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Faring the Sweet Sea: Simulating Pre-Hispanic Raft and Canoe Navigation in Lake Cocibolca, Nicaragua

Author(s): Adam Benfer

Year: 2017

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Before 1492, the human communities that inhabited the shores of Lake Cocibolca in Central America engaged in dynamic interactions and exchange networks, traveling across the land and canoeing or rafting on the lake and rivers to trade goods and communicate with their neighbors. Evidencing this travel network, archaeological studies have documented an abundance of ceramics and carved stone that the past inhabitants of the Lake Cocibolca region produced and traded widely during the later pre-Hispanic periods (AD 300–1550). To shed light on this interaction and exchange network, I use a geographic information system to predictively model the optimal aquatic communication routes among the near-shore and island-based settlements of this lake. This model utilizes seasonally averaged environmental variables of surface current and wind patterns and cultural variables of navigator skill, vessel shape, and propulsion method to simulate a series of lacustrine voyages. Through this model, travel times and probable routes are estimated. These simulations indicate that Lake Cocibolca is navigable by dugout canoe and raft under average conditions and it is likely that canoe travelers would have taken advantage of the prevalent current and wind patterns to contact their neighbors via this large freshwater lake.

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Faring the Sweet Sea: Simulating Pre-Hispanic Raft and Canoe Navigation in Lake Cocibolca, Nicaragua. Adam Benfer. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431002)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16014

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America