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stool / duho

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Register 1949:
    Wooden four-legged stool carved in anthropomorphic form and inlaid with gold; called duho.

  • Ethnic name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 15thC (?)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 44 centimetres
    • Height: 22 centimetres
    • Width: 16.5 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    Register 1949:
    Oldman Collection.
    "Found in a cave in Santa Domingo" called Duho; Arawak craftsmanship, 15th century.
    See ETH DOC 1307.McEwan 2009
    One of the most triking Taino masterworks is this chief's stool sculpted from the dense tropical hardwood guayacan (Guaiacum officinale). It assumes the form of a powerful male figure with ear spools crouching on all fours with his head tilted up and mouth locked open in a tense grimace. The inscribed patterns just below the shoulders and on the backrest represent cotton armbands and a waistband. The Taino prized the hardness, durability and above all the blackness of the guayacan for their most precious religious objects. Black represented night and was also equated with the absence of colour in the invisible spirit realm. Hammered gold inlay was placed in the eyes to indicate the ability to "see" into this supernatural world. Gold was also applied to the joints - the points of articulation that maintain the component body parts as an integral whole. Chiefs and shamans used these "seats of power" to intercede with the ancestor spirits (cernis) and to help manage and control the invisible forces governing the natural world as well as the human affairs.


  • Bibliography

    • MacGregor 2010 65 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2000 Fig. 10.8 bibliographic details
    • McEwan 2009 pp. 108-109 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    2005-2007 1 Oct-7 Jan, London, Horniman Museum, Amazon to Caribbean: Early Peoples of the Rainforest
    2008, Apr-Sept, Barcelona, Museo Barbier-Mueller D'Art Precolombi, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2008 Sept -2009 Jan, Santiago de Compostela, Fundacion Caixa Galiciade, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2009, Jan-Apr, Madrid, Museo de America, 'Caribbean Before Columbus'
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2014 April-June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, "History of the World" PROMISED

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    20 April 2007

    Reason for treatment

    Temporary Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Remove old cork replacement on proper left back leg and liaise with curator and MA regarding suitable new replacement or mount alternative for display.


    Overall condition is good.

    The lower part of both back legs is missing (possibly sawn-off in the case of the PR leg, and cut subsequently to past insect damage in the case of the PL leg). Both stumps have different height today (PL shorter than PR).

    The PL leg shows an unsightly replacement made of cork roughly carved and painted with a thick black layer. The cork replacement has been fixed to the stump with a joint of animal glue and is coated with a thick black layer which contains animal glue, conifer resin and beeswax (see report ref. below).

    A number of adhesives, deposits and coatings are visible in different areas of the figure. Analysis of those materials was requested in order to inform conservation decisions by indicating which deposits are linked to previous restoration and which (if any) are original.

    "Examination and analysis of various adhesives and coatings from a Caribbean duho (stool)".

    CDS analytical request no. 2007/11

    R.J. Stacey and C.L. Higgitt - 27 March 07

    Treatment details

    The cork replacement raises the level of the PL leg, i.e. higher than the PR stump, but the leg is still shorter than the two complete front legs. When the back of the figure rests on the cork replacement, the front part of the front feet appears raised in an unnatural fashion. Observations of the whole balance of the figure suggest that the back legs would have originally been as high as the front legs, allowing the front feet to lay flat. The initial curator's suggestion was to remove the cork addition and replace it with a new shaped replacement. After initial observations with the curator, it was decided to first remove the cork before a decision could be made regarding the best way forward in order to display the object.

    The glue joint was softened using IMS (Industrial Methylated Spirit), injected with a small insulin type syringe, in order to remove the cork replacement. The wooden dowel found inserted in both the leg and the cork was also removed. A large amount of animal glue was left once the cork piece was removed. This was further softened using a layer of about 50% Laponite RD (sodium magnesium lithium silicate) in distilled water applied on the glue joint over an intermediate layer of Japanese tissue, the whole covered with a layer of melinex and a small sand bag to prevent the fast drying of the Laponite layer and maintain it in good contact with the glue. The softened glue was cleared out of the uneven surface of the wood with a bamboo skewer and small cotton swabs moistened with IMS.

    Once the cork piece was removed, it was agreed with the curator that creating a solid replacement for the legs was not appropriate since there was no indication as to how the back legs / feet would have looked like originally. The chosen alternative to allow the display of the figure with the front feet laying flat, was to raise the back of the figure using a discreet mount made of small Perspex (polymethylmethacrylate) rods, one of which would be inserted in the PL leg where the dowel used to sit in order to provide stability. This task was entrusted to the MA.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Africa, Oceania & the Americas

  • Registration number


Stool (with anthropomorphic figure), duho made of wood, gold.

Stool (with anthropomorphic figure), duho made of wood, gold.

Image description



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Object reference number: ESA20923

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