|19 May 2011
Costa Rica's ancient cultures and prehistory
Three archeological sites in Costa Rica, Central America, give a glimpse into life before European conquest: Guayabo in Turrialba, Lake Arenal, and the Nicoya Peninsula.
Ceramics dating from 300 BCE found near Guanacaste, on the Nicoya peninsula, provide evidence of interaction between the Olmecs and the earliest Costa Ricans.
Lake Arenal, known for the volcano that stands over the valley, became the focus of Payson Sheets, an archeologist from the University of Colorado, USA. Using NASA remote sensing technology, Sheets discovered the existence of remote footpaths both around and under the current lake - some dating back to 500 BCE - during aerial surveys in 1985. Sheets and other behavioural archeologists theorise that wandering bands may have lived around the volcano as early as 10,000 BCE, although a permanent settlement probably did not become established until around 2000 BCE.
Guayabo de Turrialba is a 219 hectare (540 acre) site on the southern slope of the Turrialba Volcano. Only about ten percent of the site has been excavated. Established and inhabited somewhere around 1500 BCE, at its height Guayabo may have held between 10,000 and 25,000 people, yet seems abandoned by 1400 CE - nearly a century before the Spanish arrived. Guayabo's stone streets, structures, water cisterns and petroglyphs provide evidence of a thriving society. Scientists theorise from the drawings that there was a dual power structure - the political chief known as Cacique, and a religious and spiritual leader called Saman.
Edited from The Costa Rica News (9 May 2011)
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