University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Ninth Annual Kolb Senior Scholars Colloquium

New Discoveries in New World Archaeology

October 24, 2014

Dr. Richard M. Leventhal, Senior Fellow, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, Curator in the American Section of the Penn Museum and Director of the Penn Cultural Heritage Center 

Dr. Joanne Baron, Fellow, Lecturer in Anthropology at Penn
La Florida-Namaan: an Ancient Maya City and the Modern Global Economy

Joanne Baron
Joanne Baron speaking at the colloquium.

La Florida Stela 9, depicting the mother of the king. A.D. 731.

The Classic Maya world was made up of many kingdoms of different sizes, all interacting with one another through a complex set of social, economic, and political relationships. One of these kingdoms was called Namaan and is now known as the site of La Florida, Guatemala. Located along the San Pedro River, it was situated at an ideal crossroads for trade between three different geographic areas. Various scholars and explorers have visited La Florida since 1943, when Edwin Shook became the first archaeologist to document the site. However, none of these visitors stayed for long. Today, La Florida sits amid the encroaching urbanism of the town of El Naranjo, a bustling border town which serves truckers on their way to oil wells to the north and Central American immigrants on their way to the Mexican border to the west. Along with my Guatemala colleagues Liliana Padilla and Christopher Martinez, I visited La Florida in 2013 and 2014 to lay the groundwork for a long-term mapping and excavation program at the site. We discovered new monuments and pyramids that have never been recorded by archaeologists before. In this talk I will present the results of these two visits and discuss our long-term plans for the future. 

Mural in the town of El Naranjo depicting La Florida Stela 9, with caption "Maya Stela. Meeting of the Classic Period with the Contemporary 
Lacandon Maya. Ocultun [another name for the site of La Florida]: let’s protect it." A mural of the revolutionary Che Guevara looks on.

Dr. Federico Paredes-Umaña, Fellow, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Anthropological Research (IIA), UNAM
New Research on the Apaneca Highland Range (Western El Salvador): A Revision of Human Settlement History after the Ilopango Volcanic Explosion

West view from Ataco

Find from the Ataco Archaeological Project

Scholars generally agree on the relative scarcity of paleoenvironmental and architectural evidence supporting human reoccupation of the Apaneca range (western El Salvador) between the 5th and 10th centuries C.E. Frequent explanations described the depopulation of the area as caused by the volcanic eruption of Ilopango (TBJ), an event dating somewhere between the mid 5th to mid 6th centuries C.E.

Find from the Ataco Archaeological Project

This paper constitutes the first hard evidence of permanent settlements in the highlands of western El Salvador after the Ilopango eruption. The location and mapping of the Los Tablones Mound Group at Ataco, Ahuachapan, with its greater development dating to the Late Classic Period (600900 C.E.) contradicts previous interpretations on the history of human life in the region and allows for a different interpretation. Moreover, evidence of the mound 2 deposit at the Cementerio mound group, reveals the veneration of a preclassic monumental tradition which occurred towards the end of the Late Classic period.

Based on recent research by the Ataco Archaeological Project (2009–2011), which I directed during my Anthropology dissertation research (completed at Penn in 2012), it is now possible to claim that human settlements in the highland range are long-lived, more so than previously supposed, with solid evidence for occupations during the Preclassic, Classic and Postclassic Periods. This paper presents evidence resulting from survey, mapping, excavations and material analysis as they are relevant for a revised history of human settlements in a poorly known zone of Southeastern Mesoamerica, located in the current territories of western El Salvador.

Dr. Kristen Fellows, Fellow, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at North Dakota State University
Historical Archaeology of the African Diaspora in the Caribbean: From an African American Enclave to 16th Century Slave Plantations

Remains of the great house at Ingenio Engombe outside of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Samana, Dominican Republic

The African Diaspora has been a major focus of study in Historical Archaeology, especially for those scholars working in the Caribbean. This presentation will focus on two different projects within this line of research. The first study represents a somewhat novel investigation of an African American enclave living in the Dominican Republic. Having arrived on the island in 1824, 200 emigrants from the United States settled on the Samaná Peninsula where they retained their American identity for well over a hundred years. Although the oldest generations still speak English, are practicing Protestants in a country of devout Catholics, and continue to identify as American, the younger generations are decidedly Dominican. The American enclave in Samaná is used as a lens through which to explore processes of community formation, maintenance, and dissolution.

The second half of the presentation will focus on a new project concerning the 16th century sugar plantations in the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo. Despite the fact that the majority of historical archaeology done in the Caribbean has focused on plantations and that the Dominican plantations were the first to be established in the New World, these sites have been largely overlooked and understudied. This research will provide an example of how historical archaeological research is helping to create a better understanding of colonial slave communities as well as forms of oppression and control. More importantly, both projects, and the archaeology of the African Diaspora in general, work to expose the historical underpinnings of global racial and class hierarchies.

Partially restored chapel of Ingenio Boca de Nigua in the Dominican Republic

Guest Speaker: Dr. John Verano, Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University
Human Sacrifice on the North Coast of Peru: Recent Discoveries Pose New Questions

John Verano
John Verano speaking at the Kolb colloquium. 

John Verano cleaning E90. (courtesy of JV)

A number of discoveries of human sacrifices have been made in northern coastal Peru over the past decade. Nearly every new discovery calls into question previous models that have attempted to characterize and interpret ritual killing in Pre-Columbian Peru.  With this growing sample we are seeing increasing variability in the demographic profile of victims, the ways in which they were sacrificed, and the location and manner in which their bodies were buried. Dividing lines between traditional categories such as executed captives, retainer and dedicatory burials, and ritual offerings are becoming blurred as new discoveries are made. Careful contextual and bioarchaeological examination of these assemblages, and a comparative approach to human sacrifice as documented both archaeologically and through the study of ethnohistoric sources and iconography, is required if we are to make some sense of this growing corpus of data.

This presentation will draw on data collected during more than twenty-five years of excavation and analysis of sacrificial sites on the north coast of Peru. While some contexts include only small numbers of victims, others involve more than a hundred individuals. One such sacrificial site at which excavation was completed this past summer is the largest child sacrifice known from the New World. It provides a unique window into a previously unknown form of mass offering, made by the Chimú State about six hundred years ago. The ways in which it is similar to other north coast sacrifices and the ways in which it is unique will be explored, with a focus on new analytical methods in stable isotope geochemistry and paleogenetics that may provide insight into the identities and origins of the sacrificial victims.