Some continuing problems in new world culture history
Society for American Archaeology
Some Continuing Problems in New World Culture History
Author(s): Gordon R. Willey
Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 50, No. 2, Golden Anniversary Issue (Apr., 1985), pp. 351-
Published by: Society for American Archaeology
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SOME CONTINUING PROBLEMS IN NEW WORLD
Gordon R. Willey
To aid in the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Society for American Archaeology and
its journal, American Antiquity, I was invited to address myself to "Unsolved Problems in New
World Culture History." I have agreed to do this, but, with the editor's indulgence, I would like to
rephrase the title as I have, for I think that the word "continuing" more accurately captures the
sense of the situation and where our interests lie. As all of us are aware, there are many unsolved
problems in Precolumbian culture history-"more holes than cheese," as the saying goes-but I
think I should take a look at some of those with which we are most familiar. We might be justified
in saying that some of them have been partially solved, or at least that they are now better delineated
and delimited, that we have a better "fix" on them. Nevertheless, in all of the examples I have
chosen we still have a ways to go.
What, as of 1985, are some of these most important culture historical problems of the New World
Precolumbian past? It goes without saying that no two American archaeologists would answer this
question in the same way. I have attempted to pick well-recognized problem themes and to range
widely in geography and sweepingly in time.
All the topics or problem themes that I have decided upon involve issues of great complexity
and detail, and I can hardly do justice to all of this in the space that I have. (Indeed, one obvious
topic-agricultural origins and distributions-is so complex and the evidential base in so much flux
that I have decided not to include it here.) Similarly, each theme has a substantial background
literature and what I cite is only a tiny sampling; however, in recognition of the role of American
Antiquity in the pursuit of these problems over the past five decades, I have made a special effort
to cite articles from this journal wherever they are pertinent.
It remains to make only one more preliminary observation. This concerns just how I have
construed the meaning of the term "culture history" for the purposes of this article. As I understand
it, and within the context of archaeological research, a culture historical problem is one concerned
with the space-time plotting of archaeological culture entities and with the relationships of these
entities one to another. A processual problem, on the other hand, would be one with the focus of
interest on culture change and with the forces causing, or at least attendant upon, that change (see
Flannery 1967). For a very long timewe tended to avoid in situ explanations of culture change or
process; instead, we "copped out" by tossing the question of what brought about the change to some
other site, region, area, or even hemisphere. "Outside influence" or diffusion was the only process
invoked, and diffusion itself received little analysis as a process. This was, or has been considered,
"traditional" archaeology. For the past 20 years, the reaction against this has been to concentrate
on in situ culture change so that this has become the only respectable context in which to study
process. Soon, I would hope, there will be a swing back toward some concern with diffusion for
surely the processes of culture change must operate "horizontally" as well as "vertically." I take
the space to say this here because it helps explain why the traditional culture historical problems
which I address are usually thought of as "diffusionist" problems. They are that only in part for
they are all problems that pose questions about cultural relationships, and questions of relationships
lead inevitably into considerations of process.
AmericanAntiquity,50(2), 1985,pp. 351-363.
CopyrightC 1985by the SocietyforAmericanArchaeology
ANCIENT ASIAN-AMERICAN CONNECTIONS AND EARLY
AMERICAN LITHIC INDUSTRIES
Let us begin at the beginning with this problem suite. When did people firstcome to the Americas,
from where, by what routes, and in what cultural circumstances? After the Folsom discoveries
satisfactorily demonstrated the Late Pleistocene presence of humans on the North American High
Plains, and taking into account the long-held common-sense assumption that people first entered
the Americas by a Siberia-to-Alaska route, it was logical to seek evidences of Folsom or Folsom-
like lithic distributions in Alaska. Frederica de Laguna stated this in an early issue of American
Antiquity (De Laguna 1936:6):
Themostimportantproblemstodayin Americanarchaeologyarethedefinitionof thisculture(Folsom),the
mappingof its extentin time and place,and the tracingof the routeby whichits carriers,presumablythe
firstAmericans,enteredthe continentand penetratedto the southwest.
This structuring of the problem received support from finds of polygonal core-prismatic blade
artifacts in Alaska, reminiscent of Asiatic industries (Nelson 1937) as well as from discoveries of
Folsom-like and Yuma-like points from there (Rainey 1940; Skarland and Giddings 19Sarand and n 48). But
unfortunately for the hypothesis, these distinctive projectile point types did not seem to be present
in Siberia; and before long American archaeologists were shifting to a position that the Folsomoid
and Yumoid finds in Alaska were the result of back-diffusion from mid-continental North America
where, it was beginning to be believed, the distinctive American projectile points had developed
(Tolstoy 1958). If so, from what sort of technological base had these points evolved?
In response to this restructuring of the problem, it was suggested that the first immigrants to the
New World brought with them a Levallois-Mousteroid technological heritage (Tolstoy 1958; Wilm-
sen 1964) that featured core, flake, and unifacially-chipped tools but no bifacial points. A. D. Krieger
(1962, 1964), R. S. MacNeish (1976), and A. L. Bryan (1978), among others, have reviewed the
possibilities of such an American "pre-projectile point" horizon or stage. For the most part, the
various finds and sites putatively pertaining to such a horizon are surrounded by somewhat equivocal
circumstances that admit of interpretations other than those of great antiquity. Recently, however,
discoveries at the Meadowcroft Rockshelter, near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, may indicate that
people were, indeed, well down into North America prior to 10,000 B.C., with artifacts dating as
early as ca. 17,000 B.C. (Adovasio et al. 1983; Jennings 1983). The Meadowcroft assemblage includes
prismatic blades, knives, scrapers, gravers, and, most significantly, a single bifacially-flaked lanceo-
late point that could be a prototype of the Llano-Clovis-Folsom-Plano tradition of ca. 10,000-7000
Where does the problem, or set of problems, now stand? Although good evidence is still very
limited, it seems highly likely that people, with some kind of Asiatic lithic heritage were in the
Americas before 10,000 B.C. Clearly, the nature of the Asiatic heritage needs greater specification.
The Clovis-Folsom tradition may very well have developed out of such an American antecedent,
but we need more evidence to clinch the matter. We cannot yet rule out the possibility that this
ancient "pre-projectile point" horizon was added to ormodified by later Asiatic emigrants and
ideas. At this junctureththeproblem becomes as much one for Siberian archaeologists as for Amer-
icanists. A furtherquestion concerns the spread of the later lanceolate point tradition in the Americas.
A. L. Bryan (1983) has argued against such a diffusion into South America, preferringto see separate
South American evolutions of such bifacially-made points from the old "pre-projectile point" base.
Needless to say, this barest sketch of lithic forms, space, and time says nothing of such major
"non-historical" questions as the economies or lifestyles of the earliest immigrants to the New World
nor of the reasons that might lie behind the changes in these lifestyles.
CERAMIC ORIGINS AND DIFFUSIONS
What is the history of pottery in the Precolumbian New World, its places of origin and its
subsequent diffusions? Many current researchers would reject this as an "old-fashioned" kind of
problem, saying that it really is not important, that the significant thing in any archaeological culture
352 [Vol. 50, No. 2, 1985
PROBLEMS IN CULTUREHISTORY
context was how pottery was integrated in its socio-cultural matrix, what was its meaning. Perhaps
so, but I will disagree here and argue that the more we know about the sheer lines of culture historical
structure, the better position we will be in to examine culture process.
As of now, we know that ceramics are as early as the fourth millennium B.C. in Ecuador (Bischof
and Viteri 1972; Marcos, 1980) and Colombia (Reichel-Dolmatoff 1980) and, perhaps, in Panama
(Cooke 1984). While these ceramics (Valdivia, San Pablo, Real Alto, Turbana, Monsu, Puerto
Hormiga, Monagrillo, etc.) do not compose a uniform style, they share traits in form and incised
and punctated decoration that suggests, along with their geographical concentration in this part of
South America, a common basic origin. This origin may go back to 4000 B.C. (although no radio-
carbon dates have yet been reported that are quite this early).
To the north and to the south of this Ecuadorian-Colombian "nucleus" of early pottery, ceramics
appear somewhat later:no earlier than 2500 B.C. in Mesoamerica (MacNeish, Peterson, and Flannery
1970; Tolstoy 1978) and at about 1800 B.C. for Peru (Conrad 1980; Willey 1971:chapter 4). It
seems probable that the earliest Peruvian ceramics are linked to this Ecuadorian-Colombian "nu-
cleus" but less certain that those of Mesoamerica are so linked. Northward from Mesoamerica,
pottery does not seem to have reached the United States Southwest until about 300 B.C., at the
earliest, and, as implied, a Mesoamerican derivation seems very likely (Rohn 1978). We return to
Eastern North America further along.
To go back to South America, the earliest Venezuelan dates for pottery are at about 2000 B.C.
(Roosevelt 1980; Rouse and Allaire 1980), but in the Lower Amazonian region the Mina ceramic
tradition has one associated radiocarbon date of 3700 B.C. (Brochado and Lathrap 1980; see also
Simoes 1971, 1978). While this is only a single date-most of the Mina dates being in the 1900-
1600 B.C. range-it is suggestive that pottery in the South American Lowlands may have a great
antiquity, rivaling that of the Ecuadorian-Colombian "nucleus." Brochado (1980) also indicates an
age of as much as 2800 B.C. for the Pedra do Caboclo ceramic tradition of Eastern Brazil, which
he sees as an offshoot of the Mina. Do we have hints here that the "nucleus" for pottery beginnings,
in the 4000-3000 B.C. time range, should be extended to embrace the Amazon Basin? Clearly, the
range and magnitude of the problem of pottery origins in South America is enormous; and the more
we find out the more complicated the situation becomes.
The Eastern North American situation is also complicated. The earliest known pottery, the fiber-
tempered wares of Georgia and Florida, have radiocarbon dates going back to about 2500-2000
B.C. (Griffin 1978). Because some of the early northern Colombian pottery is fiber-tempered, and
bears incised designs and has vessel forms comparable to the Southeastern United States fiber-
tempered wares, J. A. Ford (1966, 1969) argued that the origins were in Colombia, although not
all would agree. Whether the Southeastern fiber-tempered vessels were Colombian-inspired or locally
invented, a problem of long-standing has been their relationship to Woodland pottery of the northern
part of the Eastern United States and southern Canada. Some of the first articles in this journal
(Gjessing 1948; McKern 1937; Vickers 1945; Wintemberg 1942; see also, more recently, Kehoe
1962; Tolstoy 1953, 1958) had advanced the idea that cord-marked and fabric-marked Woodland
pottery owed its origins to Asiatic or circumpolar diffusions. Its earliest American occurrences,
however, have not been pushed back much in excess of 1000 B.C. (Griffin 1978, 1983) so that a
possible stimulus diffusion from the Southeastern fiber-tempered pottery tradition has to be con-
sidered as a possible source. A very recent American Antiquity article by K. C. Reid (1984) strengthens
this line of argument by extending the distribution of fiber-tempered wares to the Missouri-Kansas
region where they date to 2600-1600 B.C. Reid then develops the argument that climatic conditions
and vegetation burning in the more northerly latitudes may have destroyed the soft fiber-tempered
pottery in the ground and that there was less of a geographical and chronological gap between
southern fiber-tempered wares and northern Woodland pottery than appears in the archaeological
THE HOPEWELLIAN-TO-MISSISSIPPIAN TRANSITION IN
THE EASTERN UNITED STATES
A problem of continuing interest for Eastern United States archaeologists has been the nature of
the "gap" or the "transition" between the Hopewellian ceremonial climax (ca. A.D. 200-400) and
the rise and climax of Mississippian ceremonialism (ca. A.D. 1000-1400). What happened in the
time in between? Was there a cultural "decline," a definite "break," or was there some kind of
transitional continuity between these two climaxes? The problem has been around for some time.
The principal article in the very first issue of American Antiquity was concerned with an aspect of
it (Titterington 1935).
In the last decade or so, research in the American Bottom, near East St. Louis and the major
Mississippian mound site of Cahokia (Bareis and Porter, eds. 1984), as well as immediately to the
south in Missouri and Arkansas (Morse and Morse 1983), has shown that this interim period of
ceremonial "decline" was, at the same time, one of substantial continuity between Late Woodland
and emergent Mississippian village cultures, with gradual transitions in subsistence adjustments
and ceramic styles. Yet the ceremonial or "elite" cultural "decline" remains unexplained. Natural
environmental changes and other factors, such as the adjustment to maize agriculture, have been
invoked in speculations as to the causes of the Hopewellian slump. One interesting facet of the
problem is that, whatever the causes of the "decline" in the Central Mississippi Valley-Ohio region,
Mississippi Valley, the Marksville-Issaquena-Troyville-Coles Creek sequence of cultures, which
spans the time period in question, did not show a comparable slackening in ceremonial center
construction (Ford 1951; Greengo 1964), nor does the Santa Rosa-Swift Creek-to-Weeden Island
continuum of the Florida Gulf Coast (Milanich and Fairbanks 1980; Muller 1983; Willey 1949) or
the related Kolomoki culture of south Georgia (Kellar et al. 1962; Muller 1983; Sears 1956). In
these southern regions it appears that an essentially Hopewellian, or Hopewellian-related, heritage
was undergoing a transformation toward Mississippian modes without any break or "decline" of
the sort noted in the Central Mississippi Valley-Ohio regions. Among other things, temple-type
platform mounds with ramps were being built, along with the tradition of the earlier burial mound
ceremonialism, and in ceramics new vessel forms and decorative modes, far more elaborate than
those associated with the Woodland tradition farther north, and in some ways pointing toward later
Mississippian developments, make their appearance. That these traits do occur in the southern
portion of the Eastern United States prompts the speculation that some sort of Mesoamerican
stimuli might have been operating here in the Late Woodland time period and that this may have
had something to do with the post-Hopewellian but pre-Mississippian florescence in these southern
Obviously, there is a range of problems here to spur future investigations in Eastern and especially
Southeastern archaeology, and some of these relate to our next theme.
MESOAMERICAN-NORTH AMERICAN RELATIONSHIPS
The role of Mesoamerican contacts in the rise of the native cultures of the Southwestern and
Eastern United States is a standby topic of speculation and argument in American archaeology that
goes back to the nineteenth century and before. In recent times, most archaeologists who have
addressed this question have admitted that there were indeed such communications between Mexico
and the areas to the north and that the principal drift of this diffusion was from south-to-north.
Certainly the basic elements of North American agriculture-maize, beans,b and squash-came to
the Southwestern and Southeastern United States from Mesoamerica, and even a casual inspection
of Mesoamerican and North American ceramics indicates some kind of connection. But beyond
these generalities, it has taken a while to document the case.
This documentation is better for the Southwest than for the Eastern United States, and this clearly
has a lot to do with the nature of the data. From the Mesoamerican frontiers of Sinaloa and Durango
in west Mexico there is at least a semi-continuous chain of Precolumbian settlement through Sonora
and Chihuahua into Arizona and New Mexico (Willey 1966:chapter 4); and a number of trait
linkages bear out a case for cultural continuity-the red-on-buff pottery tradition, ball-game courts,
certain other architectural features, and copper metallurgy, in addition to agriculture (Dixon 1964;
Haury 1937; Hibben 1966; Johnson 1963; Lister and Howard 1955; Reed 1942; Wasley 1960). By
354 [Vol. 50, No. 2, 1985
PROBLEMS IN CULTUREHISTORY
the latter part of the 1960s archaeological dating was advanced enough, both in Mesoamerica and
the Southwest, to allow A. H. Schroeder (1965, 1966) to essay definition of two types of Meso-
american-to-Southwest diffusion: an earlier (prior to A.D. 600), "down the line" sort, responsible
for agriculture and pottery; and a later (post-A.D. 600) that operated in a more patterned way to
bring in integrated trait complexes. Subsequent intensive site studies at Casas Grandes, in northern
Chihuahua (Di Peso 1974), and Snaketown, in southern Arizona (Haury 1976), have been partic-
ularly successful in bolstering the case for the latter type of diffusion by identifying trading station
establishments and settlements probably of immigrant groups (see also Riley and Hedrick, eds.
1978). Currently, I think we can say that some of the specific lines of cultural historical connection
between Mesoamerica and the Southwest have been demonstrated and that Southwestern archae-
ologists now see the more important problems as those of determining and understanding the
processes involved (Lipe 1983).
In contrast to the Southwestern situation, that of the Southeast is less advanced. Here there is a
huge geographical gap in northern Tamaulipas and Texas in which native agriculture was largely
lacking and through which there is no Mesoamerican-to-Southeast continuity in other traits. In spite
of the gap, there are the trait similarities to be explained in the Southeast-agriculture, certain
ceramic forms and decoration, and temple mound-plaza site arrangements. Some mention has been
made of possible Mesoamerican contacts with the Southeast on a Hopewellian and immediately
post-Hopewellian time level in the Florida region, and to these we can add the discovery of what
appears to be a stone stela set up in front of a temple mound at the Gulf Coast site of Crystal River
(Bullen 1966). This suggests possible water contacts along the Gulf Coast (see also Krieger 1953).
After A.D. 1000, however, with the rise of Mississippian and Mississippian-related cultures, Meso-
american similarities are more numerous and striking. Some of these are particularly notable in the
archaeological ceramics of the Caddo region of northeast Texas and adjoining states (Du Solier,
Krieger, and Griffin 1947; see also Griffin 1949; Krieger 1949; Phillips 1940) and suggest an inland
route of contact through Texas. But, as is evident, the culture historical structuring of the problem
of Mesoamerican-Southeastern United States relationships is still sketchy, and processual inquiry
into the general question will move at peril with an absence of a solid data underpinning.
A MAYA PROBLEM
In moving southward through the Americas, let me shift now to a more regionally circumscribed
problem, one primarily of interest to Mayanists and Mesoamericanists but still with parallels to
problems in other American areas. The questions are those of a proper chronological alignment
between southern and northern Maya Lowland culture sequences and of determining the correct
sequence in the north.
Early Maya researchers (Maudslay 1892) suspected that the northern cities of the Yucatan Pen-
insula reached their peak after the southern cities of the Peten had declined, and S. G. Morley (1927,
1946) formalized this with his "Old" and "New Empire" concepts. J. E. S. Thompson (1945), in
an important article in American Antiquity, took a somewhat different view. He held that a northern
Late Classic Period, represented by the Rio Bec, Chenes, and Puuc cities and those well-known
architectural styles, was fully coeval with a southern Late Classic, or Tepeu, Period, with both lasting
from about A.D. 600Cto 900 (126.96.36.199.0 correlation). The only "New Empire" concession he would
make would be that accorded to the presumed "foreign" Toltec presence at Chichen Itza, dating
from after A.D. 1000. Later, E. W. Andrews IV (1965, 1973) disagreed with Thompson, moving
back to a position closer to Morley's in saying that his Florescent Period (Rio Bec-Chenes-Puuc)
did not occur until after the close of Tepeu in the south and, in effect, until after the so-called
"collapse" of the southern cities. Andrews then placed Toltec Chichen Itza in what he called the
Modified Florescent Period. Part of the difficulty in resolving this argument was in the scarcity or
lack of ceramic cross-ties or trade items between the south and the north. Also, with respect to
actual calendrical dates, Maya Initial Series texts are extremely rare in the north, and there was,
and still is (see Kelley 1983), some disagreement on what Maya-Christian calendrical correlation
There were some attempts to align southern and northern sequences by "splitting the difference"
chronologically so that Andrews's Florescent Period correlated with Tepeu 3 (A.D. 800-900) and
then lasted, perhaps to A.D. 1000 and the beginnings of the Modified Florescent or Toltec Period
(Ball 1974; Willey, Culbert, and Adams 1967). This kind of arrangement seemed to meet with
general favor for a while, and I am inclined to think that the Tepeu 3-Pure Florescent Period
chronological equivalency is correct, at least for the A.D. 800-1000 time span. However, still other
questions have emerged quite recently about the latter part of the northern sequence. These were
aired in detail at a recent Santa Fe symposium (Sabloff and Andrews V 1982). In brief, one line of
argument now is that there may be substantial chronological overlap between the Pure Florescent
and Modified Florescent Periods, or between the Puuc sites of the north and what we think of as
Toltec Chichen Itza. In long-term perspective, what this would mean is that Classic Maya civilization
declined or "collapsed" in the south shortly after A.D. 800 but that there was no synchronous
decline in the north but, rather, a florescence. This florescence, especially in the Puuc sites of the
far north, then continued well after A.D. 1000, abetted by Toltec influence at Chichen Itza but also
continuing under the more strictly Maya Puuc aegis elsewhere.
As will be evident, the problems of history and process are fascinatingly intertwined in this Maya
situation in which the strictly culture historical dimension has not yet been satisfactorily worked
THE ANDES AND AMAZONIA
What role did Amazonia, or the vast tropical lowlands of South America, have in the rise of New
World Precolumbian civilizations? A. L. Kroeber (1948:779) did not include it in his "Nuclear
American" core of New World high cultural development, this core being composed of Mesoamerica,
Peru, and the lands lying between. In his summary statement on South American cultures, J. H.
Steward (1949) took the view that the main currents of diffusion, insofar as these were to be associated
with sedentary farming life and the rise of complex societies and cultures, all ran from the Andes
down into the tropical lowlands; and B. J. Meggers and Clifford Evans (1957) seemed to confirm
this with their excavations and interpretations from the mouth of the Amazon. A strong counter-
voice to all of theirs, however, has been that of D. W. Lathrap. His early archaeological work in
the tropical forest on the eastern edge of the Peruvian Andes disclosed an early, but technically
sophisticated, ceramic complex, the Tutishcainyo, which he felt dated back to at least 2000 B.C.
and was the prototype of the Waira-jirca ceramics from Kotosh, in the Peruvian highlands (dated
at 1800 B.C.) (Lathrap 1985). Although this early dating of Tutishcainyo was questioned at first, it
now seems fully consistent with the very early dates on other Amazonian pottery (as reviewed in
this article). Lathrap (1973a, 1975, 1977), however, has gone farther in arguing for the importance
of a tropical forest role in the rise of Andean civilizations. He argues that not only were the tropical
root crops, such as manioc, the peanut, and the sweet potato, brought from the tropical lowlands
to the Andean cultures, but that maize, as it spread into South America from Mesoamerica, was
first carried down a tropical forest route along the eastern side of the Andes before it spread from
there to the Andean highlands and Pacific coast (Lathrap 1975). Another interesting facet of his
argument about the importance of the Amazonian lowlands to ancient Peruvian civilization is that
he sees Chavin art and iconography as replete with tropical forest symbolism, such as the cayman
god bearing the gift of manioc and other cultigens (Lathrap 1973b).
There are many complexities to the story of the rise of the Precolumbian Andean civilizations,
including a possible scenario offeredby M. E. Moseley (1975), which sees the foundations of Peruvian
civilization in an essentially pre-farming maritime economy, an idea not altogether in harmony
with Lathrap's views. Nevertheless, Lathrap has established the great importance of Amazonian
lowland-Andean interaction. Certainly, there was a cultural synthesis here (see also Lathrap 1974),
or a series of cultural syntheses, which contributed mightily to the later glories of the Peruvian
356 [Vol. 50, No. 2, 1985
TIAHUANACO, HUARI, AND RELATED MATTERS
Ever since Max Uhle's (Uhle 1903; Stiibel and Uhle 1892) original researches, the site of Tia-
huanaco and its powerful art style ands ul and iconography have had a major role in Peru-Bolivian ar-
chaeology. Many of the most interesting questions that have been asked about Tiahuanaco and the
"Tiahuanaco horizon" have been concerned with process. Were we dealing with an empire, a
predecessor of the later historically documented Inca state (Kroeber 1944; Willey 1945)? If so, how
was such an empire forged and maintained? What were its influences on other Andean cultures?
Inevitably, such questions are bound up with more traditional concerns of cultural relationships
among sites and regions and with cultural continuities and replacements.
As of now, there is a long ceramic chronology, reinforced by radiocarbon dates, for the Tiahuanaco
site (Conrad 1980; Lumbreras 1974; Moseley 1978; Ponce Sangines 1972). The Tiahuanaco I and
II Periods date prior to A.D. 200 and can be linked to styles such as those of Chiripa and Pucara;
Tiahuanaco III is similar to what W. C. Bennett (1934) once called "Early Tiahuanaco" and is set
at A.D. 200-450; Tiahuanaco IV is the approximate equivalent of Bennett's "Classic Tiahuanaco,"
dating to about A.D. 450-850 so that it overlaps the major Peru-Bolivian Early Intermediate and
Middle Horizon Periods; and Tiahuanaco V (A.D. 850-1200) is matched with Bennett's "Decadent"
Period. A problem with this site sequence, however, is that architecture and monumental art, and
therefore much of the artand iconography that we associate with the great ruin, cannot be dovetailed
securely into this ceramic scale (Isbell 1983).
sites in Peru and Bolivia, are a focus of even more problems. Was Tiahuanaco the original center
from which the art (and perhaps the ideology behind it) spread? Some decades ago it became evident
that another important site, Huari, in the Ayacucho Basin, was an important center for Tiahuanacoid
art. Was it, perhaps, the center of a political and religious "empire," in some way related to but
even more importantthan that of Tiahuanaco itself (Browman 1976; Isbell and Schreiber 1978)?
Dorothy Menzel (1964) argued for an early Huari borrowing from Tiahuanaco of iconography (and
ideology), with a subsequent rise to imperial power at Huari and, after that, a decline of the influence
of Tiahuanaco, at least to its north. W. H. Isbell (1983) offers a different hypothesis. According to
him, Tiahuanaco and Huari both drew upon a common ancient heritage, that of Chavin art and
ideology. In plotting this in time and space, Isbell suggests Pucara, geographically intermediate
between Tiahuanaco and Huari, as the site that best preserved Chavin iconography and ideology
and passed these traditions on to both. Isbell's full interpretation is more complicated than this and
is interwoven with still other sites and regions that made their contributions to the greatness of both
Tiahuanaco and Huari.
There are many other Tiahuanaco, or "Tiahuanacoid," problems. One of these concerns radiations
of influence into the South Andes, that is, into southern and eastern Bolivia, northwestern Argentina,
and northern Chile. Bennett (1936), in his eastern and southern Bolivian surveys, identified several
sites and ceramic complexes as "Derived Tiahuanaco." Chronologically, "Derived Tiahuanaco"
was thought to occupy an intermediate position between "Classic" and "Decadent." D. E. Ibarra-
Grasso (1953, 1967) thought this placement to be incorrect, arguing that the so-called "Derived"
complexes were, at least in some instances, earlier than the "Classic" Tiahuanaco style (see also
Willey 1971:225-231). Just when did Tiahuanaco, or Tiahuanaco-related, influences reach the
Southern Andean area? Is a ceramic style, such as the Condorhuasi Polychrome of northwestern
Argentina, Tiahuanaco-influenced? Radiocarbon dates for that style of ca. A.D. 300 would suggest
that it is then that Tiahuanaco influence began to permeate well into the south before the Peru-
Bolivian Middle Horizon.
THE PERENNIAL QUESTION:
LATER OLD WORLD-NEW WORLD RELATIONSHIPS
Last but not necessarily least, I do not think we can ignore that perennial question forAmericanists:
what role did Old World contacts, putatively carried out by trans-Pacific voyagers, have on the
development of New World civilizations? In the past, no other subject in American archaeology
has brought about such heated discussions. As of 1985, I would estimate that most Americanists
take a negative view of the topic, either denying that such contacts were ever made, or, if they were,
denying that they had any very important consequences for New World cultural development.
There are a great many facets to the issue. Here, however, I am speaking of claims for contacts
between high civilizations of the Old World and those of the middle latitudes of the New World,
and confining the problem further by restricting it to events that are presumed to have transpired
after 3000 B.C. A host of archaeological traits have been put forward as attesting to Asian-to-
American contacts: the Valdivia pottery of ca. 3000 B.C. and its similarities to Japanese Jomon
pottery of about the same date (Meggers, Evans, and Estrada 1965); Peruvian Chavin art and
iconography with origins claimed from Chinese dynastic art of ca. 1000 B.C. (Heine-Geldern 1959);
and links between southeast Asian and Mesoamerican Classic Period art styles and architectural
features (Ekholm 1953). This is the merest sampling of hypotheses advanced on this general subject
in the last half-century-all ideas put forth by serious and knowledgeable scholars. A recent careful,
if somewhat sympathetic,sourvey ftheticse o whole matter has been made available by S. C. Jett (1983);
and there remains the good critical review by Philip Phillips (1966).
One of the things that bothers me most about this problem is that there has been so little real
progress in the last 50 years. To be sure, many ingenious and engaging similarities have been pointed
to, but no clear-cut proof has been marshalled. What do I mean by clear-cut proof? I suppose I
mean a bona fide demonstration of an Old World manufactured object in an indisputable and
undisturbed New World Precolumbian archaeological context. With the exception of the Viking
remains of Newfoundland and Greenland (McGhee 1984), I know of no such demonstration. In
spite of this, I do not think that New World archaeologists should close the door upon the subject.
Why not leave itlieit like this? If by A.D. 2035, when this journal celebrates is one-hundredth anni-
versary-and assuming that archaeological research has in the meantime gone along at the pace it
is going now-if our descendants (and maybe some of those of you who are around now) still report
no progress on the problem, then perhaps we should give it up.
A BACKWARD GLANCE
Ever optimistic, I think that we have come a long way since 1935 and the first issue of American
Antiquity. Considering only the problems I have selected for this review, we have:
1. Defined early human cultures in the New World at ca. 10,000-8000 B.C., discovered probable
antecedents to these cultures on this hemisphere, and at least pointed the way toward discovering
some north Asiatic antecedents to American lithic technology.
2. Traced early ceramic horizons and traditions in various parts of the New World, going back
to the fourth millennium B.C. in some places in South America, and, in general, demonstrated the
antiquity and complexity of American ceramic beginnings.
3. Filled in some of the Hopewellian-to-Mississippian "gap" in the central region of the Missis-
sippi Valley and pointed up the presence of post-Hopewellian but pre-Mississippian "elite" de-
velopments in other parts of the Eastern United States.
4. Made definite the cultural contact linkages between northern Mesoamerica and the South-
western United States and continued, with somewhat less success, to pursue this problem in the
Southeastern United States.
5. Returned to a problem of Lowland Maya regional sequence correlations, and, in so doing,
provided better insight into the culture historical and perhaps the processual events and forces of
the Classic Maya "collapse."
6. Opened a whole range of questions about Amazonian-Andean relationships and revised our
assumptions about the role of South American tropical forest cultures in the rise of the Andean
7. Refined the "Tiahuanaco horizon" concept, developed and subsequently corrected and refined
the "Tiahuanaco" and "Huari horizon" concepts, and posed new questions about the spread of
"Tiahuanacoid" influences into the South Andes.
358 [Vol.50, No. 2, 1985
PROBLEMS IN CULTUREHISTORY
8. Continued our examinations of the old problem of Old World-New World contacts with
reference to later American civilizations, although with a notable lack of success in providing positive
demonstrations of these contacts.
All our advances have opened up new problems as even these brief discussions should have
indicated. During the next fifty years, as questions of culture history are framed with a sophistication
that links them ever more to process, these advances will continue.
Acknowledgments.I am indebtedto my colleaguesGarthBawden,Ian Brown,and StephenWilliamsfor
adviceandbibliographicalassistance,especiallywith referenceto the sectionon the Hopewellian-to-Mississip-
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