Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kelsey Willis, Undergraduate Researcher Guest Blogger

Reporting from Chinandega, Nicaragua:

I am here with my advisor, Dr. Clifford Brown, and one of his graduate students, Ashley Gravlin, to analyze archaeological ceramics. The ceramics are from over 20 sites that Dr. Brown found in his previous fieldwork. We want to analyze the collected ceramics so we can define the people who created them. For our goal, we believe the best way to come to such a conclusion is to classify the ceramics into types, varieties and groups. To classify the ceramics we will be observing the finishes, decorations, colors and forms of the pottery; recording the coarseness by examining the temper particle size, shape and type; and measuring the colors of the ceramic’s paste, slip or paint (if included).

One of the first things I thought would be really amazing to see is where some of the ceramic material came from, so a few days ago, we headed out to some sites. We went to the sites known as Cosmapa Oriental, Santa Cristina, and Rio Chiquito in that order. At Cosmapa Oriental, which is a large peanut field, we walked in our own straight lines and found sherds just lying on the surface. A few of the sherds we found resembled a ceramic type known as Las Vegas polychrome (Figure 1) and we photographed them. We also came across a biface stone tool fragment that was made of chert (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Potsherd of Las Vegas Polychrome from the Cosmapa Oriental Site
Figure 2. Chert biface fragment from the Cosmapa Oriental Site

At Santa Cristina we did not find as much, but we did come across a large painted ceramic support. After spending a little more time there, we headed to Rio Chiquito. In this area, the ground was covered in grass and weeds. It took my eyes a while to adjust to finding geometric shapes on the ground, but once they did I saw sherds every five steps. We even found some obsidian shatter and one obsidian flake.

We didn't collect any artifacts, but it was really exciting and an awesome experience to visit actual archaeological sites!

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