It's Complicated: Making Sense of Material Monoculture in Multicultural Societies

Author(s): Carrie Dennett

Year: 2018


Ethnohistoric and colonial documents typically focus on detailing a socioeconomic and political landscape dominated by Chorotega and Nicarao groups for contact-period Pacific Nicaragua. Yet these texts simultaneously indicate that other groups living in isolated communities or urban barrios were also commonplace and included Maribios, Mazatec, Chondal, Matagalpans, Sumo-Ulwa, and possibly Lenca and/or Maya-speaking peoples, among others. As archaeologists, we are aware—many of us dutifully placing the convoluted language distribution map in our culture history write-ups. Despite this, most of these groups are not factored into theoretical discussions and are rarely, if ever, seriously discussed as part of the region’s archaeological past. Instead, a three-phase linear trajectory (Chibchan-Chorotega-Nicarao) premised on ‘great’ migration events ending in regional domination by foreigners and their intrusive material monoculture has been the interpretive norm. This inconsistency begs the questions: Do we really believe complex multicultural lifeways magically appeared with or immediately before the Spaniards? And if multicultural lifeways were a pre-Columbian norm in this area, as complex social organization at contact suggests, why can’t we see those other groups in the record? Using Sapoá-period (AD 800-1250) ceramics as a case study, this paper explores whether the assemblage represents ‘Chorotega monoculture’ or a complex multicultural aggregate.

Cite this Record

It's Complicated: Making Sense of Material Monoculture in Multicultural Societies. Carrie Dennett. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444795)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -92.153; min lat: -4.303 ; max long: -50.977; max lat: 18.313 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21192