Early pottery in the amazon a correction


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Early pottery in the amazon a correction

  1. 1. Society for American ArchaeologyEarly Pottery in the Amazon: A CorrectionAuthor(s): Denis WilliamsSource: American Antiquity, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 342-352Published by: Society for American ArchaeologyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/282516 .Accessed: 10/07/2011 20:02Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTORs Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at .http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=sam. .Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.Society for American Archaeology is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access toAmerican Antiquity.http://www.jstor.org
  2. 2. EARLYPOTTERY IN THE AMAZON: A CORRECTIONDenis WilliamsBased on subtnission firmns anid other documents deposited in the SmiiithsontianiIntstitltioni archives onl terminationt of theSnmithsonian Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory in 1986, AnntiaRoosevelt atrgues that shell miiiddentsontthe coast of Guyana andniortheastern Brazil contain potterv, and that the dates ssupport her argumtenit that "Amazonian ear/v pottery is the mtiostsecurel/ dated ear/v pottery in the New World" (1995:128). Penidinigpublication of a detailed miioniograph,I maintain thatthe Guyana sites in question are preceranuic and thus offer 1to suipport to Rooseveltv thesis.Tomiianidoconio base los formtiularios de entrega v otros documentos depositados eni el archivo de la Smiiithsonian Instititioncuando se cerr6 el Laboratorio de Fechados Radiocarb6nicos en11986, AntitaRoosevelt sostiente que los conchales existelntesen la costa de GuYana ! el noreste de Brasil conitienen ceraimica, Ytp/0 lo tanito los fechados de estos sitios corroboran suargtutmentode qle "la cerchnica temtipr(aniade Amazl-onfatienie los fechados mas confiables del Nuevo Mundo" (1995:128). Enivista de la deniora enipublicar la evidencia detallada, qiuiero hacer constar que esos sitios son1 preceramnicos Ypor tantto losfechados no apovant las interpretacionies de Roosevelt.In an article entitled "Early Pottery in theAmazon:TwentyYearsof ScholarlyObscurity"included in The Emergence of Potterv, pub-lished by the SmithsonianInstitutionPress,AnnaRooseveltallegesthat"sincetheearly 1970s,sitesin easternAmazoniahave consistentlyproducednumerousradiocarbondatesfor potterythatareasold as or olderthanthose fromotherpartsof theAmericas,"butthat"thesepotentiallyrevolutionarydateswereconsignedto obscuritywithoutexplana-tion"(1995:115-116, 119, 128).Rooseveltsasser-tionsarebasedon excavatorsnoteson submissionformsforsamplesfromshellmiddensonthecoastsof GuyanaandBrazilprocessedon differentocca-sions by the Smithsonian RadiocarbonDatingLaboratory.In supportof hercontentionthat"theage of potterybegan 7,500 yearsago, more than1,500 years earlierthan elsewhere in the hemi-sphere"(1995:115),Rooseveltcites 13datesfromshell middensexcavatedby MarioSim6es on thecoastof Brazileastof themouthof theAmazonand18datesfrommy excavationsatAlaka-phasesitesin northwesternGuyana(Figure1).Sincetheexcavatorsnoteson someof thesub-missionformsindicatethatthesampleswereasso-ciated with pottery,Roosevelt (1995:120) rejectspublished statements by Sim6es (1981) andWilliams(1981) andevaluatesthe datesas prece-ramic,incorrectlyassertingthat"preceramiccul-tureshave not yet been scientificallydocumentedat these sites." Morethanthis, Roosevelt assertsthatnone of the excavationswas takento sterilesoil andpredictsthateven earlierdatesforpotterycan be expectedif this weredone (1995:120).Assimilar radiocarbon and thermoluminescenceresultswereobtainedon hersamplesof charcoal,shell, and pottery (1995:122), Roosevelt arguesthat they must be correct, making "Amazonianearly pottery . .. the most securely dated early pot-teryin theNew World"(1995:128).Alaka Phase of the Western Guiana LittoralRooseveltdid notconsultwithme concerningthereliabilityof the associationsof the Smithsonianradiocarbondateswith potteryattributionson therelevantsample submissionforms, nor does shecite preliminaryarticlesof minepublishedin 1982and 1992thatdiscuss severalof them.Therefore,pendingpublicationof a monographplacingall ofthese dates in context, I consider it essential toDenis Williams * Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, P.O. Box 10187, Georgetown, GuyanaAmerican Antiquity, 62(2), 1997, pp. 342-352.Copyright e by the Society for American Archaeology342
  3. 3. COMMENTS 343warn readers that investigations carried out in thethree large shell midden complexes of northwest-ern Guyana during the past decade and more donot support Roosevelts interpretations of datafrom Guyana.Our chronology of the Alaka phase, defined inEvans and Meggers (1960), is now based on 37radiocarbon dates obtained from samples of shell,bone, and peat assayed by Beta Laboratories aswell as by the Smithsonian Radiocarbon DatingLaboratory. They derive from 14 of the 30 shellmiddens on the Western Guiana Littoral. I judgethe resulting cultural sequence reliable by virtueof its compatibility with independent evidence for(1) differential tectonic subsidence in the area, (2)two well-defined marine incursions contemporarywith a palynologically evidenced arid episode inAmazonia at ca. 4000 B.P., (3) culmination of theeustatic sea level rise around 6000 B.P. and itstopographic consequences in swamps lying atabout mean sea level, and, (4) pollen and diatomanalyses that permit correlating cultural behaviorwith changes in local vegetation and ambientsalinities.Barabina HillRadiocarbon dates cited by Roosevelt are fromBarabina, Hosororo Creek, Kabakaburi, and SebaCreek. The first three are shell middens, but ofthese only Hosororo Creek contains early pottery.Barabina and Kabakaburi are preceramic. SebaCreek is not an archaeological site. Excavatorsnotes accompanying submission of peat samplesfrom Seba to the Smithsonian Radiocarbon DatingLaboratory, and examined by Anna Roosevelt,read:Peat deposit believed to have been formedduringlaterstage of sea level rise which termi-natedca. 6000 B.P.Importanceof datingthe sample:Reconstructionof ecological conditionsper-taining to growthof the Barabinashell middenby supplyingdates for stages in a pollen profileand column sample of diatoms being analyzedby the Hugo de VriesLaboratorium,Universityof Amsterdam, under Prof. Th. van derHammen;and correlationof these results withdates alreadyobtainedforthe middleandupperlevels of the Barabinashell midden.Also con-tributeto a better understandingof the Holo-cene sea level rise on this partof the coast ofSouthAmerica.ItS t;l~~~.41. AlakaVENEZP L4j Mb 2.PedraPktada~.GY 3.Taperinha. 4.3.Figure 1. Sites of the Alaka phase in the lower ArukaBasin.These shell middens were all excavated previ-ous to my investigations: Barabina by Osgood(1946) and Verrill (1918), Hosororo Creek byEvans and Meggers (1960), and Kabakaburi byBrett (1868:434) and im Thum (1883:413).Contrary to Roosevelts assertions (1995:121),all three Barabina excavations were taken to thebase of the cultural deposit, which is reached at adepth of 1.4 m. Verrill (1918:13) reports thatExcavations were carriedon in the form ofdeep pits penetrating the shell deposits andreachingthe subsoil beneath, and also by longtrenches carriedto the depth of the shells andextending completely across the mound. Nearthe surface many fragments of plain andpoorly-madepotterywere foundandthese con-tinuedto the bottomof the shell deposits.In the matter of sherd distributions within theshell deposit, the information provided by Verrillisincorrect. The shell midden is overlain by a layer ofdark brown humus (Zone i), 5 to 16 cm thick and
  4. 4. 344 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]containing refuse of the horticulturist Koriabo andApostaderan phases. This fact is recorded in mypreliminary report, which was cited by Roosevelt(Williams 1981:16, 18, Figure 10). Rooseveltasserts (1995:120), "According to Williams articleand the Smithsonian submission forms, the datedmaterial came from layers and features that con-tained the plain sherds of sand-tempered Alakapottery."Here, Im afraid, Roosevelt is thoroughlyconfused. Barring the "few plain sherds" men-tioned by the late Clifford Evans on my submissionforms, there is no pottery of any description in theshell deposit on Barabina Hill (Williams1981:Figure 10, Zone ii). These plain (Koriabo andApostadero) sherds had intruded from the overly-ing humus layer (Zone i) by mechanical mixing, afact that had not yet been published and of whichEvans was therefore unaware in writing his cover-ing memo to the laboratory in 1980. The articlenowhere mentions "sand-temperedAlaka pottery."Sand-tempered pottery was first manufacturedanywhere on the WesternGuiana Littoralonly withthe occupation of Hosororo Creek around 3975B.P. (Williams 1992:243). Roosevelt is discussinga time span between 6885 and 4115 B.P. for thepreceramic Barabina midden, some 4 km distant.The relatively late date for Hosororo Creek and theuniqueness of the refuse, Caribbean oyster,Crassostrea rhizophorae (Guild), accompanyinginitial manufacture of sand-tempered pottery theresuggest that the area had already been abandonedby its traditional shellfishers, whose refuse hadcomprised predominantly the zebra nerite(Puperita pupa), the common blue crab(Callinectes sapidus), and some estuanrnecatfish,e.g., gilbacker (Silurus sciadeichthys) and cuirass(Arius spixi), these latterassociated with numerousline-sinkers on amphibole schist, the prevailingrock material of the Aruka Hills.On the issue of potsherds in the Barabina shellmidden, Osgood (1946:49), an incomparablymore reliable observer than Verrill, noted:Excavationwascarriedon intwenty-fivecen-timeter depths. No sherds were found belowtwenty-fivecentimeters.Below seventy-fivecen-timeters,the trenchwas narrowedto one meterandthencarrieddown to a depthof two meters.Betweenone andone andone quartermetersthecompositionwas almostpureshell .... Belowone andone half meters. .. we struckpurered-dish yellow clay.In lightof my own andOsgoodsreports,bothcited by Roosevelt, her assertion(1995:120) that"[b]othVerrilland Williamsfound potteryin alllevels" of the Barabinaexcavationscould not befurther from the truth. While acknowledgingOsgoodsestimateof theBarabinamiddenas pre-ceramic,Roosevelt (1995:121) cautions:"Hedidnot use screens when excavating."On the otherhand,in ourfive yearsof excavationof this mid-den, the recoveryof around100 burialsenforcedthe use of 5- and 10-mmscreens throughoutforsmallbones,teeth,etc.As regardsceramicdistrib-utions within the mound, our results were thesameas Osgoods.In these very extensive excavations, whichinvolvedtrenchingthe middenon its long diame-ter supportedby 11 radialchannelstakento thefeatheredge of the deposit(Williams1981:Figure2), thebaseof theshellwasencounteredata depthof 1.4 m, thoughthe manyburialsin the residualclay of the hilltopenforcedexcavationto a depthof 2.0 m throughoutthe grid. Like Osgood, Iobservedpotsherdsonly in the uppermost35 cmof the deposit (Williams 1981:31). Barabinaisunquestionably preceramic, with horticulturistpottery confined to the overlying humus. Theinceptionof the moundhas been datedat 6,885?85 B.P. (SI 5075) and its abandonmentshortlyafter4115 ? 50 B.P.(SI 4332).Hosororo CreekHosororoCreekis abiculturaldeposit65 cm thickcontaining potsherds throughout.Very simple,shell- andsand-temperedpottery(as well as a fewclay, charcoal,and cariape-temperedspecimens)occursin the lowerhalf,overlying 15 cm of shellsand.Thisshellsandrepresentsa marineincursionduringa periodof sustainedreducedprecipitationand a lowered watertable. Its depositionappar-ently was associatedwith the arid intervalevi-dencedelsewhereinAmazonia,forexampleSebaCreek,around4000 B.P. (Absy 1982, 1985; vanderHammen1974;Williams1992)(Figure2).Because of difficultiesinherentin the use ofshell as a nonplasticadditivein ceramicmanufac-ture(Budak1991;Goodyear1971;Shepard1976;Rye 1981),theearliestpotteryatHosororoCreek,which was temperedwith crushedshells of thezebraneritesalvagedfromfoodrefuse(Figure3a),was extremelyinefficient.Porousand tendingto
  5. 5. COMMENTS 345cm0I20go 60 =___=--1 o 0 1.01 4!CU2 E-A0Z^X000Y000R g ~~~~~~~~x4890.?55B.P. 1 [1-20- ^20 -- G20 c.ol I rMASARUMA~ ~ ~ ~~~~~ : U (EAC.)MSRUA AT RIL190~~~~tnslTl 1N 50tsr Gr1Zy--1&1111 ,11B11solSl wttrotFinewatewaorogray-blocksoad)83400 cmI coatalaigwaerwornpebblesDiatom "Mvr_100-12u cm Commnutedmarinsshell6 Diolomsample 100128 12 6bCkwoodrootRockFinegraysilt fmmthick.30cm beeath seashell layeCoaswIFn Wworn gray-blacksand containingwaterwrn pebbleFigure 2. Stratigraphic profile of Seba Creek.meltwhenwashed,thispotteryfissuredalongcoiljunctionsorverticallythroughbodywallswithdry-ing (Figure 3b). Remedial measures includedreducingthe grain size of the crushedshell andthus increasingthe volume of temperin a givenpaste, scoring the interior and exterior of theleather-hardvessel walls (Figure 3c), and usingslips (Figure 3d).Therecalcitranceof shellas a temperingmater-ialwasthecauseof continualexperimentationwithalternative clays and tempering materials atHosororoCreek.Verysoona sand-temperedpaste,referred to as Sand Creek Plain (to whichRoosevelt mistakenly refers in discussing theBarabinamidden) was developed. However, aswiththemica-temperedspecimenshowninFigure3e, resultscontinuedto varyuntilthe adventof anew ceramictechnologyandthe abruptintroduc-tionof sophisticatedBarrancoidpotteryassociatedwith a wide arrayof new vessel shapes.Evidenceof the new technologywas theapparentdeliberatecrushingand sifting of selectedrock materialstoserveas nonplasticadditivesin ceramicmanufac-ture,includingdecayed graniteexfoliationsfromthe upperWaini River and nodules of decayedsteatitefroma remotemine on the upperBaramaRiver.Both sites being highly inaccessibleacrossthe swamps,even to its traditionalinhabitants,theincorporationof thesetemperingmaterialsin theirdiagnosticpotteryimpliesthevoluntaryabsorptionof the migrantsinto the age-oldtradenetworkoftheswamps.Theenhancedelasticityaccruingfromthe new steatite-temperedpaste permitted theincorporationof large,modeleddecorativemotifsinceramicdesign,andthistraitwouldcharacterizethe furtherdevelopmentof BarrancoidpotteryonthelowerOrinocoRiver(see Lathrap1966:564)aswell as onthelowerArukaRiver.Steatitehasbeendocumentedas a nonplasticadditive in ceramicindustrieson the lower Orinoco River from thetimeof its firstdateduse atBarrancas,around590B.C. on to thedemiseof theCoporitosubphaseofthe Barrancoidtradition,which has been placed(Sanoja0. 1979:193)atA.D. 1345. On Lathraps(1966) evidence fromthe Saladerosite, initiationof theimpliedtradein thisrockmaterialmayhavepredatedthesixthcenturyB.C.The inceptionof theFormativeBarrancoidtra-ditionatHosororoCreekpredated3,550 ? 65 B.P.(Beta 20007). The congruenceof this date with
  6. 6. 346 AMERICANANTIQUITY lVol. 62, No. 2, 19971a b c1 | | F.u;,g ,. . . _ _--gEw --.;:.:.; S . !| | li _ t s .W.s. ,.^ *.t .. v. EI li| 2:A- :-___,i__ I_s, . _ w__;.I __g _.. _{:. s___as _. s .- . .I__ _.: . Se......................................................................_ t 1N_.. l . _ _.I I _1N ;_. _. _ gfi. _V iI _w _I 10 E _-.*so.Xurs . S. l__lJIlS3>;9-tssx-_1 l _st$sx^,>X". !:_ lliSt-B_W il 1 S |_-RP_,l_*.;3_X..t -tfg__.. l ! __>:Ss t_-i SS11 S8 | | !,, . l!!! - 3 -I 111 1 ?1 ?_Tl 1 - > * * @ 5ts;Wq .; B*V3 XtVleSvSst Mi}&,%^%HeXc a_v .t.t-.0<sagsB-i 9< ?e 1 S-W3FE""04 ; :" s e * - ; io l i_aefWxt$e/. . ? . . * vs * - < - f tw1X?,, ., vs, . : w=^1? ,, |Ns.*e. <@XSii v; o. -. he-@2; e. 3 ; > t ", 4{e 4 .. * 1__S_S;__ * - - - | <t0 I-|---a S | , Xai J__;a_ >-- | gr.. t . . 11, 1". z i ? . - . ._ _ d e.w __r BFigure3. Earlypotteryat HosororoCreekshowingNeriteshelltemper(a), fissuringwhendry (b),interior/exteriorscoringas a measureto counterporosity(c), use of slips,anothermeasureto counterporosity(d), andfissuringin asandtemrodehfird aF_ _ a _ > ,.Roosevelts Formativehorizonat the Cavema daPedra Pintada on the left bank of the lowerAmazon suggests that the two events may haverelatedto the onset of fresheningconditionsandagraduallyamelioratingenvironmentmarkingtheend of the indicatedaridinterval.On theevidencefromHosororoCreek,it wasatimeof fallingsalin-ity levels in thecoastalzone, indicatinga returntonormal river regimes. The brackish or marineshellfishspecies thathadconstitutedthe dominantproteinresourceslocally duringthe arid intervalnow disappearedabruptly.Inthis situationof envi-ronmentalstress,the suddenintrusionof horticul-turistson the lowerArukais probablyattributableto a dispersaldowntheOrinocoof Proto-NorthernMaipuranArawaksout of a hearthsomewhereonthe upperRio Negro duringthe immediatelypre-cedingcenturies.Barrancoidpotteryexhibitingthedistinctivetraitof crushedgranitetemper,occur-ring soon afterwardsat KurupukariFalls on theupperEssequiboRiver,2910 ? 80 B.P.,Cal B.C.1315-890 (Beta76246), mayrepresentthedisper-sal of Proto-EastemMaipuranArawaksdown theAmazon(Rouse 1985).KabakaburiHillThe Kabakaburimidden,locatedbeside HospitalCreek on the upper Pomeroon River, was firstexcavated by Brett, who reported (1868:439),"Fragmentsof Indianpotterywere found amongthe layers of shells aboutfour feet from the sur-face." Kabakaburiwas again investigatedby imThurn(1883:413)who didnotrecordits contents.These referenceswere both includedin the sub-mission forms accompanyingcharcoal samplesassayed by the SmithsonianRadiocarbonDatingLaboratoryand examined by Roosevelt, who,while citing the dates(4890 ? 75 B.P.and4215 ?70 B.P.), does not acknowledge this record ofapparentearlypottery,so appositeto herconcernwith "pottery-age shell middens" in coastalGuyana(Roosevelt 1995:116).
  7. 7. COMMENTS 347*. :^ :.. .; i,-;,414 si /?_A*.-S ...l,ft_.,?. ..;.i.>.S_i-SX S i _i s _.. .., ,,fl, l fl . _*, .,, I _ _t i-W . iH; Hi...... ... a s _ .. _... - stt -_: . E__v_PFigure 4. Excavation of the Waramuri shell midden.My own excavations at Kabakaburi,the firstsince im Thums, revealed Brett to have dug,unaware,into a horticulturistrefusepit, around1m deepand 1.5 m wide. Therefore,the "smallandfew" sherdshe encounteredthere,along with twosilver trinkets, were intrusive. Like Barabina,Kabakaburiis unquestionablypreceramic, and,like Barabina,its excavationwas takento sterilesoil. Thetworadiocarbondatescitedby Rooseveltderived from 90 cm and 80-100 cm depths,respectively.The site was first occupied around5340 ? 100 B.P.(Beta32188) basedon a charcoalsampletakenat 140-cm depth.A dateof 7,230 ?90 B.P.,basedon a charcoalsampletakenat 130-cm depth (Beta 27055) from the nearbyPirakashell middenrepresentsthe earliestknownseden-tary occupation of the WesternGuiana Littoral.Kabakaburiyieldeda wealthof stonetools associ-ated with the rise of the dugout canoe industry.This profoundly important cultural advanceresultedfrom drasticchanges in waterlevel andwater quality as run-off cumulativelyovercamethe marineinfluence in the southeasternswampbasin in the centuriesimmediatelyfollowing onthe peakof the eustaticsea level rise. Soon after-ward,partsof theAntilleswerecolonized.Levisa,on Cuba,datesat5140 ? 170 B.P.(GD 356).Seba CreekThreedatesassignedto theBarabinashell midden(Roosevelt 1995:Figure 10.1) are unassociatedwith any culturalmaterials.They derivedfrom anonculturaldepositof peatat Seba Creek,around5 km distant.As shown in the above quotationfromthesubmissionforms,samplingthispeatwasdirected to reconstructingecological conditionspertainingto thegrowthof theBarabinashellmid-den by providingdates for the associatedpollendiagram.Forlaboratorypurposes,theseSebasam-ples wereidentifiedby thename"Barabina."This
  8. 8. 348 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]was not indicatedon the submissionforms; allborethe samecoordinates.Mina Phase on the Western Guiana LittoralApartfrom the HosororoCreekdeposit,none ofthe 14 shell middens excavated so far on theWesternGuiana Littoralcan by any means bedescribedaspottery-ageshellmiddens.All butoneare preceramic.All but the midden at KoriaboPointontheBarimaRiver,life threateninglyunsta-ble below 4.0 m due to cascadingNerite shells,were taken to sterile soil. Figure 4 shows theWaramuriprofile.Inallcases,refusederivingfromthesubsistenceroundwasrelatedtoenvironmentalchange in a highly unstablecoastal zone. Sevenculturallyimportantoscillations in the swampscommencinga thousandyearsbeforetheculmina-tion of the sea level rise and ending with recentindicationsof salinizationof thegroundwaterhavebeenidentifiedanddated.OurAlakachronologyistiedto theseenvironmentaloscillations.Culturallyandchronologically,middensof theAlaka phase appearto relateto preceramicshellmiddencomplexeslocatedalongtheoldlittorallineof northernSouth America, commencing withPiraka and proceeding via Banwari Trace onTrinidadwith progressivelydiminishingantiquitynorthwestwardalongtheVenezuelancoastas farasEl Heneal(Harris1976:37-40;HoffmanandLynch1990:166;Wilson1991:149).Ontheotherhand,thecharacteristicsof the potteryfromthe lateArchaicmidden at HosororoCreek unequivocallyattestaffiliationtotheArchaicMinaphaseatthemouthofthe Amazon,where identicalpotterywas alreadybeingmadeatleastby 3000B.C.(Simoes 1981).The southto northtime gradientsuggestedbythe relationshipbetween the potteryof the Minaphase and the technologicallyand typologicallysimilar pottery of Hosororo Creek obviouslywouldhavea bearingon thequestionof theoriginanddisseminationof tropicalforestculturein thelowlands(Steward1949:762;MeggersandEvans1957:604), if it could be establishedby excava-tions at a few intermediatesites. In the persistentabsenceof such supportingevidence,particularlyalong the Essequibo corridor,the recency andaberrancyof Hosororo Creek on the WesternGuiana Littoralneed to be kept in mind whenattempting to evaluate Roosevelts claim(1995:120) thatdatesof "theAlakapotteryphase... overlapsubstantiallywith the Minadatesbutextend back about 400 years earlier."In fact,Roosevelts "Alaka pottery phase" is unrepre-sentedat any site on theWesternGuianaLittoral.Further,by virtueof its latedateanddemonstrableaffiliationto the Mina phase, HosororoCreeksplacein theAlakaphasemustnow be questioned.That the prehistoryof the Western GuianaLittoralis of significanttime depthhas long beenknown from the recoverythere of certainlarge,stemmedprojectilepointsthoughtto representtheearly Andean hunting-collecting tradition, i.e.,around7000 B.C. (Willey 1971:60;see alsoEvansandMeggers1960:21;Roth 1924:170,Plate36a).Ourcontinuingexcavationshave recovereddatedevidenceof sedentaryoccupationthere(theprece-ramic Piraka shell mound) around 5000 B.C.Notwithstandingthese long, sedentary occupa-tions, the earliestpotteryto appearanywhereonthe GuyanaCoast dates only around2000 B.C.There, this potteryis known from but a singlesite-Hosororo Creek-and at this site the diag-nosticshelltemperingrepresentsonlyone(theear-liest) of severalkindsof clay body experimentedwith by shellfishersover a periodof perhaps200years. Following this, first farmers from theOrinocoRiverintrudedatthisuniquesiteandthereintroducedtheincisedandmodeledceramicsof theBarrancoidtradition.Theceramicinventoryof thenewcomersincludedthemaniocgriddle.Atadepthof 20 cm below the surfaceof the ground,theirrefusehasbeendatedat 1600B.C. (Beta20007).Peacefulintegrationof theseOrinocanhorticul-turistswiththeArchaicshellfishersis indicatedbytheimmediateaccessof theformerto thestrategicresourcesof the swampbasin,notablycertaindis-tantandvaluabletraditionalclays and temperingmaterials.Inthestressedenvironment,thebenefitsof maniochorticulturewouldappearto havebeenanadequateeconomicreturnon accessto theage-old tradenetworkof the swamps.In the ensuingmergingof ceramictechnologies,AmazonianandOrinocan,thevariousexperimentalclaybodiesoftheArchaicshellfisherswereadoptedby thehorti-culturistnewcomersin the productionof the dis-tinctivepotteryof theFormativeMabarumaphase.Seven of the eight ceramictypes thathave beencharacterizedas constitutingtheMabarumaphase(EvansandMeggers1960)derivedfromthismar-riageof convenienceon thelowerArukaRiver.
  9. 9. COMMENTS 349Table 1. HosororoCreek(Crassostrea rhizophorae/level).Level (cm) n Mean (mm) Range (mm)70-80 36 35.5 15-8280-90 70 41.4 16-8290-100 140 37.3 17-87100-110 141 36.0 11-82110-120 66 29.7 10-65Roosevelt(1995:120)statesthat"manyarchae-ologists arenot awareof the characteristicsof theMina and Alaka phases or of their radiocarbondates"andgoes ontoexplain:"partof theproblemhasbeen thatthenatureof thecomplexeswas notpresentedclearlyandaccuratelyin thewritingsofthose familiar with the sites, collections anddates."But as Evans and Meggers point out intheirreporton theAlakaphase,manyof thefactssimply were not yet known. Of Alaka-phaseceramics,EvansandMeggers(1960:59)write:"Itshould be emphasized . .. that the evidence is notsufficientlystrongor clear-cutfor the interpreta-tions suggestedhere to be consideredfinal"andinsisted that the "severalinterestingtendencies"revealedby thedatawerepresented"asa basisforfutureinvestigation."It was thereforemanyyearsbefore the aberrantnature of Hosororo CreekwithintheAlakaphaseandthepivotalroleplayedby its experimentalceramicpastes in the emer-gence of the FormativeMabarumaphasecame tobe realized.Thus,presentlyavailablefactson thenatureanddatesof shell-temperedpotteryfromHosororoCreekshouldshedsomelightonthesupposedrelationshipbetween the Mina and the Alaka phase alreadypointedto by MeggersandEvans(1978:551)andSimoes (1981). Ourevidencenow shows thattherelationshipbetweenMinapotteryandpotteryontheWesternGuianaLittoraldoesnotextendtoanysiteof the Alakaphase, all of which are preceramic.The perceivedsimilaritiesare confinedstrictlytoone of thetwo dominantpotterytypesatHosororoCreek-shell-tempered WanainaPlain.As EvansandMeggers(1960:53)noteof thistype:"Potterywiththistemperwas notfoundin anyothersiteinthe whole of British Guiana."When contrastedwiththepreceramicculturallevel of allothershell-fishing sites on the WesternGuianaLittoral,thisvery similarityof WanainaPlainto the potteryofthe Minaphase would appearto constituteunas-sailably good groundsfor eliminatingHosororoCreek from any future characterizationof theAlakaphase.Apartfrom the unique similarityof WanainaPlain to the ceramics of the Mina phase, theHosororoCreek midden is also aberranton theWesternGuianaLittoralby virtueof itsdenseaccu-mulation of shells of the mangrove oyster, asagainstthemyriadshellsof thezebranerite,crabs,andfishthatconstitutealltheknownmiddensof theAlaka phase. The sole deposit of oyster shellsknown anywhereoutside the home base of theHosororoCreekgroup occurs on WahanaIslandabout170kmto the southeast,on theupperWainiRiver.This is the site N-9, in the terminologyofEvans and Meggers, who note of it (1960:31):"Whereastheothershellmiddenscontainedseveralspecies,thissiteproducedonlytwo:NeritinazebraBrugiereandCrassostrearhizophoraeGuilding."The suddenabundanceof C. rhizophoraeonthe lower ArukaRiver around4000 B.P. was afunctionof thesalinizationof theriversduringtheindicatedaridinterval.In phasewith risingsalin-ity levels locally, maximum diametersof theseoysters increasedprogressively with decreasingdepthfromthe surfaceof the deposit.The largestspecimensoccurredjust before depositionof theuppermostlevel (Table1).On theirextendedtradingjourneysto WahanaIsland,the group from HosororoCreek traveledwith an adequate supply of these oysters. AtWahana Island (N-9), pebbles and cobbles ofamphiboleschist, the prevailingrock materialofthe ArukaHills, were tradedagainstsandfor thedistinctive Sand Creek Plain of the shellfishers.These strategicrockmaterialswererelayedto theupperPomerooncomplexto be percussionflakedinto preformsof the adzes and axes requiredincanoe manufacturethere. These preforms werethen returnedto the unique granite outcrops atWahanaIslandfor grinding.Significantly,theselong-distancetradevisits toWahanaIslandby theHosororoCreekgroupneverled to the adoptionof ceramictechnologyby thehosts,whosematerialculturecontinuedto shownoevidence of ceramic use over the centuries.Meanwhile,thediagnosticoystershellsof thevis-itorsaccumulatedin a discreteheapon theedge ofthe camp site separatefrom the almostpurecrabrefuse of their hosts. Their diagnosticpotsherdswere depositedon the floor of the cave to which
  10. 10. 350 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]they were assigned, some distance from the settle-ment on the hilltop. This segregation of the domes-tic activities of the visitors from those of theirhostsimplies the social marginalization of the formerwithin the Alaka community on the Waini River.Thus, notwithstanding its location in the heart ofAlaka territory, Hosororo Creek was an intrusiveculture on the Aruka River, demonstrably affiliatedto the Mina phase at the mouth of the Amazon andnot to the Alaka phase of northwestern Guyana.Had this aberrancy of Hosororo Creek on theWestern Guiana Littoral been realized earlier, itmay have saved Roosevelt (1995:120) the futilityinherent in drawing conclusions from the supposedlink between the Mina and Alaka phases. Theresimply was never any connection between the two.Consequently, there can be no "missing chronolog-ical information" in the Smithsonian archives withregard to the Alaka phase (Roosevelt 1995:12 1).The perceived link was solely with the small groupat Hosororo Creek. It was relatively recent. Itoccurred long after the then-hypersaline lowerAruka River had been deserted by the traditionalAlaka-phase group at nearby Barabina Hill. Itnever therefore overlapped with or, of course, pre-dated early Mina.Roosevelt (1995:119) claims that "the earlyshell mounds in Guyana had produced sand-tem-pered plain pottery and shell-tempered plain pot-tery with simple shapes." Although the shell- andsand-tempered pottery cited here originated onlyat Hosororo Creek, representative sherds arereported at three sites of the upper Waini complex(N-8, N-9, N- 10), as well as at the nearby Akawabishell mound (N- 16) on the Koriabo River, a tribu-tary of the Aruka River. As stated by their excava-tors (Evans and Meggers 1960:53):All the potteryfragmenitsfromAlaka Phasesites were found eitheron the surfaceor in theupper levels of the refuse middens. Althoughthere are few sherds, distinctive features ofpaste, temper, etc., set them apart from potterytypes of other archaeological phases in theNorthwest District and therefore they havebeen classified and described as separatepot-tery types [emphasisadded].Evans and Meggerss tabulation (1960:TableA) of sherd frequencies/level of these "few"sherds, characterized by "distinctive features ofpaste, temper etc.," clearly shows them to havebeen intrusive at the preceramic sites.This near-recognitionof the uniqueness ofHosororoCreekceramicson the WesternGuianaLittoralwas vitiatedonly by the authorsambiva-lence regardingthe significance of the temporalprioritytheyhadperceivedforthe"crudelymade"shell-temperedWanainaPlain as against sand-temperedSand CreekPlain, consideredby them(1960:59) as "byno meansexperimental."To theauthors,WanainaPlainappearedto exhibit"slow,experimental"beginningsatWahanaIsland(N-9)and Akawabi Creek (N-16) before "its greatincreaseinfrequencyatHosororoCreek(N- I1).Itis now evident that the reverse is what tookplace the experimentalbeginningswere in factat HosororoCreek.This is the reason that pot-sherdsin the upperWainicomplex (N-8, N-9, N-10), as well as at AkawabiCreek (N-16), werefound either on the surfaceor in the uppermostlevels. Unfortunately,Roosevelts statementcitedimmediately above regarding "the early shellmoundsin Guyana"is unreferenced.Sample Submission Data andArchaeological FactConcerning the 18 radiocarbondates derivingfrom the four Guyanasites to which she refers,Roosevelt (1995:Table10) states:"All the datedsamplesin this list were recordedas havingbeenexcavatedfromsoil layerswith potterysherdsorfrompeatlayersthattheexcavatorassociatedwiththeearlypottery-bearinglayers."As shownabove,this is totally incorrect.BarringHosororoCreek,the middens that Roosevelt indicates (Barabina,Kabakaburi)are both demonstrablypreceramic,and the Seba peat deposit is noncultural.Notwithstandingthe assertiveness of her argu-ment,Roosevelt is obviously unawareof exactlywhatthesamplesubmissionformsshe is referringto areactuallydating.Andthis relatesnot only toceramics ("plainsherdsof sand-temperedAlakapottery"on BarabinaHill), but to archaeologicalsitesas well (nonculturalSebaCreekas a pottery-age shell midden)and even to theirstratigraphiclevels;forexample,theHosororoCreekdepositisoverlainbythegravel-and-sandsurfaceof arecentdirttrack40 cm deep,whichmeanssubtracting40cm in order to extract the archaeologicalfactsfrom the stratigraphic "depths" derived byRoosevelt(I995:Table10.1)fromtheradiocarbonsamplesubmissionforms.
  11. 11. COMMENTS 351SHELLMOUNDS. THEWESTERNGUIANA LITTORALEASTERNSUBZONE WESTERNSUBZONE(B3.P.) A B C D E F3550?65(Bta 20007)3975-45(SI 6638)4115 +1-50(SI 4332)4890-75(SI 7019)53 40? 1006520-1606885-8 5(Beta 27055)A. PIRAKA D. KORIABOB. KABAKABURI E. AKAWABIC. BARABINA F. HOSOROROFigure 5. Chronology of some shell middens on the Western Guiana Littoral.Of the 18 dates from Guyana claimed byRoosevelt(1995:120)to havebeenleftunaccount-ablyunpublishedsincetheearly 1980s,eighthavein fact been published since then (Williams1982:86, 1992:240, 244) (Figure5). ContrarytoRoosevelts assertions, delay in publication ofotherearlydatesfromtheWesternGuianaLittoral(andotherpartsof theGuianas)is notbasedonide-ological considerations.In every case, the resultsof samples I submittedwere transmittedto mewithoutcommentby my Smithsoniancolleagues.Those remainingunpublishedreflect my concernto conductsufficientfieldworkto permittheireval-uation within the larger context of the Guianaregion as a whole, still definitely a pioneeringresearcharea.The potentiallymisleadingconse-quences of basing interpretationson unevaluatedradiocarbondates,and,worse,of derivingartifact-orsite-provenanceandevenstratificationdatafromradiocarbonsamplesubmissionforms,areclearlydemonstratedby Roosevelts article. Far frombridgingthewide gapbetweendatesproferredforthe Taperinhashell moundon the lowerAmazon(Rooseveltet al. 1991) and those for the earliestpottery from Ecuadorand Colombia, the datesfrom the WesternGuianaLittoralleave that gapentirelyunmodified.Towardtheendof Rooseveltsarticle (1995:130) occurs a caution against self-delusionthatis worthcommittingto memory:"Weneed the grand theories they are our way ofthinkingaboutthecausesof things buttheirrou-tineinaccuracyandultimateobsolescencewarnustobecarefulto letthearchaeologicalrecordinformus even whenit does notfit ourtheories."
  12. 12. 352 AMERICAN ANTIQUITY [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]References CitedAbsy,M. L.1982 QuaternaryPalynological Studies in the AmazonBasin. In Biological Diversification in the Tropics, editedby G. T. Prance,pp. 67-73. ColumbiaUniversityPress,New York.1985 Palynologyof Amazonia:The Historyof the Forestsas Revealedby the PalynologicalRecord.InAmaZonia,edited by G. T. Pranceand T. E. Lovejoy, pp. 72-82.PergamonPress,Oxford.Brett,W.H.1868 The Indian Tribes of Guiana: Their Condition andHabits.2nded. Bell andDaldy,New York.Budak,M.1991 The Function of Shell Temper in Pottery. TheMinnesota Archaeologist 50(2):53-59.Evans,C., andB. J. Meggers1960 Archaeological Investigations in British Guiana.United StatesGovernmentPrintingOffice, Washington,D.C.Goodyear,F.H.1971 Archaeological Site Science. Heinemann EducationalBooks, London.Harris,P.OB.1976 ThePreceramicPeriodinTrinidad.ProceedingsoftheFirst Puerto Rican Symposium on Archaeology:33-64.FundacionArqueologica,Anthropologica,e HistoricadePuertoRico, SanJuan.Hoffman,C. H., andT. F.Lynch.1990 CurrentResearch.AmericanAntiquity55:168.im Thurn,E.1967 [1883] Among the Indians of Guiana. DoverPublications,New York.Lathrap,D.1966 TheMabarumaPhase:A Returnto theMoreProbableInterpretation. American Antiquity 31:558-566.Meggers,B. J., andC. Evans1957 Archaeological Investigations at the Mouth of theAmazon. United States Government Printing Office,Washington,D.C.1978 LowlandSouthAmericaandthe Antilles. InAncientNative Americans, pp. 543-591. W. H. Freeman,SanFrancisco.Osgood,C.1946 British Guiana Archaeology, to 1945. Yale UniversityPress,New Haven,Connecticut.Roosevelt,A. C.1995 Early Pottery in the Amazon: Twenty Years ofScholarly Obscurity. In The Emergence of Pottery:Technology and Innovation in Ancient Societies, editedby W. K. Barnett and J. W. Hoopes, pp. 115-131.SmithsonianInstitutionPress,Washington,D.C.Roosevelt, A. C., R. A. Houseley, M. Imazio da Silviera, S.Maranca,R. Johnson1991 Eighth MillenniumPotteryfrom a PrehistoricShellMiddenintheBrazilianAmazon.Science254:1621-1624.Roth,W.E.1924 An Introductory Study of the Arts, Crafts and Customsof the Guiana Indians. United States GovernmentPrintingOffice, Washington,D.C.Rouse, I. B.1985 Arawakan Phylogeny, CaribbeanChronology, andTheir Implications for the Study of PopulationMovement.Antropologica63/64:9-21.Rye, 0.1981 Potterv Technology: Principles anid Reconstruction.AustralianNationalUniversity,ManualsonArchaeologyNo. 4. Taraxacum,Washington,D.C.SanojaO., M.1979 Las Culturas Formativos del Oriente de Venezuela:La Tradicion Barrancas del Bajo Orinoco. AcademiaNacionalde la Historia,Caracas,Venezuela.Shepard,A. 0.1976 Ceramics for the Archaeologist. Carnegie Institution,New York.Simoes, M.1981 Coletores-Pescadores Ceramistas do Litoral doSalgado (Para). Boletim do Museu Paraense EmilioGoeldi.No. 78:1-32.Steward,J.1949 SouthAmericaCultures:An InterpretiveSummary.InHandbook of South American Indians, vol. 5, edited by J.Steward, pp. 669-772. United States GovernmentPrintingOffice, Washington,D.C.vanderHammen,T.1974 The Pleistocene Changesof Vegetationand Climatein Tropical South America. Journal of Biogeography1:3-36.Verrill,A. H.1918 PrehistoricMounds and Relics of the North WestDistrictof BritishGuiana.Timehri5 (3rdSeries):11-20.Willey,G. R.1971 An Introduction to American Archaeology. SouthAmerica.Vol. 2. PrenticeHall, Englewood Cliffs, NewJersey.Williams,D.1981 Excavationof the BarabinaShell MoundNorthWestDistrict: An Interim Report. Archaeology andAnthropology 2(2): 125-140.1982 Some SubsistenceImplicationsof Holocene ClimateChange in Northwestern Guyana. Archaeology andAnthropology 5(2):83-93.1992 ElArcaicoenel Noroestede Guyanay los Comienzosde la Horticultura. Prehistoria Sudamericana, edited byB. J. Meggers, pp. 233-251. Taraxacum,Washington,D.C.1994 Iwokrama: The Commonwealth and Government ofGuyana Rain Forest Programme. Guyana NaturalResourcesAgency,Georgetown.Wilson,S.1991 CurrentResearch.AmericanAntiquity56:149.Note1. The Alaka phase comprises three extensive preceramicshellfishing complexes scattered across 3,600 km2 ofswamps on the Western Guiana Littoral and representingaround3,000 years of sedentary living. These shellfisherswere adaptedto contrastingniches locatedon theedge of theswamps on the lower Aruka, upper Waini, and upperPomeroon rivers. Commencing around 3300 B.C., themutual complementarityof their resources permittedtheirintegrationin a vast, kin-based trade network,centered onthe manufactureof the dugoutcanoe, which moved strategicrockmaterialsandexpertiseacrossthe swampbasinandper-hapsas faraway as BanwariTraceon Trinidad.Received March 8, 1996; accepted May 28, 1996; revisedJuly75, 1996.