Taino Zemi Lignum Vitae Figure
We were at the beach, and we were carrying all of our stuff over the dunes, and there was a little bitty part of brown in the dune, and there he was.
And where was this?
This is in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
It's a figure from the Taíno people. And the Taíno were Arawakan people from the Greater Antilles. And they lived in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. And they were around from the tenth to the 15th century. Normally these figures, the Zemí large figures, have a place on the top for a tray, and they would use a vegetal entheogen called cohoba, which they would grind up, put on top of the tray, and they would inhale it through tubes. It was a hallucinogen, and the results of that can be seen by the figure, the emaciated look. It's not large enough for that. It doesn't have the position for the tray, but does have this classic Zemí figure and the pointed headdress on the top. I have to say that this culture is probably faked more than any ethnographical culture out there, especially in shell and in stone, and very much so in wood. The early ones are made of a guaiacum, which is lignum vitae, which is a very, very hard wood, indeed, much of which has disappeared from this part of the world. And as soon as I picked it up, I realized it's lignum vitae. So this is good news. And the majority of these figures that are found in wood, the early ones, don't really bear any trace of burial at all. Many of them are found in caves. There are enough things going for it-- the carving, the positions-- for me to suggest that you need to have it carbon-dated to try to get the date right. Most of the fakes are from the 19th and 20th century. But if this turned out to be from the tenth to the 15th century, it would be the real McCoy. Much of it really falls into place as an early figure. The ones that we know at the British Museum and the Metropolitan are extraordinary figures. These areas here would have had inlays of shell or sometimes gold, even. I'll turn it over and you can see that it's fairly simple on the back, but that also is totally in line with the earlier ones. This is a difficult one for me, because as a figure, and if I saw this on the market, I would be very comfortable pricing it at about $3,000 to $4,000, that’s the retail price. If it was discovered to be an early piece, I think you'd probably be looking in the region probably of about $20,000. That's an incentive. (laughing)
(laughing) That is a great incentive. I can't imagine carbon dating costs that much.
Um, carbon dating, I think, is going to cost probably about $500 to $800. There's definite age in this piece. There's no doubt about it. It's just how much age is, that's what... That's what we'd like to find out.
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