Municipio de Utuado, Puerto Rico. Proceedings of the International Congress of Caribbean Archaeology series. Series edited by Tavares Maria,G., Garcia Arevalo,M.. ISBN/ISSN: 99934-813-6-X
- Oliver, J.R. (2004). Review of "Dark Shamans. Kanaimá and the Poetics of Violent Death" by Neil L. Whitehead. Ethnohistory 51(1).
- Oliver, J.R. with C. S. Alexander, (2003). Ocupaciones del Plesitoceno terminal en el Occidente de Venezuela. Maguare, 17. Revista del Departamento de Antropología. Universidad Nacional de Colombia Issue editor, G. Ardila Calderón. Bogotá, Colombia. ISSN 0120-3045.
- Oliver, J.R. (2003). Cultural Resource Management-Reports (Contract Archaeology) An Interpretative Analysis and Discussion of the Río Cocal-1 Community of Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico. In Final Report of Phase-III Mitigation of Cocal-1 Site, Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico. Edited by Christopher Goodwin, Chapter 9. Submitted by R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates to the United States Department of the Navy, Atlantic Division. Frederick, Maryland.
- Oliver, J.R. (2001). The archaeology of forest foraging and agricultural production in Amazonia, pp. 50-85. In McEwan, C., C. Barreto & E. Neves (eds), The Unknown Amazon - Culture in Nature in Ancient Brazil. London: British Museum Press.
- Oliver, J.R. (2000). Gold Symbolism Among Caribbean Chiefdoms: Of Feathers, Çibas and Guanín Power Among Taíno Elites, in C McEwan (ed), Pre-Columbian Gold in South America: Technology Style and Iconography, 196- 219. London: British Museum Press ISBN 0714125342. In USA: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers ISBN 1579582877
- Oliver, J.R. (1999). The La Hueca Complex in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean: Old Problems, New Perspectives, Possible Solutions, in C Hofman & M Hoogland (eds), Archaeological Investigations on St. Martin, (Lesser Antilles): The Sites of Norman Estate, Hope Estate & Anse des Peres. Archaeological Studies Leiden University, 4, 253-297. Leiden, Holland ISBN-90-76368-04
- Olivier, J.R. & Arvelo, L, (1999). La región Centro-Occidental, in M Arroyo, L Blanco, E Wagner & G Urdaneta (eds), Arte Prehispánico de Venezuela. 120-135. Fundación Galería de Arte Nacional. Caracas, Venezuela. ISBN 980-6420-11-X
- Oliver, J.R. & Curet, L A, (1998). Mortuary Practices, Social Development, and Ideology in Precolumbian Puerto Rico. Latin American Antiquity, 9(3), 217-239
- Oliver, J.R. (1998). El Centro Ceremonial de Caguana, Puerto Rico: Simbolismo iconográfico, cosmovisión y el poderío caciquil taíno de Borínquen. BAR International Series 727, 232 pp. ISBN 0 86054 915 1
- Oliver, J.R. (1997). Dabajuroid Archaeology, Settlements and House Structures: An Overview from Mianland Western Venezuela, in A Versteeg & S Rostain (eds), The Archaeology of Aruba: The Tanki Flip Site, 363-428. Co-Publication of the Archaeological Museum of Aruba, Monograph 8 & the Foundation for Scientific Research in the Caribbean Region, 141. Aruba & Amsterdam. ISBN 99-904-85-20-8 & 1381-2491
- Oliver, J.R. (1997). The Taíno Cosmos, in S Wilson (ed), Indigenous People of the Caribbean, 140-153. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-1531-6
- Bruna Rocha Archaeology of the Upper Tapajos River, Para, Brazi (second supervisor Manuel Arroyo-Kalin
Complete PhD Students
- Isabel Rivera-Collazo Between land and Sea: Mid - Holocene Maritime Hunter-Gatherers in the Caribbean (second supervisor Arlene Rosen)
Statement to Prospective PhD Research Students
For prospective Masters and PhD research students, as a thesis supervisor or co-supervisor I can bring over 30 years of professional and academic expertise and over 35 years fieldwork experience not only in the Caribbean and South America, but also Midwestern and Southeastern United States. I have supervised PhD and MA dissertations covering the Caribbean, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Culebra Island, the Virgin Islands, Lesser Antilles, Trinidad, and Tobago; in Western Venezuela; the Central Andes of Peru, Colombia, and the Brazilian Amazon, in addition to Panamá and Belize (Maya) in Central America. I have also conducted research in all periods of human history in the Americas, from the late Pleistocene (ca. 13,000 to 10,000 BP) at El Jobo in Western Venezuela to the Spanish/European contact period in Hispaniola and Venezuela (late 15th to mid-16th centuries). I consider myself to be an anthropological archaeologist who exploits the best of what processual and postmodern theoretical approaches have to offer.
In the course of my career I have developed specialized skills in ceramic analysis, historical linguistics and lexicostatistics (to study diasporas, migrations), and in the critical analysis of ethnohistorical documents. However, rather than specializing in a given subfield of archaeology, such as GIS or archeometallurgy, I derive much more intellectual satisfaction in collaborating with such specialists to obtain from them results that are needed to address a range of research problems and questions at hand. In my own research, I prefer the role of the conductor of an orchestra to that of a master violinist or cellist; I know how to direct each of the musicians, and in concert (harmony), in order create a symphony. While I may not be a master violinist, I certainly must know what is required from each musician and know the technical and musical capabilities of each instrument. I certainly know how the first violin ought to sound in a given symphony. Given this predilection, any of my PhD students requiring specialized skills and knowledge are co-supervised by a member of our faculty who specializes in the required field. This is one of the key strengths for which the Institute of Archaeology is renowned world-wide. Here, the prospective PhD student will be able to integrate and exploit the best of both worlds to produce a substantive, innovative dissertation.
There is no
archaeological research problem or topic in Latin America (South America and
Isthmus of Panama-Colombia) and the Caribbean regions (which is not all
‘Latin’, but also Dutch, English, and Papiamento,) that I would be uninterested
or unwilling to supervise. Among the
broad research themes that I would welcome are:
- the origins of agriculture, including the transition from hunter-gatherer to fully developed ‘state’ agricultural economies
- changing human-natural environmental relations (historical ecology, landscape archaeology)
- intercultural contacts and the processes of transculturation (including masking) and enthogenesis
- the social, political and economic implications of mobility, trade and exchange (webs, networks)
- the rise and consolidation of inequality, social rank and complex societies as inferred from the archaeological record
- factors and causes promoting population spread, migrations diasporas and their impact
- art, archaeology and anthropology in all its dimensions
ceremony and belief systems as expressed in material culture, often referred to
as the ‘archaeology of religion’
- Colonial encounters and ethnic
transformations in the Caribbean and lowland South America
Below I highlight in more detail two research topics:
The Formative Period in the Tropical Lowlands of South America. Entails research exploring and assessing, from a multidisciplinary perspective, the factors and causes leading to patterns and processes that resulted in or promoted sedentary village life, agricultural production, and increasing social complexity in the vast lowlands South America. It explores fundamental questions about pre-colonial or pre-Columbian patterns of similarity and difference, and of divergence, convergence and parallelism, and of interaction among the emerging Formative period (ca. 4500-2500 BP) societies as inferred from their (archaeological) material cultural record, with particular attention to the the multifarious human and social and economic relationships have had with the evolving mosaic of natural environments. In order to tackle the questions of when, where, how, and why requires delving in one or more of the specialised or allied fields of environmental archaeology (i.e., palaeoclimatology, palaeobotany, archaeobtany, zooarchaeology, and geoarchaeology), landscape archaeology (phenomenological or historical ecological perspectives), and ethnohistory and linguistics (when examining diaspora and migration as well as inter-cultural contacts). Areas of special concern include (a) the phenomenon of anthropogenic dark earth (ADE) and their implications for demographic density and long term occupations in Amazonia and the Guyana coastal plains; (b) the nature of intensification of agricultural technologies, such as raised fields, in seasonal wetlands and floodplains and their socioeconomic implications, for regions such as Baurés in Bolivia, the coastal plains of the three Guyanas, Mompox-San Jorge in Colombia, the Llanos of the Orinoco; (c) documenting and explaining continuity, change and interactions in time and/or space as reflected by the ancient ceramic art styles and traditions, and (d) the theme of ancestors, death and afterlife as attested (and inferred) from burials practice in the archaeological record. My own research in South America focuses on the Orinoco River, where some of the earliest dated sites (ca. 2400 BC – 1000 BC) of the Formative Period in the lowlands are found and purported homeland of the Saladoid-Barrancoid, one of the most widespread ‘great’ ceramic traditions through the Amazonia and the Caribbean.
Art in Archaeology and Anthropology: It involves research topics engaging multidisciplinary theoretical approaches to, and the classification, analysis and interpretation (symbolism, meanings) of, the artistic material culture of pre-colonial and early colonial aboriginal societies of South America and the Circum-Caribbean regions. The focus is on issues and problems of human-object-context relations, their circulation and distribution (or lack of), raising questions of why and how these change through time and vary through space, and what these relationships inform about both the objects of art and past societies. A range of concepts can be deployed in the analysis of art: aesthetics (style, form), representation (imagery, iconography), identity, embodiment, personhood, and agency (animation, volition, potency; biographies of the objects (i.e., Appadurai); its mode of (re)production and authenticity (i.e, one of a kind original, or many copies or emulations of an original?). Subjects may include entire landscapes ‘as art’ to monumental buildings (immobilia), to all sorts of ‘portable’ crafts executed in all sorts of media. One area of research interest, where an art and archaeology approach is most illuminating, is in the analysis of highly charged objects, imbued with political-religious value (and power) that are maintained in circulation via inheritance, through reciprocal exchanges or, not infrequently, through theft or as war booty by competitors. What can be gifted (alienable) and not gifted (inalienable) to others, what is owed (notions of debt, sensu Graeber), and what remains in circulation in webs of exchange (or as inherited heirlooms) and is invisible and taken out of circulation (e.g., as burial offerings) provides fundamental insights into past and present modes of sociality. Any area or tradition from South America and the Caribbean is welcome, whether the data base is Moche or Chavin from the Central Andes, Tairona from Colombia, Barrancoid from the Orinoco, Guarita/Polychrome from Amazonia, or Taino from the Antilles.