Caminos perdidos y vías olvidadas: Trade Routes and Exchange Networks in Late Pre-Hispanic Central America

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Twenty-first century archaeological research focusing on southern Central America is producing a substantial amount of knowledge concerning a culture area that has long suffered a reputation for being “poorly known.” Despite an increase in data, scholars still have a comparatively limited understanding of how the various regions and polities within this culture area interacted with each other and with their more distant neighbors to the north, south, and east before the arrival of Europeans. Many discussions of trade and exchange between different regions remain largely speculative. Papers in this session will attempt to take a fresh look at archaeological and ethnohistorical evidence for the lost social networks and trade routes that once carried Maya jades to Costa Rica and copper bells from Panama to West Mexico.

Geographic Keywords
Central America

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-14 of 14)

  • Documents (14)

  • Asking New Questions to Central Nicaraguan Pottery (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Natalia Donner.

    Pre-Hispanic Central Nicaraguan pottery has often been addressed as "poorly studied", or "problematic". Therefore, researchers still have a lot of questions regarding the region’s development and specially its interactions with other areas. Even though a ceramic sequence was established at the end of the 1980’s (Gorin 1990, Espinoza and Rigat 1994), analyses have traditionally focused on type-variety and modal traits, often concentrating on decoration techniques and motifs. As a result, we lack...

  • The Best of All Worlds: Exploring exchange and interaction with Nicoyan, Caribbean Costa Rican and Panamanian societies at the Southern Costa Rican site of El Cholo. (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Roberto Herrera.

    Recent work at the mid to late Formative site of El Cholo reveals that from at least the 3rd century AD, occupants of this mound complex interacted with Costa Rican Caribbean watershed social groups as well as western Panamanian Chiriquí societies. Evidence also demonstrates contact from as far north as the Guanacaste Nicoya region in place by the 10th or 11th centuries AD. Further analysis of the site suggests that interaction was likely initially predicated on trans-cordilleran ethnic and...

  • Ethnic Identities in Central Nicaragua: Perspectives from a Habitational Site (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Roosmarie Vlaskamp.

    Archaeological research in Central Nicaragua has traditionally focused on the recognition of different ethnic groups in pre-Hispanic times and their interaction through the evidence of trade wares. However, a reconsideration of the available data has revealed that there is an absence of knowledge on the habitus of these groups, a central concept in the recent discussion on ethnicities. Therefore, over the next four years a pre-Hispanic habitational site in Central Nicaragua will be investigated...

  • Interregional Exchange and the Rise of Inequality in the Intermediate Area (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Charles Berrey. Scott Palumbo.

    Interregional exchange has long played a prominent role in explanations of hierarchical development among early complex societies in lower Central America and throughout the Intermediate Area. It is argued to have been a primary basis of social power among highly developed chiefdoms of the sixteenth century, and to have played a vital role in the onset of inequality approximately 1000 years earlier. However, while interregional exchange was undoubtedly an important element of early inequality in...

  • The Mystery of Managua Polychrome Part II (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Larry Steinbrenner.

    This presentation continues the discussion of Managua Polychrome I began in a paper presented at the 2014 SAA general meeting. While Part I of this paper focused on early attempts to describe and define Managua Polychrome (a distinctive Late Postclassic ceramic type characteristically found in the Managua-Masaya region of Pacific Nicaragua that has been largely neglected by archaeologists working in Greater Nicoya) and discussed the connections between the type and Nimbalari Trichrome (a ceramic...

  • Navigating Pre-Hispanic Central America: Discerning Aquatic Transportation Routes and Technologies (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Adam Benfer. Róger Mesén.

    In the lowland tropics of southern Central America during the later pre-Hispanic periods, the oceans, lakes, and rivers were interregional highways that linked dispersed societies for purposes of trade and communication. Using ethnohistoric sources, archaeological finds, and ethnographic data, we review the types and varieties of indigenous watercraft that might have been used to navigate these natural transport networks. Along the way, we consider the lifeways of these pre-Hispanic boatmen and...

  • Obsidian Exchange Patterns among the Coastal Plains of Northwest Nicaragua (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Colón. Jimmy Daniels. Lana Ruck. Clifford T. Brown.

    We performed morphotechnical and trace element analysis of 2871 obsidian artifacts recovered during survey and excavation from 12 archaeological sites in the Department of Chinandega, in northwest Nicaragua. The elemental analysis was conducted using the Bruker Tracer III-V portable X-Ray Fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometer. The pXRF spectra and elemental concentrations of artifacts were compared with those of known source provenience. The results show 98 percent of the specimens match the...

  • Obsidian Trade from the Perspective of Chiquilistagua, Managua, Nicaragua (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Justin Lowry. Jason Paling. Colin Quinn.

    The 2013 and 2014 seasons at Chiquilistagua archaeological project included survey, description and excavations of archaeological remains west of Managua. The site of Chiquilistagua was chosen because of its proximity to potential trade networks. Lithic and ceramic materials have been found in these excavations that point to production and trade. This paper will show analyses of trade networks connecting Nicaragua with southern Honduras and contextualizing those trade networks within the larger...

  • 'Out of Mexico' 25 Years Later: A Reconsideration of Migration into Greater Nicoya (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Geoffrey McCafferty.

    In 1989, John Hoopes and I presented a paper at the SAA conference in which we attempted an archaeological evaluation of ethnohistorical models for Mexican migrations into the Greater Nicoya region of Central America. Although the paper was never published, it became the foundation for my current research in Pacific Nicaragua. Colonial chronicles describe ‘Mexican’ cultural practices of the Nahua-speaking Nicarao and, to a lesser extent, the Oto-Manguean-speaking Chorotega. Linguists and art...

  • The Quest for Gold: An Examination of Socioeconomic Exchange and Autonomy in the Parita River Valley, Panama (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mikael Haller.

    Through the Parita Archaeological Research Project (PARP), we have investigated socioeconomic change in Central Region of Panama using several different scales of analysis. More specifically, we examined the relationship between episodes of social change and the following factors: sociopolitical organization, craft specialization and economic interdependence, and control and manipulation of trade goods, subsistence resources and ritual space. Despite the presence of some long-distance trade...

  • Seeking Isla Palenques's Deeper Meaning (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Johnny Bogle.

    Although Isla Palenque is an important Panamanian archaeological site that has been investigated several times from the 1960s through the 80s, there remain important questions associated with the human occupation of the settlement. Current changes in Panama’s tourism growth make this emergent study important, because while this site has remained relatively "unchanged" for decades, current construction projects are beginning to limit study of the island that has been notoriously difficult to...

  • Traveling and trading in Ancient Costa Rica (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Yajaira Núñez-Cortés.

    Evidence of trading between Greater Nicoya and the Central region of Costa Rica increases in the later Pre-Columbian periods (AD 800-1550), likely tied to the expansion of commercial networks from more complex chiefdoms. Different trading routes have been proposed, including the Central Pacific as one the possible gateways to the Central Valley. The feasibility of trade routes in that region is explored and evaluated here taking into account the known archaeological sites and routes followed by...

  • Understanding Exchange in Late Pre-Hispanic Central America. Current Thinking on Culture Areas and Ethnicity (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexander Geurds.

    This paper argues that improving understanding of exchange in Central American prehistory is hampered by static cultural taxonomies, and traditions of thinking and publishing that are limited in terms of the 'archaeology of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama', dividing the field to the point where scholars are uncomfortable discussing Pre-Hispanic Central America as such. This has put an unsatisfactory halt to the discussion about how to understand and conceptualize this isthmian region. If ethnic...

  • West Mexico, the Missing Link with South America (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carol Gonzalez-Velez.

    Cultures in the Intermediate Area served as the catalyst for the potential connections that exist between north and south. Maritime trading routes were the most probable form of contact and dissemination of information and styles. Iconographic evidence points to contact between various people from Chupícuaro to San Agustin Their styles are but a few of the missing links for the interaction between cultures from north and south. SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society...