Archaeology is a collaboration between history and anthropology, as it reconstructs cultural sequences at the same time that it uncovers cultural practices of the past. The key to these discoveries is ‘material culture,’ the artifacts that represent ‘fossilized ideas’ about the activities performed. Material culture incorporates functionality as well as stylistic information that may relate to ideological beliefs.
Because a major source of material culture comes from daily life, much of archaeological research strive store construct the life ways of the common inhabitants. This gallery presents results of recent excavations by Mi Museo archaeologists to interpret daily life of the Chorotega culture from about 1000 CE.
Indigenous architecture was generally made of perishable materials, such as thatch roofs and cane walls. The cane was often patched with wet mud, known as wattle and daub; archaeological evidence of the mud with cane impressions provides some of the best evidence of ancient architecture. When available, stone foundations supported the walls, but at Santa Isabel walls were probably anchored with posts into the compact earth. Floors were usually simply packed earth although some plaster flooring might suggest greater architectural investment. At Santa Isabel, residential structures were located on low mounds made up of accumulated architectural debris from earlier houses. A large mound at Tepetate probably represents the plat form for a high status house with Stone paving on the floor and additional stones covering the sides of the mound.
Food ways incorporate the ingredients, preparation, and rituals of consumption. Since the archaeological record includes high frequencies of broken pottery, stone tools used to prepare foods, and remains of food ingredients such as carbonized seeds and animal bones, the material culture of food ways is well represented. Excavations demonstrate a heavy reliance on the wild plants and animals from the forests and lakes of Pacific Nicaragua. Surprisingly, little evidence has been found for domesticated plants or animals. Instead, fish, deer, turtle, armadillo, and similar wild animals were consumed, along with jocote (a native fruit of tropical Central America) and manioc.
Warfare and hunting
Spanish accounts describe endemic warfare between rival ethnic groups in late pre-Columbian times, but there is little archaeological evidence to support this. Some stone knives have been found associated with isolated skulls as possible evidence of head hunting. But other stone points were for spears and there are no arrowheads or dart points more typical of warfare. Fishing implements are found in abundance: fish hooks and net weights. Small clay balls were used in blow guns to hunt birds and lizards.
Craft specialization is one of the characteristics of complex societies, and ancient Nicaraguans produced numerous specialized goods. Archaeological evidence allows interpretation of ceramic technology, lithic production, ornamentation, and spinning and weaving. Local and imported goods were exchanged in markets; ethno historical accounts indicate that these were controlled by women – no men allowed!
Death in pre-Hispanic Nicaragua was an essential part of life. The dead were often buried within or near the household compound where they continued as part of social experience. Archaeological evidence of mortuary ritual is found in the burial goods themselves as well as the osteological remains of the deceased individuals.
"Shoe pot" funerary urns.