Week 3 Field Update: Partially complete vessel bottom recovered!

Hi all!

Exciting stuff this last week, we will posting on the various developments over the next few days. First things first though, Test Unit 10, located over a concentration of colonial material culture in Sector 1 as well as near a GPR anomaly (see Figure 1) yielded one of the most exciting finds at the site so far.

Figure 1: Black circle indicates location of Test Unit 10 over a prominent GPR anomaly in Sector 1 of SPA.

In general, we have found the uppermost strata of the site to be disturbed by various episodoes of plowing, planting and other coffee farm-related activities. Everything we have found below these strats appear to be community midden deposits, sometimes overlaying floors/work surfaces (and thus fairly broken up from being stepped on and all) and sometimes simply deposited already broken up in secondary contexts.


Considering we are used to this (to the point where we have built our research design and sampling strategy around these types of seconday midden deposits), imagine our surprise when we came across an in-situ (almost complete) ceramic vessel! Of course it worked out in such a way that half of the vessel was outside of the 2x1m unit. We cut a 80x60cm extension to the north of the unit in order to recover the vessel (while avoiding a coffee plant that happened to be right over the ceramic vessel).

Figure 2: Vessel as we found it: half out of Test Unit 10


Unfortunately the top part of the vessel was broken (likely when the coffee plant was planted 4-5 years ago), and the bottom portion of the vessel was cracked by coffee plant roots. However, the interior of the vessel held a dark, clayey soil that contained 2 obsidian blades (Figure 3, 4).

Figure 3: Vessel bottom with dark, clayey soil inside.

In order to get as much info as possible, we took various samples from this vessel (pollen from inside and underneath the vessel, as well as floting the entire contents of the vessel) and made sure to bag the obsidian separate in order to better isolate potential starch, phytoliths and residues present on the blades.

While the material recovered directly above this vessel indicates that it dates to the colonial period, we are waiting until we can wash/analyze all the material associated with the vessel in

Figure 4: Obsidian blade stuck in clayey fill inside vessel.

order to more securely determine what time period this vessel dates to.  Strangely, this vessel overlay the sterile reddish coarse sand/gravel volcanic strata (see previous blog post), a finding that is odd when compared to nearby Test Unit 4 (excavated in 201o) that contained Late Classic material culture over the sterile coarse sand/gravel strata. Perhaps the West side of the site was only occupied in the colonial period? While other parts of the site were continuously occupied? The more Test Units we excavate, the better idea we get of where the various occupations of the site were located.

Figure 5: Vessel completely excavated, note cracking caused by roots.

Test unit 16 located about 40m to the southeast of Test Unit 10 also shows only a colonial occupation, indicating that the multi-component portion of the site is actually located further to the north, directly abutting the mounds at the site. We’ll see what turns up.

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for another update in the next day or so on a newly discovered site component 200 or so meters off site! Thanks to a timely tip by a local informant, we have located a concentration of colonial-era bricks, ceramics and what look to be foundation stones. Even more interesting, this site component appears to be right in the path of a possible lahar/pyroclastic flow from the volcano…could it possibly be the early 1582 site component that was destroyed by the Volcan de Feugo (as mentioned by Alonso Ponce in 1584)? More soon!



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