Understanding Exchange in Late Pre-Hispanic Central America. Current Thinking on Culture Areas and Ethnicity

Author(s): Alexander Geurds

Year: 2015


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 and cultural containers were forgotten, then the diversity of material culture would become apparent. Clearly recognizable object forms such as circular earthworks, and monumental stone sculpture would still be apparent. A bewildering diversity of different 'styles', however, would predominate. In material culture terms, Late Pre-Hispanic Central America is about the reworking and redistributing of such material forms. To allow for an analysis of such object mobility in Central America, an archaeological viewpoint is needed that studies the diversity from a global and local vantage point, perhaps using landscape characteristics as a point of departure. The argument is illustrated by the Late Pre-Hispanic period coastal exchange routes between Mexico and Costa Rica that date back to the Middle Formative period, becoming part of the Mixteca-Puebla pottery complex.

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Cite this Record

Understanding Exchange in Late Pre-Hispanic Central America. Current Thinking on Culture Areas and Ethnicity. Alexander Geurds. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396518)


Geographic Keywords
Central America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -94.702; min lat: 6.665 ; max long: -76.685; max lat: 18.813 ;