Monday, August 22, 2016

The 2016 Season in Chinandega

The 2016 season in Chinandega was a success! We were able to offer significant logistical support to Hector Neff and Fred Lange. It was also a pleasure to provide aid and comfort to Marie Kolbenstetter from the University of Leiden in her Choluteca project. We enjoyed visits from Jason Paling and Justin Lowry's field school and Patrick Werner and Edgar Espinoza's team from the Canal project.

In addition to those extra-curricular activities, we also succeeded in studying the ancient pottery of Chinandega, which was the reason we were there.  In fact, I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that we have succeeded in creating the outline of a ceramic sequence that runs from the beginning of the Late Preclassic through at least the Early Postclassic, an interval of more than 1,000 years. We have identified materials from all of the periods comprehended by those dates, and, perhaps more important, we think we have identified the ordinary, local pastes and wares corresponding to the major intervals, which will become the key to dating most sites.

I use the term "outline" advisedly because we are still missing most of the details that would convert the sequence from a sketch into a vivid portrait. While we have identified materials from each major period, i.e., Late Preclassic, Early Classic, Late Classic, and Early Postclassic, we only have a pure deposit of ceramics from the earliest phase, the Late Preclassic. The other materials mostly come from mixed deposits and are therefore more difficult to sort out. So, some of our chronological attributions are supported by less than overwhelming evidence, which will need to be shored up in the future. For almost all our materials, the sample sizes are too small to permit the kinds of descriptions we would really prefer to develop. Ideally, one needs an array of whole vessels as well as lots of sherds to be able to describe vessel forms and ranges of variation. We lack most of that information. We can only hope that future excavations will supply the samples necessary to develop those descriptions.

This sequence comes from the coastal plain region, the least known part of the Department of Chinandega. In the northern part of the Department, in the foothills of the highlands, the pottery is very different, but fortunately, it appears closely related to better-known materials in the Segovias region to the north. We started analyzing the northern pottery this year, but almost everything remains to be done.

We had a really great team this year, and I sincerely thank everyone who helped.