Holocene Human Adaptations on the Pacific Coast of Central America

Author(s): Hector Neff

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Human Behavioral Ecology at the Coastal Margins: Global Perspectives on Coastal & Maritime Adaptations" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Holocene human adaptations to the Pacific coast of southern Mesoamerica and Central America are documented at a number of locations from southern Mexico to Panama. Evidence comes from Archaic-Period shell mounds, Early Formative sites at the edge of dry land behind the mangrove forests, and cores that have sampled littoral zone sediments. Review of this evidence indicates that human activities played a key role in lower-coastal geomorphological evolution. First, anthropogenic deforestation of the interior coastal plain and uplands starting in the early Holocene accelerated sediment delivery to the lower coast, providing raw material for building barrier beaches that protected developing wetlands. By shortly after 2000 cal BC, these processes had created rich wetland zones that attracted colonization by early pottery-using people during the Initial Early Formative period. By the end of the Early Formative, around 1000 cal BC, exploitation of the estuarine zone in some locations had shifted to intensive use of mangrove wood to fuel salt production. Absence of pollen in levels corresponding to the Middle through Terminal Formative in some cores suggests that intensification of salt production led to deforestation and desiccation of mangrove forest sediments, as littoral zones focused more and more on specialized craft-production activities.

Cite this Record

Holocene Human Adaptations on the Pacific Coast of Central America. Hector Neff. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450742)

Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22885