The ceramic sequence and new tl and c 14 dates for the agüerito site of the middle orinoco venezuela
Board of Trustees, Boston University
The Ceramic Sequence and New TL and C-14 Dates for the Agüerito Site of the Middle
Author(s): Alberta Zucchi, Kay Tarble, J. Eduardo Vaz
Source: Journal of Field Archaeology, Vol. 11, No. 2 (Summer, 1984), pp. 155-180
Published by: Boston University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/529351 .
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Followinga prolongedperiodof neglect,theOrinoco
areahas recentlybecome the centerof archaeological
ease of mobilityprovidedby the river system helped
makethis one of the most attractiveareasin northern
centexcavationshavethrownnew lighton culturalde-
velopment in the region; there is little agreement,
however,as to the antiquity,origins,interrelationships,
and migratorypattemsof the culturesinvolved. Two
posedby I. B. RouseandA. Roosevelt,lmaintainsthat
1. I. B. Rouse, "The La Gruta Sequence and its Implications," in
E. Wagner and A. Zucchi, eds., Unidad y Variedad: Ensayos en
Homenaje a J.M. Cruxent (Ediciones Centro de Estudios Avanzados,
Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas: Caracas 1978)
203-229; idem, "Diffusion and Interactionin the Orinoco Valley and
on the Coast," paperpresented to the IX Congreso Internacionalpara
el Estudio de las Culturas Precolombinas de las Antillas Menores
(Santo Domingo 1981); I. B. Rouse and L. Allaire, ''Caribbean,'' in
C. Meighan and R. Taylor, eds., Chronologies in New World Ar-
chaeology (Seminar Press: New York 1978). See also A. Roosevelt,
"La Gruta: an Early Tropical Community of the Middle Orinoco
Basin,'' in Wagner and Zucchi, eds., op. cit. (in this note) 173-201;
the two oldest ceramic series of the Orinoco (Saladoid
and Barrancoid) can be derived from the same source,
namely La Gruta.This site, discovered duringthe 1970s
in the Middle Orinoco, originated, according to the au-
thorscited in note 1, some 4,000 years ago, thus making
it one of the earliest formative sites in Amazonia. Based
on her fieldwork of 1975, Roosevelt has established a
sequence of nine phases for the Parmanaarea, which she
has grouped into threetraditions:La Gruta,Corozal, and
Camoruco.2The first of these traditions, made up of La
Gruta, Ronquin, and Ronquin Sombraphases, is related
to the Saladoid and, to some extent, to the Barrancoid
series. The second, formed by Corozal 1, 2, and 3, ap-
parentlyconstitutes a local development, while the third,
composed of Camoruco 1, 2, and 3, belongs to the Ar-
auquinoidseries.3 I. Vargas and M. Sanoja, on the other
I. B. Rouse, J. M. Cruxent, F. Olsen, and A. Roosevelt, ''Ronquin
Revisited,'' in R. Bullen, ed., Proceedings of the 6th International
Congress for the Study of the Precolombian Cultures of the Lesser
Antilles, Guadaloupe (Gainesville 1976) 117- 122.
2. At present this is the most detailed sequence so far established for
the area and it will serve as the base for our comparisons.
3. Roosevelt, loc. cit. (in note 1); A. Roosevelt, Parmana: Prehis-
The CeramicSequenceandNew TL and
C-14 Dates for the AgueritoSite of the
InstitutoVenezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas (I.V.I.C.)
Researchon theAgueritosite of theMiddleOrinoco,Venezuela,has served
to broadenknowledgeaboutceramics-bearinggroupsof thearea andto help
solve chronologicalproblemsof thisstrategicregion.Thecombineduse of
thermoluminescence(TL)and C-14datingtechniqueshaspermittedus to
confirmtheplacementof theRonquinandposteriorphasesbetween200 A.C.
and1500A.C. Detailedanalysisofpotteryfrom thesite has allowedus to
definefour components,each apparentlyrepresentingtheremainsof distinct
social entities.Twoof thesehadnotbeendistinguishedas separatecompo-
nentsbypreviousauthors.Themultiplicityof groupsrevealedby theAguer-
ito researchagreeswell withtheethnohistoricalaccountsfor thearea,
whichemphasizesocial and economicinteractionamongnumerousethnic
156 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
LowerandMiddleOrinocoin quitea differentmanner.
AlthoughagreeingthatLa Grutais ancestralto the Sa-
ladoidstyles in the middleOrinocoand on the coast,
theseauthorscall attentionto themarkeddifferencesin
style and shapebetweenLa Grutaand Barrancas,the
earliestknownstyleof theBatrancoidsenes.At thesame
time, they deny the presenceof Saladoidsites in the
attributedto LaGrutaby Rouseet al., placingit toward
the middleof the 1stmillenniumB.C.4
Lackof agreementstems from two sources. 1) The
obtainedin the MiddleOrinocohas permittedthe con-
botha shortone beginningwiththeLa Grutaphaseca.
185 B.C., anda longonebeginningwiththesamephase
around2,000 B.C.5 Vargas'schronologyfor the same
ceramicsequencestartsaround600 s.c.6 2) The other
sourcefor controversylies in the existenceof two op-
tiquityof the TropicalForestCulturein general.The
first,proposedby D. Lathrap,7considerstheearliestde-
velopmentsof the areato be of local (or, at least, low-
land and coastal)origin and of considerableantiquity
(ca. 4,000-5,000 B.C.). Proponentsof thesecond,onthe
contrary,preferto considerthe importantculturalman-
ifestationsin theOrinoco/Amazonbasinto be theresult
toric Maize and Manioc Subsistence along the Orinoco and Amazon
(AcademicPress:New York1980);Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1)
4. M. Sanoja,Las CulturasFormativas del Oriente de Venezuela:La
Tradicion Barrancas del Bajo Orinoco, Biblioteca de la Academia
Nacional de Historia. Serie de Estudios, Monografias y Ensayos 6
(Caracas1979) 284-285; M. SanojaandI. Vargas,Antiguas For-
maciones y Modos de Produccion Venezolanos (MonteAvilaEditores:
Caracas1974)95-106; I. Vargas,''La Gruta,un NuevoSitioRon-
quinoideen el OrinocoMedio," in Bullen,ed., op. cit. (in note 1)
123-124;idem,La Tradicion Saladoide del Oriente de Venezuela:La
Fase Cuartel. Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de Historia. Serie
deEstudios. MonografiasyEnsayos5 (Caracas1979)215-236; idem,
''La TradicionCeramicaPintadadel Orientede Venezuela,"in S.
Lowenstein,ed., Proceedings of the Eighth International Congress
for the Study of the Precolombian Cultures of the Lesser Antilles.
Arizona State UniversityAnthropological Research Papers 22 (Tempe
1980)276-289; I. VargasandM. Sanoja,''Con1paracionesentrela
ArqueologiadelBajoy MedioOrinoco,"inJ. BenoistandF. Mayer,
eds., Actas del Se'ptimoCongreso Internacional para el Estudio de
las Culturas Precolombinas de las Antillas Menores, Caracas (Centre
5. Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1).
6. Vargas,1979op. cit. (in note4).
7. D. Lathrap,The Upper Amazon (Thamesand Hudson:South-
of migration or influence from the Andes.8 This dating
necessarily implies later dates for the lowlands than for
their supposed Andean ancestors.
In this paper we present and discuss the ceramic and
chronological evidence obtainedat the Aguerito site, and
then relate it to the three chronologies referredto at the
beginning of the last paragraph.
Aguerito is a settlement site occupying an elevated
area on the right bank of the Orinoco (7°36' lat. north,
66°23' long. west), directly opposite the mouth of the
Apure River (FIG. la). The surroundinglowlands are se-
verely affected by the annual river flooding resulting
from the confluence of these two rivers. Striking differ-
ences are found in the river level between dry and wet
seasons; at the peak of the dry season a difference of
more than 10 m was observed between river level then,
and thatfor the previous rainy season. The Aguerito site
and other similar high areas of the river bank have been
traditionallyfavored as living sites by local populations.
Although Aguerito is on the high groundthatlies in front
of a rock outcrop, at present occupied by four peasant
houses, its northernpartis flooded duringthe rainy sea-
son, and was probably more susceptible to flooding in
earliertimes when the site was obviously lower. In fact,
it is probablethatthis northernpartof the site was grad-
ually destroyed througherosion.9 The whole areais cov-
ered by gallery forest, although fruit trees such as
mangoes, lemons, and tamarindsare found at the site.
On the rock outcrop behind the site several petroglyphs
were located, and on its top, ca. 100 m above the level
of the site, grooved surfaces, apparentlyused to sharpen
axes, were found.
Because of its characteristicsand location, the Aguer-
ito site offered the pre-Hispanic groups several advan-
tages as a resource base. In the first place, it provided
high ground for settlement (partof which remained out
of flooding even during the heaviest rainy seasons), but
with easy access to fresh waterfor fishing, drinking, and
transportation.Although the soils of these elevated areas
are generally poorer in nutrients, they are suitable for
manioc cultivation on a rotational basis. The pre-His-
panic groups thatinhabitedthe site, however, could also
exploit, through dry-season cultivation, the lower lands
that are periodically fertilized by the river. In fact, the
8. B. Meggers and C. Evans, ''An ExperimentalFormulationof Ho-
rizon Styles in the Tropical Forest Area of South America," in G.
Lothrop et al., Essays in Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology (Har-
vard University Press: Cambridge 1961) 372-388 .
9. The site slopes down toward the river at a ca. 15° angle in the area
of Pit 1.
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 157
Figure 1. Maps (a) of the Middle Orinoco area and (b) location of the excavations at the Aguerito site.
andcottonagriculture.In additionto these advantages,
Agueritohas a strategiclocationthatallowsmonitoring
of all the watertrafficfromthe UpperandLowerOri-
noco as well as thatfromtheLlanos,comingoutof the
Thesecharacteristicsof the site pointto variouspos-
source, as follows: 1) a subsistencebased on manioc
tlementdurationof 10-20 yearsfollowedby abandon-
ment for a like period,or longer;2) a more nomadic
patternbasedon fishing, gathering,and some manioc
seasonally,mainlyduringthe rainyseason, while the
groupsdispersedin the dry seasonto hunt, fish, and
exploit the turtlebeaches and the vegetableproducts
upriver,and/orto trade.);3) fishing,hunting,andcorn/
and squashagricultureon the lower grounds(terraces
Duringthe fishingandtradingexpeditionssome of the
tend the crops. It seems probablethatthe subsistence
patternin theAgueritosite variedovertheyears.
A squaretrenchformedby fourcontiguouspits (nos.
2-5), eachmeasuring2m x 2m andtwo additionaltest
pits (nos. 1 and 6), measuringlm x lm, were exca-
vatedunderthedirectionof Zucchi.Pit1is locatedsome
13 m NW of the trenchandPit 6 is just to the west of
thetrench(FIG.lb). Pit 1 wasexcavatedin 1976, Pits2,
3, 4, and5 weredugduringthe 1977field season,and
Pit 6 was excavatedwith the assistanceof Tarblein
the surfaceof partof the site, was obtainedto a depth
of 1.25 m in theexcavations.Ourfirstvisitto Aguerito
was partof a generalsurveyof the Middle Orinoco,
10. In August, 1982, four additionalpits (nos. 7-10), forminga
trench2m x 8m, wereexcavatedoutsidethefencein thevicinityof
Pit 1. Thematerialobtainedis currentlyunderstudy.
158 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
intended to clarify the distribution of sponge-spicule-
tempered pottery. The project is sponsored by the Insti-
tuto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas. The pre-
liminary results obtained from a test pit (1) at that time
revealed a long and complex sequence that promised to
provide importantdata on the culturalhistory and chro-
nology of the Middle Orinoco. For this reason we re-
turnedto the site in 1977 to excavate the four main pits
(2-5). The material remains recovered allowed us to
refine the stylistic sequence of the site; we encountered
chronological discrepancies in the C-14 dates, however,
similar to those reportedfor the Parrnanaarea. Rouse,l1
Roosevelt,12 and Vargas13had meanwhile discussed the
possibility of contamination of their charcoal samples
of lignite. We felt, therefore,an altetnativedatingmethod
was called for to avoid the problems involved with the
C-14 samples. We retutned again to the site in 1981 to
obtain ceramic and soil samples for thermoluminescent
analysis (Pit 6).14
The reconstruction of the depositional history of
Aguerito has been handicappedby the ratherlimited ex-
cavations and the absence of observable stratigraphic
features, the latter a result of the sandy nature of the
deposits. A geologist who visited the site duringthe most
recent excavations examined the profiles and found no
be diagnostic of a particularfluvial and/or aeolian ori-
gin.15 The analysis of the ceramic sequence from each
pit, and the C-14 and TL determinations, together with
the general morphology of the site, suggest that impor-
tant changes occurred in the layout of the occupational
area of this multicomponent site during its history. Un-
11. Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1) 213-214.
12. Roosevelt,1978op. cit. (in note 1) 177-179.
13. Vargas,1976op. cit. (in note4) 123-124.
14. Thispitwasdugin 10cm levels, as opposedto 25 cmlevelsfor
the previousexcavations(Pits 1-5). Contraryto the situationfound
in Parmanaby Rouse,no livingfloorsor otherstratigraphicfeatures
wereobservedin anyof thecutsatAguerito.Theonlyexceptionwas
a stonealignmentfoundat the bottomof one of the fouradditional
15. Dr. CarlosSchubert,personalcommunication.Schubertrecently
carriedouta grain-sizeanalysisof soil samplestakenfromfive levels
of Pit7 (0.10-0.20 m, 0.30-0.40 m, 0.50-0.60 m, 0.70-0.80 mand
0.90-1.00 m) withresultsthatseem to supportan aeolicoriginfor
the soil at the site. The meansize vs. skewnessandmeansize vs.
parametersfordunes,asestablishedbyG. M. Friedman,"Distinction
teristics," JSedPetrol31 (1961) 514-529. Schubertpointsout that
derstandingthesechangesis fundamentalto interpreting
the relationshipsamongthe differentexcavationunits.
tlement,is representedstratigraphicallyby levels 0.75-
1.25 m of Pit 1, level 1.00-1.25 m of the trench(Pits
2-5) andthe lower30 cm of Pit 6 (0.90-1.20 m). The
suggeststhatthecoreareaof the initialdepositwas lo-
catedmoretowardthe river,while the areaaroundthe
trenchandPit6 wasperipheral(FIG. 2). Itis possiblethat
a portionof the materialof theseearlylevels maycor-
respondto an earlieroccupation;with the limiteddata
theselevels as one stage.
Thesecondstageis representedby level0.50-1.00 m
of Pits2-5, level0.25-0.75 mof Pit 1, andlevels0.40-
0.90 m of Pit6. Duringthisstagetheoccupationalarea
seemsto haveextendedspatiallyandincreasedin inten-
sity towardthe southernpartof the site (FIG. 2).
The thirdstage (levels 0.00-0.25m of Pit 1, 0.25-
0.50 m of Pits2-5, and0.30-0.40 m of Pit6) indicates
a similartrend:thatis to say, therefuseis deeperatthe
southernpartof the site. The last stage, on the other
hand,showsa markedreductionin the quantityof ma-
terial, and is stratigraphicallyand exclusively repre-
sentedby theuppermostlevel 0.00-0.25 m of Pits2-5
andthe threeupperlevels of Pit 6 (0.00-0.30 m) (FIG.
Theirregularitythatcanbe observedin the thickness
of the stratarepresentingeachof the fourstagesin the
differentpitsseemsto suggestadisplacementof thecore
areaof the settlementtowardthe southernpartof the
site. Thisdisplacementbeganaftertherefuseof stage1
3. On the otherhand,the absenceof the layerscorre-
spondingto the fourthstagein Pit 1 canbe interpreted
in two ways. In the firstplace it is possibleto believe
thatwiththe southernmovementof the settlementarea,
materialfromthisstagewas neverdepositedin thearea
of Pit 1. The otheralternativeis thatthis layerwas at
one time present,.butwas erodedby the riverthrough
time. This possibilitywould seem moreprobablecon-
sideringthe natureof the site andthe periodicfluctua-
Ournexttaskis to takea closerlook at the material
presentin theAgueritosite. We areposedwitha strati-
graphicsequencein whichat leastfourdistinctceramic
supportthe hypothesisthat each of these components
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 159
DepositionolHistory of Aguerito z Figure 2. Reconstruction of the
,-^ depositional history of the Aguerito site.
2.m 2 m
andE) havebeendefinedon thebasisof tempenngma-
tenal. Uniquecombinationsof paste, form, and deco-
rationfoundon fourof these wares(A-D) lead us to
entities and we have denominatedthese as ceramic
components.The first, WareA, is characterizedby a
centageof decoratedsherdswith white-on-red,red-on-
modelling(FIG. 3a-n). Althoughthepredominantshapeis
the open bowl with direct, thickenedor flat-topped
flangedrims, a few smalljars, griddles,bottles, and
ollas (largeglobularjars)arepresent.Thiswareis most
frequentin theearlypartof oursequenceandis clearly
relatedto the SaladoidSeries.WareB matenalis tem-
pered with sand, particlesof dry clay, and, in some
instances(particularlyin the earlierlevels), fiber.Dec-
orationconsists of incision in multipleparallellines,
notchesor shortincisionon lips and,to a lesserdegree,
bi- andpolychromepainting(FIG. 4a-k). As in WareA,
open bowls predominate;these, however, are distin-
guishableby theirmodesof rimtreatment(morethick-
ened and squared) and by a greater frequency of
carination.Fragmentsof smalljarsandollas werealso
identified.This materialrelatesto Howard'sZ group16
and Vargas'sl7and Roosevelt'sl8crushedsherd-Elber
16. George Howard, Excavations at Ronquin, Venezuela. Yale Uni-
versity Publications in Anthropology 28 (Yale University Press: New
Haven 1943) 45-46.
17. Iraida Vargas, Investigaciones Arqueologicas en Parmana. Bi-
blioteca de la Academia Nacional de Historia. Serie de Estudios,
Monografias y Ensayos 20 (Caracas 1981).
18. Roosevelt, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1) 87-88.
HIGH WATER LEVEL
10- 12 Meters
* vt >
300 M >
The Ceramic Sequence
Theceramicsequencein Agueritois characterizedby
a high degreeof synchronicanddiachronicvariability.
This complexity, linked with the irregulardeposition
foundat the site, compelledus to orientour ceramic
analysistowardthe solutionof threespecificproblems
withthe finalobjectiveof obtainingan accuraterecon-
structionof the occupationalhistory.Ourfirstproblem
relationto the stratigraphyobservedwith the aim of
a macrochronologyfor the site. Next, the examination
of temporalvariabilitywithineach ceramiccomponent
would allow us to determinethe stylisticevolutionof
eachof them.An importantaspectof thisanalysisis the
possibledelineationof distinctperiodsin the different
styles. Herewe wouldhopeto showthe continuousor
helpus to determinewhetherthe site was abandonedor
not at differentpointsin time. (It mustbe recalledthat
no differenceswerevisiblein thepitprofilesthatwould
indicategapsin theoccupation,andthe sandynatureof
the soil togetherwithpastinundationspossiblyactedto
mix materialsdepositedat differentperiodsof time.)
Finally, a comparisonof the differentcomponentsde-
signedto showtheirinterrelationships(or equallysig-
nificant lack of relationships)shouldthrowlight on
In thispaperwe presentthe macrochronologyforthe
site, addingresultsof thestylisticandcomparativeanal-
Six differentwares (tentativelynamedA,B,C,D,B-C,
160 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
Figure 3. Ware A (a-n) and Ware E (o-q) pottery from Aguerito.
162 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
temperedmaterial,and, like the WareA material,is
thirdof the components(WareC), which constitutes
nearly75%of the collection.This wareis intrusivein
the earliestlevels, but increasesto dominatethe latter
partof the sequence.Incised,applique,modelled,and
painteddecorationis found.Changesinthestyleof dec-
orationhavepermittedus to correlatethe earlyportion
of this materialwith the Corozalphaseestablishedby
Rooseveltfor Parmana(FIG. 41-w), while the latterma-
terialis includedin the ArauquinoidSeries (FIG. Sa-o).
The vessel formsof this warearequitevariedandin-
a higherproportionof ollas andjars, as well as new
forms such as double-bodiedeffigy vessels, double-
jars. Griddles,fragmentsof pot rests, plainandperfo-
rateddiscs, andcylinderstampsarealso found.
Thefourthware(WareD) is definedby coarsequartz
temper,a simplearrayof forms, andvery limitedap-
plique and modelleddecoration(FIG. 61-s). These ce-
ramicsarefairlylate at the site andno similarmaterial
warein the MiddleOrinocoarea.19
The remainingWares(B-C andE) aredistinguished
fromtheforegoingin thattheydo notseemto represent
the variationsof one or anotherof the principalcom-
ponents.WareB-Cpresentsa combinedtemperof dried
clay, sand, and spiculeas well as decorativeelements
andformssimilarto bothWaresB andC, leadingus to
betweenthemakersof thesetwo latterwares(FIG. 6a-k).
of spiculematerialinthesite. Rooseveltdescribesa sim-
ilarcombinationin the Corozalphaseof the La Gruta
sequence,andHowardrefersto a few spiculesfoundin
thetemperof someof his Z-groupsherds.
Thelastware(WareE) is infrequentatAguerito,and
is temperedwithfinesand.Atthemomentwe areunable
to associateit definitelywith any of the otherwares
in bothWaresA andB (FIG. 30-q).
Tables 1-4 show the relativefrequenciesof the dif-
ferentwaresof each pit excavated.Threedistinctpat-
ternsareapparent:one forPit 1, one for6, andanother
commonto thepitsof thetrench(2-5).
This pit is uniquein thatthe concentrationof Wares
A andB is greaterandmoreprolongedandWareC is
less frequentthanin the otherexcavationsat the site.
B) materialdominatethefirstfourlevels, whilespicule-
temperedmaterial(WareC) increasessteadilyto attain
a maximumof 59Soin the uppercut. Contraryto the
otherpits, WareA of Pit 1 gains popularity,whereas
WareB diminishes.Inlevel0.25-0.50 mtwonewwares
areintroduced(B-CandD), thelatterof whichincreases
to 8%inlevel0.00-0.25 m. WareE is presentinminute
quantitiesin the upperthreelevels. It shouldbe noted
thatthe densityof sherdsin level 0.00-0.25 m is sub-
stantiallyhigher(141.2 sherdsper0.10 cu. m)thanthat
WareA materialmaintainsa highdegreeof paintedand
modelleddecorationthroughoutall levels, in contrastto
a tendencytowardsimplificationnotedin theotherpits.
WareB materialis moreheavily temperedwith fiber
sporadicallyin theothercuts. Vesselformsandincised
modes, however,arepracticallyidenticalto the restof
the WareB material.It is noteworthythatthe modeof
incisednotchesorshortincisionson thelips of bowlsis
foundthroughoutlevels0.00-1.00 m, whereasit is lim-
itedto 0.75-1.00 m in Pits 2, 3, 4, and5. Simpleap-
plique decorationis the only kind found in Ware C
materialup until level 0.00-0.25 m when otherdefi-
pointto an earlyplacementof the Pit 1 materialin our
totalsequence,as will be discussedlater.
These pits show similartendenciesin the frequency
chartsanddifferfromPits 1 and6 in thatthe changes
betweenlevels areverypronouncedgiving the impres-
sion of a series of markedjumps(TABLES 2-4). In the
bottomlevel (1.00-1.25 m), WareC sherdsarea rarity.
Onlyin Pit4 is therea significantconcentration(20%),
andthis is becauseof the intrusionof sherdsbelonging
to a largevessel foundin level 0.75-1.00 m. Incuts2,
3, and 5, WareB sherdsare somewhatmorefrequent
thanWareA, whereasPit4 showsa slightpredominance
of thelatter.WareB-CandWareD arevirtuallyabsent
in the lowestlevel. Thefollowinglevel (0.75-1.00 m)
shows a substantialincreasein spicule-tempermaterial
(30-48%);WaresA andB decreasein popularity,this
WareB-C appearsin this level in all the pits with a19. A. Zucchi, unpublished survey material.
Journal of Field Archaeology/Vol. 11, 1984 163
Figure 5. Late Ware C pottery from Aguerito.
164 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/ZucchiTarble,and Vaz
Figure 6. Ware B-C (a-k) and Ware D (l-s) pottery from Aguerito.
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b-OZ 001 bOZ Z6-£ 8 b6-Z 9 55-Lb L6 1£-6 61 bl-81 L£ bl-81 L£ OO-I-SL-O
5-58 001 558 6Z-1 11 9Z-5 5b 99 LL b99 L8'1 91 O9'L 59 Zf'9 b5 5L'0-05'0
T-LL 001 ILL ° b£'91 9ZI S6-LL 109 16 0 L Ll l 6 9£ £ 8Z OS'O-SZ'O
S'l 001 Sl O £S'£1 Z L9'98 £1 0 0 0 5Z'O-OO'O
u *ns01 0 lad oMa N % N °6 N % N % N °Ma N % N (tu)7a^a7
sp2aysJo oN 1w°1 X a o o X ff bSld
sp29vsfi0 0N 1n}°1 °M° N oMo N oyo N 9 g °M° N oMo N ZSld
Z SI 001 8£ 8L S1 9 9Z SS IZ S6 8Z 11 SZ I-OO I
OZb 001 SOI bl LI 81 OOOb Zb 98-Zb Sb OOI-SL O
9 fb 001 601 £8-1 Z bb 8Z 1£ 61-1£ b£ £S 8£ Zb SL O-OSO
8-96 001 ZbZ Ib O I S9 1 b LZ-LZ 99 S9 1 b Z9 SZ Z9 6£-£b SOI OSO-SZ O
Z-lbl 001 £S£ 8Z 0 1 £6-L 8Z b9-8S LOZ 8Z O I bL ZI Sb II OZ IL SZO-OOO
u *ns01 0 lad °Ma N oMoN °M° N % N % N oMa N % N (u) 79497
spla2Xs0 0N 7wo,1, X a :> o ff ff v
*ouanSv 'lxld ul g- sale^NJo uolxnqpasla 1 alqeA
ouan.sv 5 pue b sxld ul SI- soweX Jo uolxnqwsla * alqeiL
SZL 91Z vI01
LO-bb 9Z SZ-1-00-1
bb-81 IL 00-I-SL-O
08*9 Z6 SL-O-OS-O
L£-Z LZ OS-O-SZ-O
LZ-9 Z£1 1vI01
96-0b b£ SZ1-00-1
Ll*61 L£ 00-I-SL-O
SO-b OZ SL-O-OS-O
L£-£ 8£ OS-O-SZ-O
Sb-I f SZ-O-OO-O
001 086Z b£-O 01 91'b bZI
001 6S 8L'9 b O
001 S8S 8L*0 f b£*Z 6
001 SSSI ZZ-O f 81-1 91
001 L£ll 0 60-8 Z6
001 9b 0 ZZ-SI L
001 901Z S8-0 81 OL*9 Ibl
001 £8 Ib-Z Z OZI I
001 £61 bl-b 8 bl-b 8
001 b6b Zb-l L bZ'£ 91
001 6Z11 0 89*8 86
001 LOZ 8b-0 1 OL'8 81
IZ-LL IOSZZ8Z b8
6f-£ Z O
Ll l£ 0f1 £b*11 bb
8b-b8 ftl I fL-Z L£
f 1-88 ZOOI9Z-O f
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l£-bL 5951 £Z-Z Lb
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19-1£ 19 6Z-8 91
Lb-ZL 85£ 99 b £Z
Zl-58 196 IL-O 8
bt-L8 181 0
b8*5£ 8f 1
£6 1 b
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S91 b861 '11 *1°A1S?°1°7n501wpl7?g0 louxnor
Table 4. Distribution of Wares A-E in Pit 6, Aguerito.
A B B-C C E Total No. of sherds
Level (m) N % N % N % N % N % N % per 0.10 cu. m
0.00-0.10 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 14 93.33 1 6.67 15 100 15
0.10-0.20 0 0.00 0 0.00 0 0.00 1 50.00 1 50.00 2 100 2
0.20-0.30 1 2.22 1 2.22 0 0.00 31 68.89 12 26.66 45 100 45
0.30-0.40 7 3.37 3 1.44 5 2.40 169 81.25 24 11.54 208 100 208
0.40-0.50 10 6.84 5 3.42 6 4.11 120 82.19 5 3.42 146 100 146
0.50-0.60 5 4.90 3 2.94 4 3.92 88 86.27 2 1.96 102 100 102
0.60-0.70 8 5.63 10 7.04 5 3.52 116 81.69 3 2.11 142 100 142
0.70-0.80 20 11.24 27 15.17 8 4.49 116 65.17 7 3.93 178 100 178
0.80-0.90 26 19.70 21 15.91 7 5.30 73 55.30 5 3.79 132 100 132
0.90-1.00 13 22.41 13 22.41 9 15.52 23 39.66 0 0.00 58 100 58
1.00-1.10 12 22.22 18 33.33 2 3.70 22 40.74 0 0.00 54 100 54
1.10-1.20 6 24.00 7 28.00 3 12.00 9 36.00 0 0.00 25 100 25
TOTAL 108 9.76 108 9.76 49 4.43 782 70.64 60 5.42 1107 100
166 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSitetZucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
frequencyof 8-11%, as does WareD (2-3%). Level
0.50-0.75 m is characterizedby a notableincreasein
thedensityof sherdsperlevel andby anothersignificant
jumpin the popularityof spicule-temperedpottery.At
the sametime, a dropoccursin WaresA, B, andB-C.
WareD is also presentandthis is the highestlevel in
sherdinPit2. Inlevel0.25-0.50 mthesametendencies
notedfor 0.50-0.75 m continue.WaresA and B are
reducedto less that5%each,WareB-Cis foundin only
5% of the sherdsand the spicule-temperedware in-
creases.WareD showsa significantincreaseto between
8%and 16%,whereasWareE disappears.Materialis
generallydensestin this level (77.1-113.7 sherdsper
0.10 cu. m), althoughPits3 and4 showedslightlyhigher
densitiesin the previouslevel. The uppermostlevel of
thesepits (0.00-0.25 m) showsa markeddeclinein the
concentrationof sherds.WaresA, B, andB-C almost
componentof WareD material.
Considerablestylistic change was found in the ce-
ramicsof thesepits, particularlyin WaresA, B, andC.
TheWareA materialshowsa progressivedegeneration
of decorativestyle in thata decreasein the frequency
anddegreeof elaborationof decoratedmaterialis ob-
employedandthe designsbecomemorecarelessin ex-
ecution.In the earlylevels thepaintedmaterialis char-
acterizedby a greatervarietyof bichromeandpolychrome
ally replacedin popularityby cruderred-on-whitemo-
sherdsis a small minoritylimitedto the earliestlevel,
usedthroughoutthe sequenceon rimsandflanges,and
to delimitrimadornosandmodelledlugs. Theselugs,
whicharereminiscentof Barrancoidmaterial(FIG. 3c, h,
i), andfragmentsof hollow figurinesarefoundexclu-
sively in the lowertwo levels. In the laterstratamod-
elling is limited to various forms of handles and
Severalstylistictrendswerenotedin the ceramicse-
quenceof WareB, of whichone of themoststrikingis
peringmaterial(TABLE 5). The decorationof WareB
becomesless frequentandmorecarelessovertime. In-
inthethirdandfourthlevels, asmoreemphasisis placed
on bichromepainting.Severalchangesin techniqueand
worthyis the suddenbutbriefpopularityin level 2 of
alternatingshortincisionson theflattenedlips of bowls
(FIG. 4a-b). This combination,whichmakesup 21%of
all incised modes for this level, is presentneitherin
earliernorlatercuts. In regardsto the painteddecora-
tion, we haveobservedthatthe few samples(FIG. 4h-i)
linesof varyingwidthscombinedto forrngeometricmo-
tifs) arefoundonlyin theearliestlevels (1.25-0.50 m).
This style of paintingis reminiscentof the polychrome
20. P. P. Hilbert,Archaologische UntersuchungenamMittlerenAma-
zonas. MarburgerStudienzur Volkerkunde1 (Dietrich Reimer Verlag:
PIT 1 PITS 2-5
m Si oi m Si oi
Cq z m 2 m w z m z m
Level (m) 9 < 2 2 8 2 9 < 2 2 8 2
0.00-0.25 21 7 33.33% 8 0 0.00%
0.25-0.50 44 13 29.55% 36 2 5.56%
0.50-0.75 33 11 33.33% 219 13 5.94%
0.75-1.00 61 28 45.90% 223 43 19.28%
1.00-1.25 45 14 31.11% 128 23 17.93%
TotS 204 73 37.78% 614 81 13.19%
Journal of Field ArchaeologytEol. 11, 1984 167
Theearlieststageis characterizedby smallbowlswith
verylittledecoration.The incisedmodesusedto deco-
raterims are reminiscentof WaresA and B (FIG. 4a).
The only otherdecorationfoundconsistsof wide (4-5
cm) applique,incisedfilletsusedto adorna largevessel
(FIG. 4), andbasketandnetimpressions.Duringthesec-
ond stage, characterizedby a relativeincreasein fre-
globularvessels, and bottles). New decorativemodes
includered-on-plainpainting(FIG. 4w), hemisphericallugs
on thelipsof bowls(FIG. 4q), broad-lineincisionon out-
slopingflanges and on otherrims (FIG. 4n) often com-
bined with zoned red paint. These combinationsare
C attainsits maximumpopularity.Thismaterialappears
tobeanotherexampleof theexchangeof modesbetween
thepottersof the site at thismoment.
A minorityof decorativemodes foundin this stage
such as thinappliquetincisedfillets, anddeep fine-line
rectilinearincision(FIG. 4r), havea distinctArauquinoid
air. These modes carryover into stage 3 where they
come to dominate,along with new ones such as the
incisedtexcisedupturnedflanges(FIG. Sb,c), mauvepost-
firedpaint,solidfigurines(FIG. Sl), andanthropomorphic
lugs incorporatedintotherimsof bowls(FIG. Sj). Partic-
ularlycharacteristicof this last stageareincisedbands
madeup of alternatingobliquelines, often filled with
punctationor cane impressionandenclosedabove and
below by a seriesof parallelhorizontallines andpunc-
tatedcollars(FIG. Sa,d,e,f). Appliquefeatures,whichin-
clude coffee-beaneyes and archedeyebrows,become
Thispitwas dugin 10-cmlevels anddiffersfromthe
othersin thatspicule-temperedmaterialis presentin a
it representsmorethana thirdof the sherds(TABLE 4).
of WareD materialin themorerecentlevels. Also sig-
nificantis the higherdensityof sherdsthroughoutthe
pit,whichmaybe aresultof themorefragmentednature
of the material.Fourwares(A, B, B-C, andC) (FIG. 6)
arepresentinthelowestlevel,of whichWareC is slightly
predominant.Thiswarecontinuesto growin popularity
up to level 0.50-0.60 m whereit attainsa maximum
frequencyof 86%. Wares A, B, and B-C decrease
23. Roosevelt, 1980 op. cit. (in note 3) l9S-196 and figs. S1, 53-
SS; Rouse, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1) 204-206.
24. Cruxent and Rouse, op. cit. (in note 21) 235-236.
Table 5. Frequency of porous and non-porous Ware B
materialin Pits 1-5.
of the materialobtained from Cueva Boulton on the Up-
per Orinoco.2l In the later levels, monochrome red-on-
plain painting predominates(F1G.4g-k). Among the vari-
ations in the range of vessel shapes, it is notable thatthe
carinatedbowl with a flattened rim is found exclusively
in 0.75-1.00 m, while a flanged bowl with broad-line
incision and red paint on the flange, distinctly reminis-
cent of Barrancoidstyles of the Lower Orinoco, appears
in level 3.
Marked stylistic changes occur throughout the se-
quence in Ware C and have been discussed in detail
elsewhere.22 We have distinguished three stages in the
stylistic evolution of the sponge-spicule-tempered ware
that correspond to the stratigraphiclevels of these pits
in the following manner: 1) earlytintrusive (0.75-1 .25
m) 2) intermediatetexchange (0.50-0.75 m) 3) latet
domination (0.00-0.50 m). These stages reflect how this
ware evolved from a minority component of predomi-
nantlyplainsherds,ffirougha persodof exchangein which
stylistic featuresof Wares A and B are incorporatedand
vice versa, into a stage of quantitative dominance and
stylistic maturationwhere Arauquinoid modes predom-
Berlin 1968) 91-122.
21. J. M. Cruxent and I. B. Rouse, An Archaeological Chronology
of Venezuela. Pan American Union Social Science Monographs VI
(Pan American Union: Washington, D.C. 1958) 210.
22. A. Zucchi and K. Tarble, "Evolucion y Antiguedad de la Alfar-
eria con Esponjilla en Aguerito, un Yacimiento del Orinoco Medio,"
Indiana 7 (1982) 183-199.
est concentrationat the site in the upperlevels of this
pit (27%in 0.20-0.30 m).
Severalstylistictrendscharacterizethis cut, particu-
larlyin the spicule-temperedsherdsthatconstitutethe
dominantmaterial.Changesin the otherwares(A, B,
B-C, D, andE) aremoredifficultto documentbecause
of thesmallsamplesize. However,severalparallelswith
the patternshownfor Pits 2-5 areevidentin WaresA
and B. As in these pits, red slip of WareA is fairly
frequentonly in the earlylevels (upto 0.70-0.80 m in
Pit6). Severalfragmentsof modelledthicksherds(rem-
iniscentof Barrancoidmaterial)arefoundin thesesame
levels. The only WareA paintedsherd(white-on-red)
was foundin the lowest cut. Latersherdsof this ware
arescarceandno decorationwas found.
of fibertemper(TABLE6), althoughatendencytodecline
in popularitythroughtime is shown. Sherdsfrom the
bottom two levels present only incised decoration,
whereasone withblack-and-red-on-plainpaintis found
in0.90-1.00 m, in additionto incisedmaterial.Another
black-and-red-on-creamsherdis found in level 0.40-
0.50 m, however,no red-on-naturalpainttypicalof the
laterlevels of Pits2-5 is foundin thispit. Notchedlips
are also absent, althoughone outturnedflattenedrim
showsfine-lineincisionon the uppersurfaceof the lip
(level 0.70-0.80 m). As in WareA, the styledegener-
atesin the laterlevels.
TheWareC ceramicsareverysimplein thispit. No
decorationis foundupto level 0.70-0.80 m, whereap-
Table 6. Frequency of porous and non-porous Ware B
material in Pit 6.
No. porous %porous
TotalWare (fiber)Ware (fiber)Ware
Level(m) B sherds B sherds B sherds
0.00-0. 10 0 0 0.00%
0.10-0.20 0 0 0.00%
0.20-0.30 0 0 0.00%
0.30-0.40 3 2 66.66%
0.40-O.S0 S 2 40.00%
O.S0-0.60 3 1 33.33%
0.60-0.70 0 0 0.00%
0.70-0.80 26 11 42.31%
0.80-0.90 18 9 50.00%
0.90-1.00 16 6 37.50%
1.00-1.10 18 9 50.00%
1.10-1.20 7 1 14.29%
Total 96 41 42.70%
168 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSitelZucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
plique modes are also found in 0.50-0.60 m. Incision
in levels 0.40-0.70 m exclusively consists of single lines.
Vessels arethinnerwalled andsherdsareextremely frag-
mented throughlevel 0.40-0.50 m. These levels (1.20-
0.40 m) correspond to our first two stylistic stages es-
tablished for spicule-temperedware in Pits 2-5. Typical
Arauquinoidshapes and decoration characteristicof our
third stage appearin level 0.30-0.40 m where fine-line
incision and punctation in rectilinear motifs and nicked
applique strips are found. Mauve post-fired paint and
modelling also appear.
Occupational History of the Aguerito Site
Aguerito is obviously a multicomponent site with at
least four distinct ceramic complexes (Wares A, B, C,
and D) present contemporaneously andtor successively.
Although ourexcavations were not extensive, significant
variations noted previously in the contents of the pits
from different areas of the site (TABLE 7) permit us ten-
tatively to reconstruct its occupational history and pro-
pose hypotheses regarding the relations between the
makers of the various ceramic wares. We have divided
the occupation into four periods which, with furtherex-
cavations, may be refined and perhaps subdivided.
The earliest period at the Aguerito site is best repre-
sented in the area of Pit 1 where the deposit is deepest
(Stage 1; see FIG. 2). The outstanding characteristic of
this period is the predominanceof Wares A and B. We
believe thatthe spicule-temperedmaterialfound in these
levels is intrusiveandpossibly the resultof mixture. The
lowest levels of Pits 2, 3, and 5 (TABLES2-3) are the
least mixed and presenta very small percentageof Ware
C material (Pit S has only one spicule-tempered sherd).
Stylistic similarities between the A and B materials of
these pits and the lowest levels of Pits 1, 4, and 6 lead
us to postulate contemporaneityin spite of a higher per-
centage of spicule-tempered sherds in these latter pits.
Supportingthis decision is the high proportionof porous
sherds, a predominance of incised decoration and the
sporadicappearanceof polychrome painting in the Ware
B materialof these levels, as well as a greaterfrequency
of red slip and more elaborate modelled incised deco-
rationfound in the WareA ceramics. Whetheror not the
absence of polychrome painting in Pit 1 is chronologi-
cally significant (perhaps indicating an early fiber-tem-
pered occupation), remains to be verified.25
Wares A and B are distinct styles, each with charac-
25. Recently excavated materialis currentlyunderanalysis to resolve
A B B-C C D E TOTAL
Pit 1 274 204 5 328 32 4 847
Pit2 132 203 47 1565 141 18 2106
Pit 3 216 245 84 2301 124 10 2980
Pit 4 161 145 42 1394 179 20 1941
Pit 5 106 197 52 1390 187 13 1945
Pit 6 108 108 49 782 60 1107
Total 997 1102 279 7760 723 65 10926
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 169
Table7. Frequencyof WaresA-E in
each of the wares, which circumstancewould argue
againstthe possibilitythat one is ceremonialand the
otherstrictlyfunctional.The foregoingleadsus to pro-
pose thatWaresA andB representthe remainsof two
to the intrusionof spicule-temperedceramics.
Althoughit seemsplausibleto attributethe manufac-
tureof WaresA andB to twodistinctpeoples,it is more
difficultto assess the relationshipbetweenthemin the
in situandthe otherwas a tradeware;2) thatmembers
theirown preferredstyle;or 3) thatthe makersof the
two potterystyles utilizedthe site alternatelyand the
materialbecame mechanicallymixed over time. We
tionof thetwo waresis nearlyequalandthattheyover-
lap functionallyas notedpreviously.Chroniclersreport
the tradingof potteryfor laterperiods;the emphasis,
however,seemsto havebeenon specialtyitemssuchas
potterymolds tradedto otherinlandgroupsfor gold-
by the Otomacosusedin theelaborationof turtleoil; or
as water-coolingjugs.3lNo referenceshavebeenfound
that would indicatethe acquisitionthroughtradeof a
completesetof potteryby otherpottery-makinggroups.
On the otherhand, in social situationssuch as sug-
gested in the secondpossibility,one would expect to
findsomeindicationin thepotteryof influencebetween
laterin the sequencebetweenWaresB andC). These
styles, however,arequitedistinct.We feel, therefore,
that it is most likely thatthe makersof the A and B
potteryusedthe site alternatelythroughoutthe firstpe-
riod. The low concentrationof sherdsduringthis time
31. N. Morey, "Ethnohistoryof the Colombianand Venezuelan
Llanos," unpublishedPh.D. dissertation,Universityof Utah (Salt
LakeCity 1975)254, 265.
teristic modes of paste, form, decorative zone, design
layout, decorative technique, and motifs. In this early
period we have not found any evidence for stylistic in-
terchangebetweenthe makersof these wares, even though
they are found associated together in several different
sites in the area(Aguerito, La Gruta,Ronquin, andRon-
quin Sombra). It could be postulated that these wares
represent substyles of one group of people, indicating
either a social subdivision (e.g., moiety affiliation) or a
functional difference (e.g., one style being ceremonial
and the other utilitarianor each serving different prac-
tical purposes such as culinary, storage, or serving
pieces). Neither of these arguments seems valid since,
on the one hand, each of these styles is found in other
sites more or less singly. In the lowest level of the Ced-
eno site,26 Ware B constitutes nearly 90% of the occu-
pation, and in Cotua, sand-temperedmaterial similar to
Ware A at Aguerito dominates the site, with occasional
spicule-temperedsherdspresent. We have also been able
to trace independent developments for these styles in
laterperiods. WhereasWareA (Saladoid) ceramics have
been shown to have spread out to the Venezuelan coast
andon to the Antilles, it appearsthatthe WareB material
followed a different route and can be related to later
styles in the WesternLlanos (Los Caros,27Crescencio,28
E1Choque,29and other sites30).On the other hand, dis-
countingvariationsin lip terminationanddecoration,there
is an overlap in the basic forms (open bowls and small
jars) that suggests thatthe two wares are not functionally
different. What is more, both simple undecoratedforms
and also more elaborate decorated pieces are found in
26. Zucchi,unpublishedsurveymaterial.Publicationof thematerial
is expectedby theendof 1984.
27. CruxentandRouse,op. cit. (in note21) 189-190.
28. A. ZucchiandW.Deneven,CamposElevados e Historia Cultural
Prehispanica en los Llanos Occidentales de Venezuela (Universidad
30. Zucchi,unpublishedsurveymaterial;see note26.
170 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSitelZucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
suggests a sporadic and perhaps seasonal utilization of
the Agueritosite, which would have providedhigh ground
in the wet season for groups that dispersed to exploit
turtle beaches and better hunting and fishing grounds in
the dry season. Subsistence data are scarce for this pe-
riod, althoughthe presence of heavy, thick-rimmedgrid-
dles in Ware A may indicate manioc cultivation.32 So
far, we have no evidence of this sort for Ware B.
A possibility exists that part of the Ware B ceramics
may be much earlierthanany of the A materialat Aguer-
ito. While our early B material corresponds closely to
fiber/sherd-temperedpottery illustrated by Roosevelt33
andVargas34for the earliestLa GrutaPhase, no Saladoid
(Ware A) ceramics in Aguerito have the stylistic char-
acteristics common to this La Gruta Phase. Unfortu-
nately, because of the small sample of Ware B, we are
unable at the moment to further subdivide period 1 on
This period commences with the intrusioninto the site
of a new people associated with a very simple, spicule-
temperedmaterial. Apparentlythis intrusionwas not en-
tirely disruptive because the wares already found in the
site do not disappear, but rather demonstrate certain
changes that would indicate the exchange of technique
and stylistic modes between the groupspresent. The lev-
els correspondingto this period include: 0.50-1.00 m of
Pits 2-5 and 0.25-0.75 m of Pit 1 and 0.40-0.90 m of
Pit 6 (see FIG.2).
Although Rouse and Roosevelt consider the appear-
ance of spicule-tempered material to be a local devel-
opment in the Parmana region and that maize was
introducedthroughtrade, we feel that it is probablethat
this new ceramic style, which is associated with a dis-
tinctive subsistence strategy (maize/bean/squashagricul-
ture)constitutes a distinct complex, intrusiveto the area.
Aside from the difference in tempering material, other
evidence supportsthis proposition. Even the earliest spi-
cule-tempered material presents distinctive lip and rim
treatments and base forms on bowls and jars, and dec-
orative techniques with no antecedents in either Ware A
or B pottery (e.g., modes such as pellets, thick applique
strips, coffee-bean eyes, small triangularappendageson
rims, basket and net impressions on bases, etc.).35 Dis-
32. Althoughthegriddleis nota sureindicatorof manioccultivation,
as pointedout by W. De Boer, "The ArchaeologicalEvidencefor
its presencedoes allowforthispossibility.
33. Roosevelt,1980op. cit. (in note3) 206, 209, figs. 56, 63.
34. Vargas,op. cit. (in note 17)(Lam15, 20).
35. ZucchiandTarble,op. cit. (in note22).
tinctive artifacts such as roller stamps for body painting
and perforateddiscs possibly used as spindle whorls are
also unique to the spicule-tempered ware. It likewise
seems improbablethat Ware C constitutes a tradeware,
since there is a considerable functional overlap in the
forms of all three wares, and the increasing popularity
of Ware C definitely points to an occupation of the site
by these potters.
As in period 1, it is difficult to determinewhether the
makers of Wares A, B, and now C actually cohabited
the site, or if they utilized it alternately, or if the users
of Ware C actually displaced the others, but maintained
trade relations with them in the area. Obviously these
pottery-makinggroups were in close contact, as can be
observed in the sharing of certain manufacturing and
decorative techniques. The inclusion of spicule temper
in a small portion of Ware B pottery (which we have
denominated B-C) and, very rarely, in the Ware A ce-
ramics; the common use of red-on-plain paint; the in-
corporation of new vessel shapes in Wares A and B
similar to those found in Ware C, all demonstrateclose
contact, as does the utilization of typical Ware A and B
modes on the spicule-tempered ware (e.g., broad-line,
shallow incision in curvilinearmotifs, outsloping flanged
The evidence for intimatecontactbetweenthese groups
is much strongerin this period than in the previous one.
We therefore feel that it is justified to postulate that the
site was being sharedby distinctpottery-makingpeoples.
Ample ethnohistoric evidence for inter-ethnic marriage
practices, slavery, and symbiotic relationships between
groups with different subsistence strategies is found in
the earliest reportsfor the area. For example, the Saliva
often intermarriedwith the AchaguaandCanb, andmixed
Achagua/Saliva villages were common on the Colom-
bian side of the Middle Orinoco.36The Wanai, who oc-
cupied the zone between the Orinoco, Parguaza, and
SuapureRivers maintaineda close alliance with the Pa-
reca, in which the Wanaiwould spendone ortwo months
a year in the sylvatic headwatersof the Suapurewith the
Pareca to celebrate feasts; and, for their part, the Pareca
would come down to spend time in the savannawith the
Wanai. Intermarriagewas a common result of this in-
terchange.37The Otomaco, located in the area of the
confluence of the Orinoco and Apure Rivers, "fre-
quently intermarriedwith other groups, especially with
the Guamo with some of whom they were closely al-
lied."38 In this case the Otomaco were an agricultural
36. Morey, op. cit. (in note 31) 139.
37. P. Henley, "Wanai:Aspectos del Pasadoy del Presentedel Gtupo
Indigena Mapoyo,'' Antropologica 42 (1975) 29-55.
38. Morey,op.cit.(innote31) 119.
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 171
group whereas the Guamo were fishing specialists. An-
otherfishing groupclosely allied with the Otomaco were
A type of slavery is mentioned for several Orinocan
groups (Saliva, Otomaco, Achagua) who used women
and children capturedin wars to work in their gardens.
According to Morey,40these slaves did the same type of
work as any other group member, and were often incor-
porated into the families of their captors through mar-
In the face of this evidence, we feel thatin the Middle
Orinoco area, heterogeneous archaeological levels, such
as those associated with period 2 in Aguerito, may rep-
resentthe remainsof mixed villages, althoughwe cannot
discount the possibility that they may pertainto discrete
occupations that alternateduse of the site, trade wares,
etc. It is important to point out that the tendency for
inter-ethnic mixing seems to have increased over time,
especially as a reaction to the depopulation of the area
through the effects of the European conquest (disease
and slavery), and the concentration and relocation of
indigenous groups by the missionaries. Reflections of
these phenomena should be even more evident in the
archaeological record of historical sites for the area.
Certain elements point to a shift in the type of site
occupation duringperiod 2, perhapsbecause of a change
in the subsistence base. Whereas in period 1 a small
numberof griddle sherdsof WareA could indicate man-
ioc cultivation, the advent of the spicule-tempered ma-
terialcoincides with the firstevidence of the maize/bean/
squash complex; remnants of corncobs, beans, manos,
and fragments of metates are found in the levels asso-
ciatedwith spicule-temperedsherds.The griddlesof Ware
C arethinnerthanthose previously found in the site, and
new vessel forms correspondingto large globularvessels
could indicate new dietary and culinary practices.
The density of sherdsper level also increases substan-
tially in this period, indicatinga largerand perhapsmore
permanentoccupation. The greaterconcentrationof spi-
cule-tempered sherds in Pits 2, 4, and 5 and particularly
in Pits 3 and 6 (TABLES 2-4) could indicate a movement
in a sw direction to higher ground, away from the area
of Pit 1. This may have been a reaction to heavier river
flooding resulting from a prolonged period of higher
rainfall. An alternative explanation could be that Pit 1
was dug in what remains of a central midden, where
culturaldeposits from all occupational periods had once
accumulated in deep strata, such as found for period 1
refuse, with a depth of 0.50 m. In this case, Pits 2-5
and6 wouldall be peripheralto the centralpartof the
midden,andfor this reason,presentshallowerdeposits
per period(FIG. 2). Posteriorto the site abandonment,
heavy flooding and erosionwould have destroyedthe
upperlayersof the centralpartof the midden,leaving
depositsof eroded,late materialon the surfaceof the
areaof Pit 1. Thiswouldaccountfortheheavyconcen-
trationof late materialcombinedwith earlytype Ware
A and B sherdsin the 0.00-0.25 m level of this pit,
which contrastsdrasticallywith those pits on higher
ground(compare141.2 sherds/0.10cu. m from level
0.00-0.25 of Pit 1 with 1.5-20.7 sherds/0.10cu. m for
the upperlevel of Pits2-5 and6 (TABLES 1-4).
The thirdperiodat the Agueritosite is characterized
by a rathersuddenchangein thedecorativemodesused
inationof the siteby thecarriersof thisware.Thenew
longingto the Arauquinoidseries.
It is doubtfulthatthe style developedout of the pre-
vious periodwithoutsome kind of externalinfluence,
perhapsfromthe sw. Unfortunatelythis area'sarchae-
ological remainsare virtuallyunknown.By this time,
WaresA andB havedegeneratedconsiderablyandare
infrequent,as is also the case with WareB-C. On the
contrary,spicule-temperedmaterial,whichfor this pe-
riodis densestin Pits2, 3, and6, continuesto showan
increaseinthenumberof sherdsperlevel (between77.1
and208 sherdsper0.10 cu. m). Refuseof this wareis
scatteredover a large areaof the surfaceof the site,
leadingus to believethattheareaoccupiedby thistime
was moreextensivethanin earlierperiods.
in intergrouptrade,an inferencesupportedby the pres-
to shapeandpolishbeadsof the typefoundat the site.
Quiripa,or stringsof fresh-watershell beads, were a
standardof exchange,accordingto earlychroniclers.4l
of theOrinocoatthemouthof theApure,preciselywhere
the Agueritosite lies. The large ollas found in these
levels couldhave servedas communalchichapots, an-
39. Ibid. 232.
40. Ibid. 106. 41. Ibid.257-260.
172 CerarnicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSitelZucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
courses anteceded all commercial interchange.42
The levels correspondingto this period include 0.00-
0.25 m of Pit 1, 0.25-0.50 m of Pits 2-5, and 0.30-
0.40 m of Pit 6. Although this period is clearly domi-
nated by the users of Ware C, it is importantto stress
the permanencein the area, frequently at the same sites,
of both Wares A and B, although in a much simpler
The final period of the site corresponds roughly to
levels 0.00-0.25 m of Pits 2-5 and levels 0.00-0.30 m
of Pit 6. Diagnostic of this period is the increase of Ware
D material, which in Pits 3 and 6 is accompanied by a
decrease in spicule-temperedware. The density of sherds
in these levels is substantially less than that of the pre-
vious period (2-45 sherds per 0.10 cu. m). The appear-
ance and growth in popularity of Ware D is a fairly
widespread phenomenon in late sites of the Middle Or-
At Aguerito certain similarities are found between
Wares C and D, particularlyin decorative technique and
motif; their different disposition on the vessel surface
andthe differencein temperingmaterialandvessel forms,
however, lead us to believe the two wares representtwo
distinct peoples. In other Orinocan sites where Ware D
material predominates (Buena Vista, E1 Valle) the dis-
tinction is even more evident, leading us to believe that
the makersof Ware D at Aguerito were copying on their
own distinctive ware modes present at the site in Ware
C. It is impossible at this point to determinewhether the
makers of these two wares actually coexisted at the site,
or whether the makers of Ware C had abandoned the
area(perhapsdownstreamto the Lower Orinoco), which
was lateroccupied by the new group. On the otherhand,
the limited range of vessel shapes in WareD could point
toward the possibility that it representsa trade ware.
The Aguerito Sequence in Relation to the La Gruta,
Corozal, and Camoruco Traditions
When examining the literaturefor comparative mate-
rial for the Aguerito sequence, we were struck by the
similarities between our pottery and that described for
the Parmanaregion by Roosevelt,44 Rouse,45 and Var-
42. R. Morey and N. Morey, "Relaciones Comerciales en el Pasado
en los Llanos de Colombia y Venezuela," Montalban 4 (1975) 534-
43. Zucchi, unpublished survey material; see note 26.
44. Roosevelt, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1); Roosevelt, 1980 op. cit. (in
45. Rouse, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1).
gas.46 Both sequences contain various wares, tempered
with sand, sponge spicule, and dry clay and fiber, each
showing considerable variability in style and frequency
over time. Upon closer inspection, we determined that
although our Aguerito sequence was closely related to
the traditions defined for the Parmanaarea, it differed
from them in several aspects. It does not demonstrate
the stylistic complexity found in any of the wares of
Parmana,andin this sense it would suggest thatAguerito
was peripheral. On the other hand, two of the wares
defined for Aguerito (D and E) are not described for the
Parmanatraditions. This fact calls attentionto the great
ceramic variability that is found in the area, and that
probablyresultedfrom the different social situationsthat
characterizedeach occupational site of the Middle Ori-
noco. Finally, the Aguerito sequence is shorterthanthat
of Parmanaand seems to correspond only to the latest
phase of the La Grutatradition(Ronquin Sombra), and
the Corozal, and Camoruco traditions. Portions of our
Ware B, however, correspond closely to several types
described by Vargas for the lowest levels of La Gruta,
and may be considerably earlier. No Ware A material
from our sequence can be related to the La Gruta and
Ronquin phases of Parmana.
We have drawn up a chart to demonstratethe corre-
spondence between the Aguerito and Parmanaceramic
sequences (FIG. 7). It appears that the earliest period in
Aguerito correspondsto the Ronquin SombraPhase, be-
cause of the low frequencyof spicule-temperedware and
the nearlyequalproportionsof wares temperedwith sand
and with dry clay/fiber. The last of these wares, accord-
ing to Roosevelt, was on the increase in this phase.47In
Aguerito, the sand-temperedpottery of this level has a
certain Barrancoidaspect, characteristicof the Ronquin
Sombra Phase (darker, more compact paste, flanged
bowls, red-and-white-on-plain paint, solid zoomorphic
lugs, and thinnerand deeper incision than that found on
La Grutaand Ronquin Phase pottery). Greatest similar-
ities were found between Aguerito, Cotua, and Ronquin
Sombra. Unfortunately, the criteria for distinguishing
between Ronquin and Ronquin Sombra are not very ex-
plicit in the published material, leaving room for doubt.
Certainevidence, however, supportsa Ronquin Sombra
Phase placement as follows.
1. In the Saladoidceramicsof Aguento, severalmodes
characteristicof the Ronquin Phase are completely lack-
ing. Absent in Aguerito are forms predominantin Ron-
quin such as the outsloping bell-shaped bowls with
shallow broad-line incision or painted decoration on the
46. Vargas, 1976 op. cit. (in note 4); Vargas, 1979 op. cit. (in note
47. Roosevelt, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1) 177.
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 173
is alsoabsentin Aguerito.Ontheotherhand,Howard's
bowl 4, an openflangedbowl, whichis rareandfairly
late in Ronquin,correspondsmost closely with one of
AgueritoWareA's commonforms. This formis also
2. Thereareno cross-hatcheddesignsin Aguerito,a
ito, whichconsistsof largeareasof redpainton equally
largeor largerareasof naturalsurface,wherethe red
designsareborderedby a thinwhiteline. Rouseillus-
are most similarto the modelledlugs in Aguerito,al-
and elaboratein both Ronquinand RonquinSombra55
5. The formsandinciseddecorationon WareA ce-
ramicsof Agueritocorrespondmostcloselyto thosede-
scribedfor Cotua,56a site thathasbeencorrelatedwith
the RonquinSombraPhaseby Rouse.57In this site, as
in Aguerito,incised flangedrims are frequent.58The
incisionhereis quitesimilarto thatatAgueritoon rims
of WareA, especiallyin the use of parallellines that
the hemisphericallugs incorporatedinto the lips of
bowls.59A similarformof bottlerimis alsocommonto
bothsites,60as well as rectangularthickeningon theex-
teriorof rims. Paintingis infrequentin Cotua,perhaps
becauseof thepoorpreservationof the sherds.
48. Howard,op. cit. (in note 16) fig. 6, I andH; Roosevelt, 1978
op. cit. (in note 1) fig. 1, G-J.
49. Howard,op. cit. (in note 16)fig. 6, m-q.
50. Ibid.42; Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1) fig. 2, k.
51. Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1) fig. 1, n,r.
53. Ibid.219, fig. 1, m.
54. Ibid.fig. 2, v.
56. J. M. Cruxent,"Archaeologyof CotuaIsland,AmazonasTer-
cit. (in note21) 203-205.
57. Rouse, 1978op. cit. (in note 1) 213, 216.
58. Cruxent,op. cit. (in note46) fig. 6, p-s, b', c', andf'.
59. Ibid.fig. 6, s, u, x.
60. CruxentandRouse,op. cit. (in note21) fig. 172, 11a-b.
On the other hand, Ware B found in this period has
marked similarities with the ash-, carbon-, and dried-
clay-tempered material found by Vargas61in the lowest
levels of the La Grutasequence. The similarities include
a large portion of porous material(La GrutaCarbonand
La Gruta Ceniza), parallel incised decoration on cari-
nated vessel walls (La GrutaEstampada), and short in-
cisions on rims (La GrutaIncision Corta). Vessel shapes
also correspondclosely. Roosevelt also illustratessimilar
material for the La Gruta Phases. It is the presence of
related B material at Aguerito, but the absence of any
La Grutaor Ronquin Phase sand-temperedpottery, that
leads us to propose the possibility of an early Ware B
occupation at the site, with the posterior advent of a
Ronquin Sombrasand-temperedpotteryoccupation. Un-
fortunately, our comparisons are complicated by the fact
that neither Vargas nor Roosevelt clearly separates an
equivalent of our B component as a distinct entity, but
treat it as part of phases that have been defined mainly
on the basis of the sand- and, later, spicule-tempered
pottery. We are informed by Vargas, for example, that
the La GrutaFine Line Incised Type includes sherdsboth
with sand and dried-clay temper; we are unable, how-
ever, to determinewhich motifs areassociatedwith which
Period 2 in Aguerito is closely related to the Corozal
Phases,62 in the earliest of which, according to Roose-
. at least half of the sherdsare sandor fiber-sand-sherd63
tempered and bear characteristicLa Grutadecoration. The
rest are sponge-tempered and bear the new Corozal deco-
rative modes (fine-line incision, crude applique work and
bi-chrome and polychrome painting). There are also a few
sponge-tempered sherds of the La GrutaTraditionshape or
Cylinder stampsappearduringthis phase in both sites.
On the other hand, the third period at Aguerito corre-
sponds to the CamorucoPhases established by the same
author. In both Aguerito and Parrnanathe vast majority
of sherds of these phases are heavily tempered with
sponge spicules. Applied, modelled, and incised deco-
61. Vargas,op. cit. (in note 17) 88-152.
62. We arereferringto theCorozalPhasesestablishedby Rouseand
respondsto theCamorucoPhaseof RouseandRoosevelt.
63. RooseveltandRouseidentifythetemperinclusionsof thisware
charcoal,ash, driedclay, and sand. Followingchemicalandthin-
sectionanalysisof ourWareB materialwe tendto agreethatit con-
tainsparticlesof driedclay andsomecharcoalandsand.
64. Roosevelt,1978op. cit. (in note 1) 177.
Gruta, C-14 Dates:
Corozal, Parmana C-14
and Ca- Dates for Characteristics shared by Aguer-
moruco Phase: La Gruta, ito and Phases of the Camoruco,
Traditions Ronquin Ronquin, Corozal, and La Gruta Tradi-
Aguerito (Rouse Short Long and Co- and Co- tions (based on Rouse, 1978, and
Aguerito C-14 Aguerito and Roo- Chronol- Chronol- rozal rozal Roosevelt, 1978 and 1980, all
Periods Dates TLDates sevelt) ogy ogy (Vargas) (Vargas) op. cit. [in notes 1 and 3]).
4 Not Not Not present at Parmana
present at present at
La Gruta La Gruta
3 1705 A.C. 1267 A.C. Camoruco 1495 A.C. 750 A.C. Corozal 1460 A.C. 1) Sponge-spicule ware
1114 A.C. I-III 1480 A.C. 780 A.C. 1400 A.C. predominates.
1400 A.C. 1100 A.C. 2) Applique ridges with punctate
1385 A.C. or cane impression.
1325 A.C. 3) Effigy jars with applique/
1280 A.C. incised features.
1235 A.C. 4) Polychrome painting dies out.
1200 A.C. 5) Sharp rectilinear incision on
1190 A.C. collars and flanges.
2 200 B.P. 1059 A.C. Corozal 995 A.C. 210 A.C. ? 1) In the earliest levels, at least
200 B.P. 893 A.C. II-III 50% of the sherds are
1465 A-C 830 AC Corozal I- 700 B.C. ? tempered either with sand or
1285 A.C. 550 A.C. II 855 B.C. crushed sherd/fiber. The rest
1120 A.C. are spicule tempered.
1110 A.C. 2) Some sherds found with La
1065 A.C. Grutatraditionform or
955 A.C. decoration, but with spicule
3) Bowls and cups most
common forms in Saladoid
faces make first appearance.
5) Polychrome (red, brown, and
6) Rectilinear and curvilinear
incision (non-Arauquinoid) on
7) A gradual loss of solid
zoomorphic lugs in sand-
8) First appearanceof cylinder
174 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSitelZucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
Figure 7. Chronological and stylistic comparisons of Aguerito and other phases from the Parmanaarea.
Gruta, C-14 Dates:
Corozal, Parmana C-14
and Ca- Dates for Characteristics shared by Aguer-
moruco Phase: La Gruta, ito and Phases of the Camoruco,
Traditions Ronquin Ronquin, Corozal, and La Gruta Tradi-
Aguerito (Rouse Short Long and Co- and Co- tions (based on Rouse, 1978, and
Aguerito C-14 Aguerito and Roo- Chronol- Chronol- rozal rozal Roosevelt, 1978 and 1980, all
Periods Dates TLDates sevelt) ogy ogy (Vargas) (Vargas) op. cit. [in notes 1 and 3]).
1 460 A.C. 604 A.C. Ronquin 730 A.C. 1020 B.C. ? 1) Substantial increase of H1ber/
400 A.C. 569 A.C. Sombra 710 A.C. crushed-sherd-tempered
781 A.C. sherds.
940 B.C. 978 A.C. 2) Tendency in sand-tempered
810 B.C. 552 A.C. ware to be darker, redder, and
2030 B.C. 436 A.C. 3) Flanged bowls appear.
3730 B.C. 828 A.C. 4) Red-and-white-on-plain
3475 B.C. painting appears.
5) Incision is finer and deeper.
6) Solid zoomorphic lugs with
Barrancoidair in sand-
Ronquin 435 A.C. Ronquin Not present in Aguerito.
390 A.C. Temprano 335 A.C.
La Gruta 305 A.C. 1585 B.C. La Gruta 655 B.C. Not present in Aguerito.
1760 B.C. 1370 B.C.
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 175
rationpredominatesin a typicallyArauquinoidstyle.
andpost-firedsgraffitopaintingin whichtwo layersof
differentcolorsof slipareappliedto vessel surfacesand
thecontrastingcolorbelow. As in Parmana,thenumber
of sherdsperlevel increasesgreatlyasthesequencepro-
gresses(TABLE 7). ThefourthperiodatAgueritocannot
be relatedto the ParmanasequencewhereWareD ma-
Havingdiscussedthe occupationalhistoryandits re-
lationshipwiththeParmanasequence,we will nowpro-
ceed to examinetheabsolutedatesobtainedatAguerito
ment, both from his and Roosevelt's researchin the
Parmanaarea,as well as fromZucchi'sworkattheCa-
morucosite.65The basic structureof his chartis based
on Roosevelt'sculturalsequence.66All of theC-14 age
firstof thesespansfromthe end of the 3rdmillennium
B.C. toffie16 centuryA.C., whereasthesecond,a shorter
65. Rouse, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1) 217.
66. Roosevelt, 1978 op. cit. (in note 1).
Table8. TLages for six intervalsat Aguerito,Venezuela.
Depth No. of TLage of sherds
interval Sherds Ware (A.C.)
0.3-0.4 m 1 D 1114(+78)
2 D 1267(+71)
0.6-0.7m 1 A 893(+130)
2 A 1059(+127)
0.7-0.8 m 1 A 830 (+ 142)
2 A 550 (+ 172)
0.9-1.0 m 1 A 604 (+213)
2 A 569 (+216)
l.0-l.lm 1 A 781(+178)
2 A 978 (+143)
3 B 552 (+222)
1.1-1.2m 1 A 436(+222)
2 A 828(+158)
Radiation dose per year
176 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,andVaz
one, begins around 185 A.C. Rouse defends the longer
sequence on the grounds that 1) only it can account for
the early appearance (1000 B.C.) of Saladoid and Bar-
rancoid material in the Lower Orinoco (both of which
Rouse believes to have originated in the Parmana re-
gion); 2) the polychrome pottery of the Corozal Phase is
related to Cano del Oso pottery of the Western Llanos,
which dates from 1000 s.c.;67 and 3) the charcoal sam-
ples obtainedfromthe most reliablecontexts(living floors
and hearths) all gave C-14 dates that support the long
On the other hand, Vargas and Sanoja favor a modi-
fied short chronology that places the La Grutaphase in
the second half of the 1st millennium B.C. (665 B.C.) or
slightly earlier.68Vargas points out close resemblances
between the La Grutamaterialandthatof EarlyRonquin
whose absolute dates all rangebetween 230 A.C. and435
A.C. (see FIG. 7). This authorcontends thatthe acceptance
of Rouse's dates of 1760 B.C.-2140 B.C. for La Gruta
would imply a complete stagnationof ceramic style for
more than 1,500 years between the La Grutaand Ron-
quin Phases. Obviously, one way to establish which of
the two proposed chronologies is the correct one is to
utilize an independent dating technique in these sites.
We decided to apply thermoluminescent dating in
Aguerito because the C-14 age determinationspresented
irregularitiessimilarto those found in Parmana,with the
addedinconvenience thatin Aguerito, none of the carbon
was found in a culturalfeature such as the hearthsin La
Gruta. Although not as accurate as C-14 dating, TL of-
fers the archaeologist the possibility of dating pottery in
sites in which organic remains are either not found or
are contaminated. We hoped that directly dating the ce-
ramics themselves at Aguerito would resolve the con-
troversy that has arisen because of the three C-14
chronologies obtained for Middle Orinoco sites.
Thermoluminescence (TL) is the transientluminescent
emission produced by most minerals when heated to a
few hundred degrees Celsius, after they have been ex-
posed to nuclear radiation. It represents the release of
energy acquiredby absorptionfrom the radiation, which
has been stored in the crystal lattice of the minerals as
trapped charges (electrons and holes). In crystals such
as quartz, the charges may remain trappedfor hundreds
or thousands of years at normal ambient temperatures.
67. A. Zucchi, "New Data on the Antiquity of Polychrome Painting
from Venezuela," AmAnt37 (1972) 439-446. Although polychromy
appearedin the Llanos duringthe 1st millennium B.C., we believe that
its antiquity per se is not conclusive evidence for an early placement
of Corozal, since the Cano del Oso polychrome painting endured
without significant changes up to Phase C of this complex (ca. 650
68. Vargas, 1979 op. cit. (in note 4) 226.
Whentheirradiatedmineralis heatedupto temperatures
below red heat, the trappedchargesescape fromtheir
trapsand may recombine,emittinglight (thermolumi-
nescence)as theydo so.
Potteryusually containssmall amountsof minerals
(quartz,fbldspar,apatite,andzircon)thatcan be used
as TL dosimetersof the environmentalradiationpro-
ducedby the decayof radioactiveisotopesin boththe
potteryand the surroundingsoil. At the time of kiln-
releasedand the TL clock is reset at zero; from this
episode on, the TL build-upin the potteryis directly
proportionalto the accumulatedradiationexposure(in-
cludingcosmic-raybackground)to which it has been
cumulatedby the potteryhas been determinedfromits
TL glow curve, andthe radiation-doserateto whichit
hasbeenexposedhas beenmeasuredin the laboratory,
the age of the ware since kiln-firingmay be directly
the internalpartof 13 sherdsfromsix levels of Pit6 at
Agueritowerecrushedandsieved, andthe quartzfrac-
tionof eachof thesherdsseparatedinamagneticseparator
69. S. Fleming, "ThermoluminescentDating:Refinementof the Quartz
Inclusion Method," Archaeometry 12 (1970) 133-145.
Sample No. Pit Level (m) YearsB.P. Date
Gx 6262 1 0.00-0.25 245+ 130 1705 A.C.
Gx 6263 1 0.25-0.50 <200 Modern
Gx 6264 1 0.75-1.00 1550+ 170 400 A.C.
I - 10.008 1 0.75-1.00 1490+105 460 A.C.
I - 9.450 1 1.00-1.25 2760+ 90 810 B.C.
Gx 6265 2 0.25-0.50 485 + 120 1465 A.C.
Gx 6266 2 0.50-0.75 840+ 120 1110 A.C.
Gx 6267 2 0.75-1.00 665 + 120 1285 A.C.
Gx 5178 2 0.75-1.00 830+ 125 1120 A.C.
Gx 5181 2 1.00-1.25 5425 + 195 3475 B.C.
Gx 6268 3 0.50-0.75 <200 Modern
Gx 5179 3 0.75-1.00 1235 + 135 715 A.C.
Gx 6269 3 1.00-1.25 2890+ 145 940 B.C.
Gx 5180 4 1.00-1.25 3980+ 150 2030 B.C.
I - 10.006 5 0.25-0.50 885 + 110 1065 A.C.
I - 10.007 5 0.50-0.75 995+115 955 A.C.
I - 10.009 5 1.00-1.25 5680+165 3730 B.C.
Journal of Field ArchaeologylVol. 11, 1984 177
remainingthree levels.72 The table shows thatthe age of
the ceramics increases with depth in the stratigraphic
sequence, from about 1267 A.C. in the 0.30-0.40 m level
to 436 A.C. in the lowest level of Pit 6. These dates agree
well with the corresponding phases of the short C-14
chronology proposed for these sites, and it would be
difficult to introducea large enough errorin the TL-age
calculations to reachthe ages suggested by the long chro-
nology.73 In the next paragraphsboth the TL and the C-
14 dates (TABLE9) areexamined in relationto the Aguer-
ito ceramic sequence, beginning the discussion with the
No dates are available for the levels correspondingto
period 4. Two Ware D sherds, however, characteristic
of this last period from levels 0.30-0.40 m (period 3),
yielded TL dates of 1114 A.C. and 1267 A.C. We may
conclude, therefore, that period 4 commenced around
this time. The lack of historical artifactssuggests that it
ended prior to Europeancontact.
72. The maximum percentage of water uptake in samples and soils
was determined experimentally and its variation with depth was as-
sumed on the basis of observed increased moisture content in the pit
as the excavations progressed.
73. The results of the experimental measurements (TL and radiation
dose rates) are not presented here, in accordance with the suggestion
raised at the 2nd specialist seminar on TL dating. They may be ob-
tained by writing to J. E. Vaz.
D since these wares presenta higherproportionof quartz
in the tempering material. A sample of Ware B (fiber/
clay tempered)material,however, was also datedto check
the possibility of a very early fiber-temperoccupation in
the area of this pit.
The TL equipment used for this study has been de-
scribed earlier.70To obtain theirTL glow curves, 15 mg
aliquots of the samples were heated linearly to 450° C
at 10° C per second in a nitrogen atmosphere.
Gross alpha-countratesandthe conversion factorscal-
culated by Sasidharan et al.71 were used to determine
the beta-ray and gamma-ray dose rates resulting from
uraniumand thoriumin the sherds and their surrounding
soils. The potassium concentrationin the samples and in
the soils was determinedvia atomic absorptionspectrom-
etry. For the measurementof the accumulatedradiation
exposure of the pottery, unheated aliquots of the quartz
fraction of each sherd were irradiatedwith gamma rays
from a Cesium 137 source.
The results of the TL dating for our pottery are pre-
sented in Table 8. Because of the wetness of the soil at
Aguerito, the ages obtained were corrected for water
uptakeassuming a wateruptakein sherdand soil of 10%
and 15%, respectively, for the 0.30-0.40 m level; 15%
and20%, respectively,for the 0.6()-0.70 m andthe 0.70-
0.80 m levels; and 20% and 30%, respectively, for the
70. J. E. Vaz and J. M. Cruxent, ''Determination of the Provenience
of Majolica Pottery Found in the Caribbean Area Using its Gamma-
Ray Induced Thermoluminescence," AmAnt40 (1975) 71-82.
71. R. Sasidharan,C. M. Sunta, and D. S. Nambi, "TL Dating:Error
Implications in Case of Undetermined U-Th Concentration Ratio in
Pottery Samples," Ancient TL 2 (1978) 8-11.
178 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
In ourdiscussionwe mentionedthatperiod3 of our
sequencerelatesto the CamorucoPhasesof Parmana.
which seems too late in absenceof historicalartifacts.
SincetheD material,however,is alwaysassociatedwith
the Arauquinoidcauxi-temperedpottery,in Agueritoas
in othersites of the area,the two TL datescitedprevi-
ment of the CamorucoPhasesbetween 1050 A.C. and
1495A.C. (see FIG. 7).
Forperiod2, whichrelatesto the CorozalPhases,a
totalof 13 dateswere obtained,fourof whichareTL
(FIG. 7). Threeof theC-14 datesmustbe discussedsep-
aratelybecauseof theirirregularity.Two of them, ob-
tainedfromtheupperlevels of Pit 1 (200 B.P. and 1465
A.C.), seem to be too recent.Therecentdatescouldbe
explainedin referenceto a reconstructionof theerosive
processesthathaveobviouslyaffectedthe site (FIG. 2).
As we saw in Figure2, Pit 1 is locatedpreciselyin the
areathathas been most heavilyerodedby the annual
(200 B.P.) fromlevel 0.50-0.75 m of Pit 3 can be at-
tributedto contaminationof the sample,sincea modern
carbonizedtreerootwaspresentin thepit. Althoughwe
The six remainingC-14 dates correspondingto this
periodrangebetween715 A.C. and1285A.C., whilethe
thermoluminescencedatesfallbetween550 A.C. and1059
A.C. (FIG. 7). Takinginto considerationthe errorincor-
poratedin both sets, one sees thatthey areessentially
equivalentand in agreementwith the dateof 995 A.C.
assignedto Corozalin the shortchronologyof Rouse
Forthe levels thatcomprisethisperiod,a totalof six
C-14 and seven TL dateshave been obtained.Of the
latter,six correspondto WareA materialandrangebe-
tween 436 A.C. and 978 A.C. These sherdsare related
agreewell withtheplacementof thisphasein the short
chronology(730 A.C. and710 A.C.). Additionalsupport
forthisplacementis foundin thedatesof thepreceding
RonquinPhase,all of whichfall between230 A.C. and
435 A.C. (FIG. 7). Two of ourC-14 dates(400 A.C. and
460 A.C.) alignwell withourearliestTL determination
The last TL determinationobtained from Ware B ma-
terial yielded a date of 552 A.C., which agrees perfectly
well with the transition period we have mentioned and
supports the coexistence at the Aguerito site of both A
and B peoples during this period.
On the contrary,the C-14 dates from the bottomlevels
of Pits 1-4 can be divided into two groups: the first,
with dates ranging from 810 B.C. to 940 B.C., and the
second with determinationsthat fall between 2030 B.C.
and 3730 B.C. At present we are inclined to accept the
two dates corresponding to the 1st millennium B.C., as
possibly dating our postulated early B material. As we
have shown, this material is very similar to the carbon-
ash-clay pottery described by Vargas for her cuts of pe-
riod 1 at La Gruta, and apparentlyalso with the fiber-
sherd material described by Rouse and Roosevelt for
their La GrutaPhase. Some of the C-14 dates obtained
for this materialby these authorsagree remarkablywell
with the two 1st millennium B.C. dates of Aguerito (Var-
gas: 655 B.C. and 1370 B.C.; Rouse: 1585 B.C.). Vargas
does not accept herearliestdate, althoughit fits perfectly
well in her seriated sequence.
As we have suggested, there is the possibility of the
existence of a very early B component in the Middle
Orinoco Area. The dates obtained by the different au-
thorscorrespondingto the 3rdand4th millennium should
not be rejectedwithout a careful examination, especially
those obtained from reliable contexts, such as hearths
and living floors. We must not overlook the possibility
of an early and extended ceramic horizon in the tropical
lowlands of South America unrelated either to the Sa-
ladoid or Barrancoidtraditions, exemplified by the pot-
tery of Puerto Hormiga,74Monsu in Colombia,75 and
Mina in Brazil,76and related to the beginnings of Trop-
ical Forest agriculturalpractices.
As we have seen so far, Aguerito represents a multi-
component pre-Hispanic site whose occupation possibly
extended from the beginnings of the firstmillennium B.C.
to shortly before the Europeanamval. Several important
facts regardingthe prehistoryof the Middle Orinocohave
come to light during this research, such as the discrim-
ination of new ceramics-bearinggroups, the determina-
74. G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, Excavaciones Arqueologicas en Puerto
Hormiga, Departamento de Bolfvar. Publicaciones de la Universidad
de Los Andes, AntropologEa2 (Bogota 1965).
75. G. Reichel-Dolmatoff, "Colombia Indigena Periodo Prehis-
panico," in Manual de Historia de Colombia, Vol. I (ProculturaS.A.:
Colombia 1982) 49-57.
76. M. F. Simoes, ''Programa Nacional de Pesquisas Arqueologicas
na Bacia Amazonica,'' Acta Amazonica 7 (1978) 297-300.
Journal of Field Archaeology/Vol. 11, 1984 179
tion of the coexistence of peoples in the site as manifested
in the exchange of ceramic techniques, and the survival
of early ceramic traditionsin the area, in spite of partial
migration of these populations to other areas and the
posterior immigrations of new groups into the Orinoco.
The results of TL dating clearly supportthe short chro-
nology of Rouse from the Ronquin Sombra Phase on-
wards and all the C-14 dates from the previous Ronquin
Phase, which range between 230 A.C. and 435 A.C., CO-
incide with this version (FIG. 7). On the other hand, we
have postulatedthatthe earliestC-14datesobtainedfrom
Aguerito andthe Parmanaareamay be relatedto an early
occupation by users of fiber-tempered ceramics, unre-
lated either to the Saladoid or Barrancoidtraditions.
In our discussion we have proposed that the Aguerito
site was populated by four different groups, each iden-
tified by a distinct ceramic ware. Two of these wares (A
and C) have been previously identified as pertaining to
Saladoid and Arauquinoidtraditions. Materialsimilar to
our Ware B has been distinguished by all authorswork-
ing in the area, but, because of their small sample size,
it has been generally considered as partof the Saladoid
Tradition. The substantial collection of this ware at
Aguerito and at other sites in the area(e.g., Cedeno) has
allowed us to isolate this component as pertaining to a
distinct social group, which we believe may be quite
early in the zone. The fourth component, Ware D, on
the otherhand, has not been previouslyreported;it seems
to represent a late invasion by a new group. This inva-
sion is also evidenced in other sites of the area surveyed
The ethnohistorical record indicates that during pre-
Hispanic times the region was ratherdensely populated
by a multiplicity of ethnic groups bonded together by
marriageand warfarealliance, trade, and symbiotic sub-
sistence relationships. Previously the archaeological re-
constructionof the populationof the Middle Orinoco had
been overly simplistic, since it recognized the presence
of only two population groups: Saladoid and Arauqui-
noid. In recent years, however, Rouse and Roosevelt
have expandedthe archaeological knowledge of the area,
not only by identifying two new phases in the Saladoid
Tradition(La Grutaand Ronquin Sombra), and three in
the Arauquinoid (Camoruco I, II, and III), but also by
defining the Corozal Phases, which they consider to be
a distinct group. These authors, however, consider the
phases to correspond to successive occupations. The
Aguerito site, on the other hand, supportsthe ethnohis-
torical picture regardingthe multiplicity and coexistence
of groups in favored sites. As we have shown, the ce-
ramic and, probably, the ethnic composition of the site
varied through time. Although not all our components
were present at the site during all periods, we have pre-
sentedevidenceto supportthecoexistenceof morethan
one groupatthe site atdifferentpointsin the sequence.
in the followingmanner.At the inceptionof the occu-
pation(ca. 1000B.C.) the site was usedsporadicallyby
a smallpopulationof EarlyB peoplewitha subsistence
neous with the La Gruta(1000 B.C.-200 B.C.) andthe
laterRonquinPhase (200 B.C.-400 A.C.) of Parmana.
Around400 A.C., A andB peopleswereusingthe site
eithersimultaneouslyor alternately.We have evidence
ple using spicule-temperedceramicsappearat the site
ca. 600 A.C., anda substantialpopulationincreasebe-
gins. As in Parmana,77this occupationalperiodis as-
sociatedwiththe introductionof the maize/bean/squash
A andB inhabitants,theC groupsseemto haveshared
the site with them. Evidenceof this interactionis the
notedin all threewares.TheBarrancoidinfluencefrom
the LowerOrinoco,alreadyevidentin the WareA ce-
ramicsof the previousperiod, is notablenow on the
Thethirdperiodof Aguerito(1000A.C.) seestheclear
dominanceof the site by the C people who are now
clearlyin the ArauquinoidTradition,indicatingforeign
influencesfromthesw. TheA andB peoplehavealmost
disappearedfromtheAgueritosite. Thepresenceof the
movementof thesegroups;a few sherdsof thesewares
foundat Agueritoandothersites correspondingto this
period, however, indicatecontinuedcommercialrela-
believeits bearersto be contemporaneouswiththeLate
C populationsince their decorativemotifs are nearly
identical.Thedecreasein thefrequencyof WareC ma-
terialduringthefourthperiod(1200-1400 A.C.) fitswell
with the last expansivemovementof the Arauquinoid
population,78which affected the lower Orinoco, the
As a lastpoint,we wouldlike to emphasizethe ben-
efitsof theapplicationof TLanalysistoMiddleOrinoco
sites. By datingthe sherdsthemselves,one candatece-
ramiccomponentsas well as stratigraphiclevels. This
77. Roosevelt, 1980 op. cit. (in note 3) 233-235.
78. A. Zucchi, "La VariabilidadEcologica y la Intensificacion de la
Agriculturaen los Llanos Venezolanos," in Wagner andZucchi, eds.,
op. cit. (in note 1) 349-365.
180 CeramicSequenceandDatesfor theAgueritoSite/Zucchi,Tarble,and Vaz
procedureis especially importantin areas where observ-
able naturalstratigraphyis lacking and erosive processes
have caused mixed contexts. Underthese circumstances,
TL dating can also be helpful in interpretingC-14 de-
terminations. The interpretationof the TL results, how-
ever, depends directly on the quality of the stylistic
classification of the ceramic materials.
Ourmost sincere gratitudeis due to Professor Donald
W. Lathrapfor reading previous versions of this paper
and for providing invaluable criticisms and suggestions.
We truly appreciatedthe advice, even if it was not al-
ways followed. Dr. Carlos Schubert visited the site to
check the stratigraphicprofiles and made the grain-size
analysis. Lilliam Arvelo participatedin the Orinoco Sur-
vey and did a preliminary classification of the ceramic
material from Pit 1. Erika Wagner provided valuable
bibliographic material and comments. Carlos Quintero
made all the drawings and Daniel Blanco did the pho-
tographs. MorelbaNavas andCinthiaUrdanetatyped the
manuscript. Luisa Ravelo and Victor Betancourthelped
with the TL processing. All the C-14 determinationswere
financedwith a grant(proyectoS T-0884) fromCONICIT
(Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y
Technologicas). MARAVEN (Filial de Petroleos de
Venezuela, S.A.) preparedthe thin sections. Alejandro
Barazarte and Bartolome Rodriguez helped lighten the
physical load of the excavation. Special thanks are due
to the small but most hospitable population of Aguerito
for literally opening up theirfrontyardsto archaeological
research. The comments by I. B. Rouse andP. J. Watson
were most beneficial in the final revision of this paper.
has beensince receivinghis Ph. D. in Geochemistry
fromGeorgeWashingtonUniversityin 1969. His
researchinterestslie in radiationdamagein minerals
and its applicationsin geologyandarchaeology.
Depto. de AntropologEa
AlbertaZucchiis an InvestigadorAsociadoTitularat
theDepartmentof Anthropologyof the Venezuelan
the WesternVenezuelaLlanos.Zucchiis presentlya
Professorat the VenezuelanCentralUniversityandis
Presidentof the VenezuelanArchaeological
KayTarbleis a ResearchAssociatein the
Departmentof Anthropologyat the Venezuelan
participatedin archaeologicalprojectson theeastern
shoreof LakeMaracaiboandin theMiddleOrinoco
region,witha particularinterestin theanalysisof
J. EduardoVazis InvestigadorTitularat the