Lucayan Legacies: Indigenous lifeways in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands


Lucayan Legacies evaluates the lives of the early Indigenous peoples in the Bahama archipelago and celebrates their legacy, identity, and descendants today. The book presents one of the most comprehensive discussions of Bahamian archaeology to date. While the field is relatively small, there is much to be learned from the Bahama archipelago and the long history of its many inhabitants. This publication fills a gap for many early researchers, who typically must rely on short articles or books more broadly focused on the Caribbean.

The author, Joanna Ostapkowicz, is interested in not only how these people lived, including the foods they ate, the objects they made, the customs they followed, and so on, but also in the lived experiences of these people – what life would truly have been like, in all aspects and avenues. As one of the few experts in Bahamian archaeology, she demonstrates a deep knowledge of the subject, including extensive detail of understudied or niche topics within the small field. Much like archaeological fieldwork, these matters are carefully excavated and discussed.

The first chapter focuses on geological and contemporary considerations, setting up both a physical and cultural landscape. The second chapter, and perhaps the most important, discusses current knowledge of Lucayan prehistory. Topics in this chapter include chronology, occupation, settlement, social structure, gender, life, and death of Lucayans. The third and fourth chapters get into the detail, focusing on the history of early Bahamian archaeologists and previous surveys of islands. The next focuses on material culture, including ceramics created by the Lucayans. Called Palmetto Ware, this pottery is by far the most common artefact found across the islands, though it only makes a brief appearance in the book. In lieu of ceramics, there is a focus on lesser-discussed material culture including stone tools, wood carvings, textiles, and body adornment. The sixth, and final, chapter focuses on post-contact considerations, including the resilience of Lucayans during European contact and the current merging of Lucayan and national identities. Especially poignant is the refutation of Lucayan ‘fragility’, and the discussion of artwork featuring Lucayans by Bahamian people today. In the recent past, it was common to consider the Lucayans as a subculture or secondary to their Greater Antillean neighbours, such as groups in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. This book puts the Lucayans at the forefront, highlighting their lives, contributions, and interactions within the broader region.

The book is well written and conceived. The book publisher’s commitment to open-access literature is also commendable. The illustrations are visually striking, particularly those focused on images of daily life for the Lucayans. Undoubtedly, this book will be a great tool for present and future academics. Richly filled with details, stories, and facts, I see the book being useful for referencing or searching for specific matters that would otherwise be difficult to find. Though accessible to the public, Lucayan Legacies is more suited to students and academics given its detailed descriptions.

Lucayan Legacies: Indigenous lifeways in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands
By Joanna Ostapkowicz
Sidestone Press, £65 (pbk)
ISBN 978-9464261011