A unique cotton Taíno reliquary-the only extant example currently known-provides an unprecedented window onto the complex mortuary and ritual ceremonies of the pre-Hispanic Caribbean. This study explores its cultural context as recorded by the early Spanish and French chroniclers and missionaries who were witness to the use and beliefs surrounding these objects in both the Greater and Lesser Antilles. It provides the first AMS radiocarbon date for the reliquary, placing it within a firmer historical context. It also examines the woven sculpture in some detail, providing a review of the manufacture process and a detailed study of the components-cotton, animal hair, lianas, gourd, resins and shell-that went into its creation. From the wrapping of important cemís (representations of spirits) in cotton, to the binding of the skeletal remains of venerated ancestors within elaborate weavings, cotton had an intrinsic value as a material that wrapped and bound the ancestors to the living and the living to each other.
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