Archaic period settlement and subsistence in the Maya lowlands: New starch grain and lithic data from Freshwater Creek, Belize

Robert M. Rosenswig, Deborah M. Pearsall, Marilyn A. Masson, Brendan J. Culleton, Douglas J. Kennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Excavations and regional reconnaissance survey in Mesoamerica's tropical Maya lowlands of northeastern Belize document the association of a distinctive orange soil horizon with patinated stone tools dating to the Archaic period (8000-3500calBP). Archaic period deposits of this type were found along the Freshwater Creek drainage and on small islands associated with this riverine system. Stone tool assemblages ( n=778) from these sites indicate a spatial separation of tool use and resharpening at island versus shore sites at Progresso Lagoon and Laguna de On and expand the range of stone tool types reported from the Archaic period in the region. Starch grains ( n=81) were recovered from seven of these stone tools (two unifaces, four bifaces, and a hammer stone) and indicate that preceramic peoples in northern Belize used these implements to harvest or process maize along with several other domesticated plants species. The presence of starch from chili pepper, manioc, and taxa of the bean and squash families is also documented on a number of the same tools. These data are consistent with paleoecological studies in the region suggesting an extended period of horticultural activity in the Maya region prior to the adoption of ceramics and settled village life that occurred after ~3000calBP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)308-321
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Volume41
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

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