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The demise of the alaka initial ceramic phase has been greatly exaggerated response to d.williams

  1. 1. Society for American Archaeology The Demise of the Alaka Initial Ceramic Phase Has been Greatly Exaggerated: Response to D. Williams Author(s): Anna C. Roosevelt Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 353-364 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/07/2011 21:11 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at . JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may 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 . . Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Society for American Archaeology is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to American Antiquity.
  2. 2. THE DEMISE OF THE ALAKA INITIAL CERAMIC PHASE HAS BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED: RESPONSE TO D. WILLIAMS AnnaC. Roosevelt Denis Williams writes to comment on my article on Archaic shell mound pottery in eastern South America (Roosevelt 1995). He states that he will "correct" my article by putting on record "new facts. " Rather than correct my article, Williams's com- ment misstates both the content of my article and that of earlier literature on Guyanese archaeology, and it merely repeats the data included in my article. In addition, Williams's comment presents some interesting but internally contradictorv elab- orations of his earlier interpretations of Guyanese archaeology but still without supplying the basic data on which his inter- pretations are based. In essence, contrary to my article, Williams states that there is no such thing as a Guyanese Archaic shell mound pottery occupation, known in earlier literature as the Alaka Incipient Ceramic phase (Evans and Meggers 1960:25-64). Williams presents this conclusion as "fact, " but it contradicts the existing data from stratigraphy, pottery dis- tribution, and radiocarbon dates in the shell mounds, and he furnishes no other specific data that support it. In my comment on his comment, I will document these various aspects of his comment and define the type of data that he needs to present to allow empirical evaluation of his assertions. Denis Williams comenta mi articulo reciente sobre la cerdmica arcaica en los conchales de del este de Sudamerica (Roosevelt 1995). El sostiene que "corregird" mi articulo demostrando "nuevos hechos. " En lugar de corregir mi articulo, el comen- tario de Williams tergiversa tanto el contenido de mi articulo como la literatura mds temprana sobre arqueologia guyanesa y repite los datos por mi referidos. Ademds, el comentario de Williams presenta algunas elaboraciones interesantes perio internamenta contradictorias sobre sus previas interpretaciones de la arqueologia guyanesa, pero aun sin proporcionar los datos en los que estas se basan. En esencia, Williams sostiene, en contraste con mi articulo, que no existe tal ocupacion cerdmica de los conchales arcaicos, conocidos en la literatura previa como la Fase Cerdmica Incipients Alaka (Evans and Meggers 1960:25-64). Williams presenta esta conclusion como "hecho" pero esta contradice los datos existentes en la estratigrafia, distribucion cerdmica, yfechados radiocarbdnicos de los conchales, y el no proporciona datos especificos para sustentarla. En mi comentario sobre su comentario, yo documentare esos aspectos de sus comentarios y definire el tipo de datos que el necesita presentar para poder evaluar empiricamente sus proposiciones. In my article in a book published by the Smithsonian Institution(Roosevelt 1995), I discussed the history of researchon Archaic potteryin Amazonia.In it I broughttogetherboth publishedand unpublisheddates associatedwith potterysherdsin shell moundsatthemouthof the Amazon, along the Guyanacoast, and along the LowerAmazonmainstream.Using citationsboth to theliteratureandto theradiocarbonrecordsand correspondence,I showedthatfromthebeginning of radiocarbondating, Amazonia has had more secure dates, largerdates series, and more dated shell mounds with pottery than northwestern SouthAmerica, the region usually creditedwith the earliest potteryin the Americas.I suggested thatmanyarchaeologistshavebeenunawareof the existence of ArchaicAmazonianpotterybecause manyof thedatesassociatedwiththepotterywere publishedas preceramicor werenotpublished. As I pointedoutin my article,theunpublished dates and datespublishedas preceramicwere all run in the radiocarbon laboratory at the Smithsonian,the institutionof CliffordEvansand BettyMeggers.Beforetheapplicationof radiocar- bondatinginAmazonia,thesescholarsdeveloped thetheorythatthecraftof potteryhadbeen intro- ducedalongwith agricultureto theAmazonfrom the Andes region in prehistoric times. Subse- quently,those scholarsfurtherdevelopedthe the- ory to say that pottery was introducedinto the Americasby thearrivalof fisherpeoplefromJapan in northwesternSouth America. In my article,I Anna C. Roosevelt * Field Museum of NaturalHistory,Chicago, and Departmentof Anthropology,University of Illinois, 1007 West HarrisonStreet,Chicago, IL 60607-7139. AmericanAntiquity,62(2), 1997, pp. 353-364. Copyright? by the Society forAmericanArchaeology 353
  3. 3. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY pointed out that the chronology and context of early potterydates in SouthAmericadid not fit EvansandMeggers'stheoriesaboutthehistoryof potteryutilizationin SouthAmerica. Dating of Pottery in Guyanese Shell Mounds DenisWilliamsis thearchaeologistwho submitted to the Smithsonian the dating samples from Guyaneseshell mounds.He hasbeenin chargeof supervisingaccess to archaeologicalresourcesin Guyana,and for many years, he has carriedout importantsurveysandexcavationsata widerange of archaeologicalandpaleontologicalsites in his country. Dating of Barambina Shell Mound The first dates to be run for shell mounds in Guyana were apparentlytwo from Barambina shell moundin 1980: 4115 ? 50 and 5960 ? 50 B.P.(uncalibrated, laboratory numbers are in Roosevelt 1995:Table1). The lab documentsand correspondencestate clearlyandrepeatedlythatthesampleswererunin orderto datetheassociatedpotteryandshowhow early the use of pottery was in the Amazon. I quotedexcerptsfromthe Smithsonianlabrecords andcorrespondencethatshowedthatthe samples from the Barambinamound were submittedin orderto date the early shell moundpotteryfrom Guyanain comparisonwiththeearlyshell mound pottery of the Mina phase at the mouth of the Amazon.The earlierof Williams'stwo dateswas about 400 years earlier than the earliest Mina- phasedate. The records state the following about the Barambinasamples: Associated cultural materials:Food debris of boneandshell,stoneimplements,fewplain potsherds.Importanceof datingthis sample: Establishtemporalrelationshipof this early shellmiddencomplexwithsomeplainpottery inNorthernSouthAmericaanditsrelationship specificallywiththeMinaPhaseof Mouthof theAmazon[Roosevelt1995:120]. The two datedsampleswererecordedas com- ing from 35- and 65-cm depths,respectively.In my discussionof theGuyanesedates,I contrasted the archivalinformationwithwhatWilliamsgave whenhe publishedthedatesin 1981.Inhis article Williamspresentedthe datesas relatingto a pre- ceramicoccupation.He also stated,as in his com- ment,thathe foundpotteryonly to a depthof 35 cm in the shell mound.This informationdid not jibe with the archival documents in the Smithsonian,which recorda potteryassociation forboththe35- and65-cm-deepradiocarbonsam- ples. Neither in his articlesnor in his comment does Williamsgive ceramictablesfromhis exca- vationsat this site to show whatlevels contained potteryandwhatkindof potteryit was. In his commenton my article,Williamsstates that"Barringthe 'few plainsherds'mentionedby CliffordEvanson my submissionforms,thereis no potteryof any descriptionin the shell deposit on BarambinaHill." Contraryto this statement, Williams'sownarticleandthecorrespondencestate thatthereis potteryin zone iia of the shell mound (Williams 1981:Figure 10). The Smithsonian records document a pottery association for the lowerzonesas well. Incontrasttowhatthearchivesstate,inhis arti- cle and commentWilliams arguesthat the plain potterysherdsin the ca. 35-cm-deepshell mound levels datedby the laterof the two radiocarbon dateswereintrusionsfromthe 16-cm-thickmiddle to late Mabaruma-phaseFormativehorticultural stagedepositthatlay abovethe shell mound. Williamsis entitledto changehis mindas new resultscome in, andany additional"facts,"as he refersto them, are welcome. However,Williams hasnotpublishedananalysisof thecharacteristics of the plain potteryfrom the shell moundnor a comparisonof it with the horticulturalphasepot- tery.Mabarumapotteryhas characteristicpastes, often complex forms, and decoration,which the potterysherdsin the shell moundshouldshare,if they areMabarumaphase.Williams,however,to myknowledge,hasnotpresentedtablesof thedis- tributionof suchpotteryattributesin the levels of his excavations at Barambina. Both earlier accounts of the shell mound sherds at the site describeplain potterylacking any characteristic decorationor elaborationthatcould be relatedto the Mabarumaphase. "Thepotsherdswere all of drabcolor,bearingno decorativeincisingormod- eling"(Osgood 1946:50)."Nearthe surfacemany fragmentsof plainandpoorly-madepotterywere found and these continuedto the bottom of the shell deposits"(Verrill1918:13). Williamshas not furnishedany dates directly 354 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]
  4. 4. COMMENTS IMTERIOR i I I WAI WAI TARUMA PHASE | A PHASEJ _'_T_ _ _.A _I - _ --- ABARY XORIABO PHASE PHASE PRE- EUROPEAN PERIOD ESTIMATED 1 TIME SCALE - 2000 A.D. ---- I900 -- 100 - 1400 -1500 MASARUMA PHASE ALAKA PHASE I I I I - 1000 - 500 -O 0 ---2-ZiiQAP jr IPRECERAMIC LITHIC HORIZON I Figure 1. Pre-radiocarbon chronology of British Guiana (Evans and Meggers 1960:334). on the potteryfrom the shell mound,eitherwith radiocarbondatingor thermoluminescence,even though pottery from shell mounds both in the LowerAmazon and at the mouthof the Amazon has been successfullydatedby bothmethodsand shownto be contemporarywithdateson theasso- ciatedbiologicalremains. Reliability of Osgood's Excavation Results at Barambina Tabulationsof potteryoccurrencein the compo- nents at Barambina are particularly needed becausethereis conflictinginformationaboutthis from differentresearchers.As I discussed in my article,VerrillandOsgoodreportdifferentdistrib- utions of potteryin the Barambinashell mound. Verrillfound potterythroughto the base of the deposit, and Osgood found pottery only 25 cm into the deposit.WilliamscharacterizesOsgood's accountas more reliablethanVerrill'sand states thathe foundthe"same"distributionas Osgood- no potterybelow 35 cm. However, Williams does not acknowledge in his comment that, in additionto not using any screens,Osgoodcarriedouthis 12-m-long,1-to-2- m-wideexcavationto thebase of thedepositwith 12 workersin the space of a single day (Osgood 1946:49)!It is unlikelythatreliableobservations aboutpotterydistributionscould have been made in such a crude and hasty excavation.Williams states that he used 5 mm and larger aperture screens and still found no potterybelow 35 cm, but, as I mentionedabove, this conflicts with the submissionrecords,andhe does notdocumenthis assertionwith tablesof potterydistributionsfrom his excavationsatBarambina. Relation of Seba Creek to Barambina Williams suggests that I erroneouslypresented the Seba Creek peat dates as being from Barambinashell mound because I relied on lab recordsalone. However, I do not say those peat dateswere from shell moundsbut thatthey were from "peat layers that the excavator [i.e., Williams]associatedwith the earlypottery-bear- ing layers" (Roosevelt 1995:118, Table 10.1, Note). And the associationof the peat dateswith Barambinashell mound is not just an errorin sample forms, as Williams suggests, but it is a correlationcited in both Williams's articles as 355
  5. 5. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY N-S N-9 N-10 N-ll N-16 Pottery type 8 0Unclassfied Clay- temperedPlai ... 1 1E2 16 Alaka Phase types: Sand Creek Plainh.... 7 1 7 10 8 8 ---- 7 --- --- --- --- --- ---- --- 48 Unclassified Clay- tempered Plain-____-------- 1 2 --------- --- 13 -----------------.------- 16 Unclassified Carlap&- tempered Plain -- - -- --- ---- 2 -- --- ---- -- --- ---- 2 Wanaina Plain --2 4 2 1 146 26 210 61 15 8 2 476 Unclassified Deco- rated -- -- -- 1 - -- -- ----- --- -- - -- 1 Mabaruma Phase types: Hosororo Plain--- ---- -- 15 ----21 6 1 43 Hotokawai Plain - -- -- ---- ---- -- 21------- 4 -- 25 Koberimo Plain - - ---- --- - 7 ---- 34 10 1 52 Mabaruma Plain -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --- 56-- - 35 7 2 100 Aruka Incised ------'--- 9 3- 8 2 _.. 22 Akawabi Incised and Modeled----- -- --- ---- - --- --- ------ 4 ---- ----- 7 Kaitima Incised and Punctate---------- -- ---- -- 13 1 2 --- 16 Mabaruma Incised --- ----_---------- ------1 ---- 2 Total per level --- 7 1 8 15 12 10 1 7 259 53 214 61 123 33 6 810 Figure 2. Pottery distributions in Alaka-phase sites (Evans and Meggers 1960:TableA). The numbered sites are Alaka Creek, Alaka Island, Sand Creek, Hososoro Creek, and Akawabi Creek, respectively. well as in his forms (Williams 1981, 1982). He states,forexample,aboutBarambina,"Theinves- tigations at this mound ... attempted to correlate its developmentwith the evolution of the neigh- boringpeat swamps"(1982:83). And when writ- ing about the peat samples, he refers to their significance for "the nearby Barambina shell mound"(1982:86). Myreferencesto thesamplesreferto theirrela- tionshipwith Barambinaessentially in the same manneras Williamsdid. Barambina and the Long Chronology for Shell Mounds in Guyana An interesting finding resulting from Williams's workatBarambinawas thattheAlakaphasedated morethan6,000 yearsearlierthanthe age Evans andMeggersestimatedforthephasebasedonpre- radiocarbondata.Heconcludedfromhisradiocar- bon dates that the Alaka phase probablydated between7000 and5000 to 4000 B.P.,ratherthan betweenthe time of ChristandA.D. 500, the age estimateof EvansandMeggers(1960:334,Figure 126)(Figure1). Williams'sAlaka-phasedatesfromBarambina andhisMabaruma-phasedatesfromHososoro(see below)bothshoweda muchlongerchronologyfor Guyanathan what the Smithsonianscholarshad imagined.Nevertheless,whenpublishinghis con- clusionsabouttheageof theAlakaandMabaruma phases, Williams does not refer to Evans and Meggers's much younger age estimates for the phases,norcomparehis datingto thatestimate. Wares of Alaka Pottery A peculiarityof Williams'scommentandpublica- tions is his discussionof the waresof Alakapot- tery.In his articleandcomment,Williamsstates, contraryto Evans and Meggers (1960), that the only potteryassociatedwith Alaka shell mounds was shell-temperedpottery.Infact,he arguesthat since there is no shell-tempered pottery at Barambina,thereis no Alakapotteryatthe site. However,as I relatein my article,the earliest, 356 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]
  6. 6. COMMENTS Pottery Stone tools Alaka Phase Percus- Period Site Alaka and Percus- sion- Absent Phase Maba- sion- made types ruma made and only Phase only abraded types Mabaruma Phase contact-------------- N-11 --------- X ---------- X N-16 - X ---- X Incipient ceramic ----- - - N-9 X ------------------ N-8 X - N-10 - X ---- X Preceramic------------- N-6 X --------- X Figure 3. Periodization at Alaka-phase sites (Evans and Meggers 1960:Table B). The numbered sites are Hososoro Creek, Akawabi Creek, Alaka Island, Alaka Creek, Sand Creek, and Little Komaballi. most predominant, and most characteristic pottery ware of the Alaka phase is sand-tempered, not shell-tempered pottery. In his comment, Williams denies that this is true and states that I, unfortu- nately, refer to no citation for my statement. However, I not only cite the originators of this conclusion (Evans and Meggers 1960), but I also quote them extensively. Contrary to Williams, the definition of the Alaka wares was made by Evans and Meggers (1960), not by me, and it was based on seriation of the ceramics and lithics in the levels of the sites (Figures 2 and 3). According to Evans and Meggers, the shell-tempered pottery in the shell mounds was the latest pottery associated with Alaka lithic material. They state that the earliest and the predominant pottery in the shell mounds was plain, sand-tempered pottery with simple shapes. As quoted in my article, they wrote: The predominantpottery type of the mid- dens clearly associated with typical Alaka Phase stone artifacts is a mica and sand-tem- pered plain ware (Sand Creek Plain) . . . At (two) sites . . . shell-temperedsherds(Wanaina Plain) occur; pottery with this temperwas not found in any other site in the whole of British Guiana.Since SandCreekPlain is found at the largest numberof sites, it might be considered the most characteristic pottery type of the Alaka Phase. Wanaina Plain, the shell-tem- peredware, is the most abundantpotteryat the end of the Alaka Phase [Evans and Meggers 1960:53-57]. Evans and Meggers record that the Alaka-phase Sand Creek Plain ware lacked decoration and had differences in shape, temper, and color from Mabaruma-phase pottery. To quote them: "Although there are few sherds, distinctive fea- tures of paste, temper, etc., set them apart from pottery types of other archaeological phases in the Northwest District and therefore they have been classified as separate pottery types." This sand-tempered pottery ware in Alaka shell mounds was classed by Evans and Meggers as Incipient Ceramic and placed in the middle part of their sequence of Alaka-phase sites (1960:Table B). They demonstrate that Incipient Ceramic Alaka-phase deposits with a predominance of this early ceramic ware lack Mabaruma-phase pottery. They show, in contrast, that Mabaruma-phase pot- tery is only found in late Alaka-phase levels that have a predominance of the shell-tempered pottery. Williams's claim that the plain, sand-tempered sherds in the shell mounds are intrusions from Formative levels does notjibe with this chronology of pottery tempering. The rare sand-tempered pot- tery from the shell mounds is distinct in tempering from the Mabaruma Formative pottery, much of which is tempered with crushed rock. Interestingly, far from concluding thatthe Alaka phase was primarily preceramic, as Williams claims, Evans and Meggers found pottery in the upper parts of most of the six Alaka-phase shell mound sites they investigated. They state: "Five of the Alaka Phase sites produced pottery" (1960:59) (Figures 2 and 3). In their definition of the Alaka phase, the presence of the sand-tempered pottery is 357
  7. 7. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY a salientcharacteristic.Basedonthetemper,shape, andshapeof thepottery,theyclassifiedthispottery asAlakaphase,not as intrusiveMabarumaphase. Contraryto whatWilliamssuggests,theyconclude thatit is not stratigraphicallyintrusive,based on the absence of Mabarumatraitsin middleAlaka levels and the absence of Sand Creek Plain in Mabarumalevels. In Williams's comment he reassigns Alaka PhaseSandCreekPlainto apositionlaterthanthe WanainaPlain, the shell-temperedpottery,con- traryto Evans and Meggers seriation.Williams now has decided,contraryto earlierresearch,that there is no sand-temperedpotteryin the middle levels of the shell mounds except for intrusive Mabaruma-phasepottery and concludes that, therefore,there is no Alaka Ceramic phase. It would be appropriatefor him to referto andpre- sent datathatsupportthis conclusion. Such data would include documentationof the paste and shapeof thesherdsin comparisonwithMabaruma potteryandof theirdistributioninthelayersof the shell mounds. But contraryto the claims in his comment,he has not presentedsuchinformation. He would have us accepthis assertionson faith, even thoughthey contradictboth earlierfindings and the unpublishedrecordsand correspondence abouthis samples.But, as with all his assertions, he has neglectedto presentthe necessarydataon thedistributionsand-temperedandshell-tempered potteryin the levels of his excavations. Finally,in his discussion of Hososoro Creek, cited below, Williams states that WanainaPlain wareis relatedto theshell-temperedpotteryof the Minaphase,theArchaicshellmoundcultureatthe mouth of the Amazon in Brazil (Sim6es 1981). Because the Minaphase startsabout 1,500 years earlierthanthedatesthathe presentsforWanaina Plain at Hososoro, Williams concludes that this Guyanese pottery ware was introduced into GuyanafromtheMinaphase. However, as the following section shows, Williams does not have any dates for the first appearanceof WanainaPlainpotteryatHososoro. In addition,he neglects to acknowledgethatthe Minaphaseis characterizedby sand-temperedas well as shell-temperedpottery.To quote Sim6es (1981:13-14), the authorof the reporton Mina pottery:"Thesandtemperedpottery[TijucaPlain] is presentin practicallyall levels." Thus, Williams's assertionsabout the nature, stratigraphy,anddatingof initialpotterywaresin bothGuyanaandBrazilarenot supportedby the existingevidence. Hososoro Creek Site In his comment,WilliamsdescribesHososoroas theonly potteryshellmoundin Guyana.He char- acterizesit as a two-partarchaeologicalsitewitha Mabaruma-phaseFormative component strati- graphicallyplacedabove anAlaka-phaseArchaic potteryshell moundcomponent. According to Williams's comment, the dates from this site prove thatinitial potteryis late in Guyanaandthatthereforethereis no suchthingas Archaic Alaka-phase shell mound pottery in Guyana,contraryto earliersources.However,his own data,publishedpreviously,completelycon- tradicthis assertionabout the age of pottery at Hososoro.The significantcontradictionsbetween Williams's text and his data emerge when the informationaboutthe sitein his commentis com- paredwith the datain his 1992 articleandin the archives.And even withinhis commentthereare contradictionsin his characterizationof the site in relationto Guyanaprehistory. Dates of Initial Pottery at Hososoro Creek Theonly datesWilliamshaspublishedforthe site arefromthe Mabarumaphase,or Formative,lev- els of his excavations(1992:243-244). He gives no dates for the levels that he classifies as the Alaka-phasepottery shell mound, so the site's existingdatespostdatetheageof shellmoundpot- tery in Guyana. The specifics are as follows. Williamsstatesthatthedatesandpotterydistribu- tions in the stratigraphyof the site show thatthe Wanaina Plain and Sand Creek Plain wares definedbyEvansandMeggersasAlakaphase(see priorsection)aretoolateindatetobe of theAlaka phase.Thedata,however,showno suchthing.His publishedtables, text, andhis stratigraphiccross sectionin the archivesshow thatall his datesare from Mabaruma,not Alaka, levels (Williams 1992:Table1 and244). Inhis comment,Williams datesthe beginningof initialpotteryat the site to ca.4000, basedon the3975 B.P.datefromthe70- cm depthof theMabaruma-phasedepositin cut2. He identifiesthefourdatesfromcut 3, whichrun from3550 to 2660, as comingfrom20- to 50-cm 358 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]
  8. 8. COMMENTS Cut3 Cut2 20cm peat 3185?65B.P. Sl-6635 20cm peat 3550?65B.P. B-20007 35cm peat 2660?45B.P. S-6636 70cm peat 3975?45B.R SI-6638B 50cm shells 3550+50B.P. Sl-6637 70cm shells 3115?65B.P. SI-6638A 80cm peat 3385+60B.P. Sl-6639 Note:Thecut numbersanddatesSl-6639andSI-8838Aarefromthe SmithsonianArchives(Roosevelt 1995:117-118,Table10.1).OnlytheotherdatesaregiveninWilliams(1992:243-244).AccordingtoWilliamsandthe archives,Cut2apparentlyhadtheMabaruma-phasedepositdirectlyonbedrockandlackedAlaka-phasedeposits. Figure 4. Mabaruma-phase radiocarbon dates from Hososoro Creek. 0 W. o F- Ci I. - W CU 0 0 u a (A 0 0 C '0 2I. 9 0 0 2 o3 c3 N Ct0 I 0 C3 U 0-10 10-20 < 20-30 18 30-40 50 1 pt 30-50 50 1 1 S 50-60 100 1 60-70 112 1 3 70-80 112 1 1 4 1 1 80-90 125 4 5 90-100 18 1 1 100-110 6 1 1 Figure 5. Classification of excavation levels according to phase in Cut 3 at Hososoro Creek (Williams 1992:Table 1). depths,which he characterizesas the middleand upper part of the Formative Mabaruma-phase component.None of the dates, therefore,comes from what he classifies as the Alaka-phasecom- ponent(Figure4). However,the majorityof the potterysherdsin theHososorositearefromhispre-4000B.P.Alaka levels, not from his Mabarumalevels. His sherd distributiontableby levels for the site show that far from having "few sherds,"his Alaka layers held the majorityof the potterysherdsin the cut (373 compared to 218 in Mabaruma layers) (Williams1992:Table1, 242) (Figure5). Williamsclaims thatAlakapotteryis late, but wherearethe datesto show that?His datesfrom HososoroCreekshow,instead,thattheMabaruma phase thereis early Formative,ca. 4000 to 2500 B.P. The Alaka-phasepottery,which lies in the shell mound deposit underneaththe Mabaruma- phase component,is not datedbut must be sub- stantiallyearlier.If the Mabaraumalevels of the site begin somewhatearlierthan4000 B.P., then theAlakalevels mustdateatleastin thefifthmil- lenniumandthereforewouldoverlapwiththelater dates of the shell-temperedand sand-tempered potterywaresof PedraPintadacave, whose later FormativepotteryWilliamscorrectlyrelatesto his Mabaruma-phasepottery. Despite his protesta- tions, then, Hososoro does not show the lack of Alaka-phasepotteryin Guyana.His stratigraphy, actually,supportsthelikelihoodof its existence. Why is Williamspassingoff Mabaruma-phase datesas datesforAlaka-phaseinitialpottery?And why hashe notpresentedanydatesfortheAlaka- phaselevels atHososoroCreek,whichhe callsthe only potteryshell moundin Guyana?Maybehis long-awaitedmonographwill answerthese ques- tions. 359
  9. 9. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY Date of Mabaruma Phase at Hososoro and the Chronology of Barrancoid Pottery in Eastern South America Similarlyto thecase withhis Barambinadatesfor theAlakaphase,Williams'sradiocarbondatesfor theMabarumaphaseatHososoroshowedthatthe phasewas morethan4,000 yearsearlierthanwhat EvansandMeggersestimatedbeforeradiocarbon dating (Figure 1). They had estimated an age between A.D. 650 and 1650 for the phase (1960:334, Figure 126). Williams, in contrast, concludedon the basis of his radiocarbondates that the phase dated between about4,000 years ago and2,500. Williamssuggestscorrectlythathis datesfrom ca. 4,000 to 2,500 yearsago fromHososoroCreek shed light on the history of the Formative Barrancoid ceramic series in eastern South America.Whathe neglectsto acknowledge,how- ever, is that these dates fit the long chronology dates for the FormativeSaladoid-BarrancoidLa Grutatraditionof the MiddleOrinoco,published by IrvingRouseandmyself in sources(Roosevelt 1980, 1996; Rouse and Allaire 1978) that Williamsdoes not cite. In addition,he does not acknowledge that his dates do not fit the short chronologyespousedby Sanoja(1979), anassoci- ateof Meggers,whomWilliamsdoes cite. Contradictions about the Place of Hososoro Creek Pottery in the Alaka Phase The contradictionsandcircularitiesin Williams's commentaboutHososoro extend to his general- izationsaboutits implicationsfortheAlakaphase, as canbe seen by thefollowingquotations,which not only contradicteach otherbutalso contradict his 1992 article, which he cites as containing "facts"thatcontradictmy article. Initially,he statesin his abstractthatthe shell mounds are preceramic. "I maintain that the Guyanasites in questionarepreceramicandthus offer no support to Roosevelt's thesis." (this issue:342). Then, he says that, actually,there is one pottery-age shell mound. "Apartfrom the HososoroCreekdeposit,noneof the 14shellmid- dens excavated so far ... can by any means be described as pottery-age shell middens" (this issue:348).Elsewherehe says, "thecharacteristics of the potteryfrom the late Archaic midden at HososoroCreekunequivocallyattestaffiliationto the Archaic Mina phase at the mouth of the Amazon, where identical pottery was already being madeat leastby 3000 B.C. (Simoes 1981)" (this issue:348). Later on, however, he wavers back to the "thereis no Guyanese shell mound pottery" stance. "In fact, Roosevelt's 'Alaka Potteryphase' is unrepresentedat any site .... Further,by virtueof its latedateanddemonstrable affiliation to the Mina phase, the place of HososoroCreekin theAlakaphasemustnow be called into question."His reasoningis thatsince WanainaPlainpotteryatHososoroCreekis Mina- phase pottery,not Alaka-phasepottery,therefore thereis no suchthingasAlaka-phasepottery. The advisability of assigning a ware of Guyanesepotteryto a distantBrazilianphasecan only be judged when Williams publishesprove- nienced potteryfrom the Hososoro shell mound levels, which he has not yet done. But regardless of whateverphasenameWilliamsusesforthepot- terywaresintheshellmound,thefactremainsthat bothhis informationandthatof earlierinvestiga- tions shows thatpotterywas indeedmadeduring theArchaicshell moundoccupationof Guyana. On the basis of his assertionthat only shell- temperedpotteryis relatedto Mina-phaseshell mound pottery,Williams states, "Ourevidence now shows that the relationshipbetween Mina potteryandpotteryon theWesternGuianaLittoral does notextendto any site of theAlakaphase,all of whicharepreceramic.... Whencontrastedwith thepreceramicculturallevel of all othershellfish- ing sites ... thisvery similarityof WanainaPlain to the potteryof the Minaphasewould appearto constituteunassailablygood groundsforeliminat- ing HososoroCreekfromanyfuturecharacteriza- tion of the Alaka phase" [this issue:349] .... Had this aberrancy of Hososoro Creek . . . been real- ized earlier, it may have saved Roosevelt (1995:120)thefutilityinherentin drawingconclu- sions from the supposedlink between the Mina and Alaka phases. There simply never was any connection between the two. . . . [The Alaka phase] never therefore overlapped with or, of course,predatedearlyMina"(thisissue:350). ButthedatesWilliamsgives fortheBarambina shell mound(7000 or 6000 to 4000 B.P.) are at least 1,000yearsearlierthanthosehe gives forthe Mina phase (5000 to 2500 B.P.), so the Alaka 360 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]
  10. 10. COMMENTS phase certainlydoes predatethe Mina phase, on his own evidence. Reality of Alaka Shell Mound Pottery Williams presents the idea of an Alaka-phase ceramicperiodas an erroneousidea of my con- structionwhen actuallyit was the conclusionof EvansandMeggers.Althoughin his earlierarticle on Barambina,Williams(1981:14, 18, 29) already statesthathethinksthattheBarambinashellmound is preceramic,he neverthelessstill acknowledges that the Alaka phase, as defined by Evans and Meggers,was characterizedby theuse of ceramics duringbothitsmiddleandlateperiods.Inhiscom- ment,however,he assertsthatall Guyaneseshell moundsaredemonstrablypreceramic. The problemwith his assertionis thatit is at odds with most of the earlierliteratureand not documentedby any datathathe offers.Williams, EvansandMeggers,Osgood,andVerrillall found plainpotterysherdsin the shell moundsthatthey excavated.Williams'stabulationsfrom Hososoro showthepresenceof sherdsto thebaseof theshell mound.AndalthoughWilliamsstatesthatthepot- tery sherds in the shell mound levels at Barambina, Kabakaburi,and other sites were intrusivefromMabarumalevels, he doesnotshow thiswithanycomparisonsof thecharacteristicsof provenienced shell mound sherds vis-a-vis Mabarumapotteryoranytabulationsof suchchar- acteristicsin the levels. Even more strikingis the absenceof anytabulationsthatshowtheexistence of shell moundlayerswithoutsherds. WhatI pointedout(Roosevelt 1995)is thatthis claim thatthe Guyaneseshell moundoccupation is "demonstrably"preceramicis not documented with standardarchaeologicaldata.In none of the publicationsthathe cites has Williamspublished ceramic tables showing a lack of potteryin the shellmoundsthathehasexcavated.Inaddition,he acknowledgesrepeatedlythat there is potteryin the shell mounds, and earlier research showed withtabulationsandillustrationsthatthepotteryis distinct in shape, temper,color, and decoration fromtheFormativeceramicphasethatfollows. He asserts,contraryto theearliersources,thatthepot- tery in the shell mounds is descended from Formativedepositsabovetheshellmounds,buthe hasnotshownthiswithhis own tabulationsof the distributionof potterywaresin his excavations. Miscellaneous Misrepresentations My Sources on Alaka-Phase Shell Mound Pottery Williamsrepeatsthroughouthis commentthatmy inferences about Guyanese shell mounds were basedshakilyon the Smithsonianrecordsandnot on his relevantpublications.In fact, I cite as my sourcesbothhis published"interimreport"about the excavations (Williams 1981) and the earlier publicationsby Evans and Meggers (1960) and Verrill(1918). The two publicationsthathe cites that I do not cite (1982 and 1992) either repeat whatwasinthesourcesthatIcitedorelaboratehis earlierinterpretationswithoutgiving the relevant datato evaluatethem. In making this point, Williams misstates the content of the sources he cites. He asserts, for example, that "Since the excavators' notes on some of the submissionforms indicate that the samples were associatedwith pottery,Roosevelt (1995:120) rejects published statements by Sim6es (1981) andWilliams(1981)."Contraryto whatWilliams says, not only did the Barambina forms statethatall the Barambinasamples were associatedwith potterybut both of the publica- tions he cites acknowledgethatpotterywas asso- ciated with samples.Williamshimself (1981:18) acknowledges, "Although not numerous, pot- sherdsoccurredregularlyin Zone i, with a few scatteredspecimens occurringalso in the upper few centimetersof Zone iia."The upperfew cen- timetersof zone iia is precisely the location of Williams c. 4000 B.P. date, whose context he arguesis preceramic. In both his commentson sources and on my statementthat "preceramiccultureshave not yet been scientifically documented at these sites," Williams misrepresentsthe content of Sim6es's article(1981), whichhe cites in supportof thesci- entific documentationof preceramicshell mound cultures at the Amazonian sites. Contrary to Williams'sassertion,Simoes did not publishevi- dence for a preceramicshell moundculture,nor didhe claim thattheMinaphasewas preceramic. He states,instead,thatthe Minaphase is a phase of ceramic-ageforagers,not preceramicforagers. And far from stating,as Williams suggests, that any of his sampleswere frompreceramiclevels, Simoes makes it perfectlyclear in his articleas 361
  11. 11. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY well as in his submissionformsthatall his radio- carbonsamples were associatedwith pottery.In fact, Sim6es classifies Mina exclusively as an Archaicceramicphase.He does noteven mention the existence of a preceramicphaseat any of the 43 siteshe surveyedfor the article. By citingSim6es in supportof theexistenceof a preceramicshell moundphaseandthe nonexis- tence of a ceramic shell moundphase, Williams madewhatis, in essence, a false reference. Excavations to Sterile Soil in Guyanese Shell Mounds In a furthermisrepresentationabout my article, Williams states, "Roosevelt assertsthat none of the excavations was taken to sterile soil .. ." However,this statementis not in my article.On thepagecitedby him,I say,instead,thatwhenthe firstGuyanesedateswere run,none of the lower levels of Amazonianmoundshad been dated,so thatthe dates of the time could not representthe earliest occupations (Roosevelt 1995:120). Nowhere do I refer to Barambinaor any other Guyanesesite not being excavatedto sterile.On the contrary,I state that all three researchersat Barambina-Verrill, Osgood, and Williams- madeexcavationsatthe site downto sterile. Why Eastern South American Dates Are More Secure than Northwestern South American Dates Williamsfurthermisrepresentsmy articlewhenhe statesthatI claimthat"Amazonianearlypottery. . [is] the most securelydatedearlypotteryin the New World"merely because of the similarityin age amongthe Alaka,Mina,andLowerAmazon shell mounddates. What I say is quite differentand much more specific: that Amazonian pottery is the most securelydatedearlypotterybecauseof threecriti- calcharacteristics:(1) Ithasalargerseriesof early Holocene dates associated with pottery in shell mounds,(2) it has dateson moretypes of materi- als, and, (3) it has the only earlyHolocene dates directlyonthepotteryby radiocarbonandthermo- luminescence. Toquotefrommy article: The completed 13-date sequence of Brazilian dates constituted a longer and more precise series than the Colombian and Ecuadorian chronologies because numerous samplesof charcoalandtemperfrompotteryas well as shells were run, and all the sixth mil- lenniumdates were on charcoalor on the tem- per in pottery. Little charcoal and no pottery had been dated from sites in Colombia at this point . . . and the earliest dates were on shell, the less reliable material.... In fact, at this time the Colombianseries hadonly five dates, com- pared to the Amazonian thirteen [Roosevelt 1995:118]. . . . With Taperinha and Pedra Pintada,Amazoniahas even more dates ... on a wider range of material . . . confirmed by thermoluminescenceand by radiocarbondates directlyon pottery[Roosevelt 1995:128]. Relation of Alaka- to Mina-Phase Pottery Inhis comment,Williamsalsowritesasif thesim- ilarityof Alaka-phasepotteryto the Mina-phase pottery is an idea that originated with me. However, like the idea of the existence of Alaka- phase pottery, this idea originated with Evans and Meggers. Both they and their associate, Simoes, who published the Mina-phase dates, stated that the two phases were similar. As early as 1975, Evans wrote about Mina pot- teryin a memoto his labdirector:"Thepotteryis importantbecauseit could be some of the oldest on the continent.We still can't understandthe early dates but soon might be forced to accept them.Forall practicalreasonsthe potteryfits the earlyhorizonmaterialwe hadof Alakaphasefor BritishGuiana..." (Roosevelt1995:118).Simoes, citing Evans and Meggers, also referred to the connection when he published the Smithsonian dates on Mina pottery. He stated that "The Mina tradition [is] also related to the Alaka Phase of Guyana" (Evans and Meggers 1960:25-54). Meggers and Evans further commented on the relation in later articles (1978). Williams (1981:14-15), himself, also earlier repeated approvinglythe relationshipbetween Alaka and Mina phase shell mound pottery. His comment certainly misleads readers about the origin of the ideas at issue. What Alaka Phase Dates Did Williams Publish? Williams claims that he had already published sevenof thedatesthatIpublishedin 1995.Indeed, seven of the 16 Guyanese dates that I listed as unpublished, based on information from the 362 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]
  12. 12. COMMENTS Smithsonianarchives and from Betty Meggers, were publishedby Williams in his 1982 article (two dates) and in a volume publishedprivately under the editorshipof Betty Meggers in 1992 (five dates). However,noneof thesesevendatesis fromthe Alakaphase,accordingtoWilliams.Thefourfrom HososoroCreekthatWilliamspublishedin 1992 arefromthe FormativeMabaruma-phasecompo- nentof the site, not fromtheAlaka-phasecompo- nent.Williamsrepresentsthedatesas datesforthe immediatelypre-FormativeorArchaicpottery,but, as thefiguresin his publicationshow,thedatesare fromhis Formative,notArchaic,component,from whichhe haspublishedno dates(Figures4 and5). Also, he does not identify the excavationprove- nienceof thosedates,althoughI did. Theremainingone date,fromKabakaburi,was not publishedby Williams (1992:240) with any specific archaeologicalprovenience.The archives show a proveniencefromcut 75 at a depthof 90 cm, but that is published only in my article. Williams states that I do not relate the two Kabakaburisite datesthatI publishto earlyshell moundpottery.Contraryto whathe says, I indeed presentthe dates from that site as early pottery dates(Roosevelt 1995:Table10-1, 118).This site, accordingto thearchives,haspotterysherdsin the shell mound levels, contraryto what Williams assertsbut does not documentwith any distribu- tiontables. The othertwo dates arefrom Seba Creekand arefroma peatdeposit,not froman archaeologi- cal site,asI reportedinmy article.Thus,theyalso, arenotrelateddirectlyto theageof theAlakashell moundphaseandits pottery. Eventhe datesWilliamshaspublishedarepre- sentedwithscantinformationabouttheirarchaeo- logical context. Without that context, the significance of the dates for Guyanesearchaeol- ogy remainsobscure. Gaps in the Archaeological Chronologies Anothermisstatementin Williams's commentis his assertion of the existence of a gap between the Archaic shell mound pottery of the Lower Amazon and that of northwestern South America. Contraryto Williams, there is no gap between northwestern South American shell mound pottery, which dates between 6000 and 3000 B.P., andLowerAmazon shell moundpot- tery,which datesbetween7500 and4000 B.P.In addition,there is no chronological gap between the Mina-phase Archaic shell mound pottery from the mouth of the Amazon, whose reality Williams accepts, and Lower Amazon shell moundpottery. Ironically,the chronologyof shell moundpot- teryin easternSouthAmericais muchmorecon- sistent between regions than is Williams's periodizationwithinGuyana,inwhichthedatesof different phases vary greatly from one site to another. Conclusion Williamsquotesfromtheconclusionof my article abouttheneedto let go of theoryto learnfromthe archaeological record. But if Williams really wants us to learn from his investigationsof the archaeologicalrecordof Guyanain the 1970s, he needsto publishthenecessaryspecificdata: 1. cross sections of all the archaeological deposits,to show the stratigraphiccontextof both datesandartifactsin his excavations, 2. tables of the distributionof sherds in the stratigraphyof his excavationsaccordingto their temper,shape,anddecoration, 3. illustrationsof the profiles and faces of sherds,identifiedby provenience,and 4. the existing unpublishedradiocarbondates andsome new directdateson potterysherdsfrom shell moundlevels by radiocarbonandthermolu- minescence. Suchdatawouldprovidethebasis for evaluat- inghisopinionsaboutGuyanaprehistory.Existing information,such as the published information andhis correspondence,field notes, and submis- sion formsin the Smithsonianarchivespresenta bodyof datain conflictwithhis conclusions. References Cited Evans,C., andB. J. Meggers 1960 Archaeological Excavations in British Guiana. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 177. SmithsonianInstitution,Washington,D.C. Meggers,B. J., andC. Evans 1978 LowlandSouthAmericaandthe Antilles. InAncient NativeAmericans,editedby J.D. Jennings,pp.543-591. W.H. Freeman,SanFrancisco. Osgood,C. 1946 BritishGuianaArchaeologyin 1945. Publicationsin Anthropology 36. Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. 363
  13. 13. AMERICAN ANTIQUITY Roosevelt,A. C. 1980 Parmana: Prehistoric Maize and Manioc Subsistence along the Amazon and Orinoco. Academic Press, New York. 1995 Early Pottery in the Amazon: Twenty Years of Scholarly Obscurity. In The Emergence of Pottery: Technologyand Innovationin AncientSocieties, edited by W. BarnettandJ. Hoopes, pp. 115-132. Smithsonian InstitutionPress,Washington,D.C. 1996 TheExcavationsat Corozal,Venezuela:Stratigraphy and CeramicSeriation.PublicationsinAnthropology82. YaleUniversity,New Haven,Connecticut,in press. Rouse, I., andL. Allaire 1978 Caribbean. In Chronologies in New World Archaeology,editedby R. E. TaylorandC. W.Meighan, pp.431-481. AcademicPress,New York. SanojaO., M. 1979 Las CulturasFormativosdel Orientede Venezuela: La TradicionBarrancas del Bajo Orinoco. Academia Nacionalde la Historia,Caracas,Venezuela. Sim6es, M. 1981 Coletores-Pescadores Ceramistas do Littoral do Salgado (Para). Boletim do Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi78:1-32. Verrill,A. H. 1918 Prehistoric mounds and relics of the Northwest Districtof BritishGuiana.Timehri5:11-17. Williams,D. 1981 Excavation of the BarambinaShell Mound North West District: An Interim Report. Archaeology and Anthropology4(1-2): 13-38. 1982 Some SubsistenceImplicationsof Holocene Climate Change in Northwestern Guyana. Archaeology and Anthropology5(2):83-93. 1992 El arcaicoen el noroestede Guyanay los comienzos de la horticultura.In Prehistoricsudamericana:Nuevas perspectivas, edited by B. J. Meggers, pp. 233-251. Taraxacum,Washington,D.C. Received August 20, 1996; accepted September 30, 1996. HowWritingCameAbout BYDENISESCHMANDT-BESSERAT Praise forBefore Writing,VolumesI and II: "Schmandt-Besserat'sdiscoveryanditsramifications ... arecrucialto understandingthedevelopmentof civilizatio ... " - TimesLiteraySupplement Forawidepublicandclassroomaudience,hereis DeniseSchmandt-Besserat'sgroundbreakingtheorythat thecuneiformscriptinventedintheNearEastinthelate fourthmillenniumB.C.- the world'soldestknown systemofwriting-derivedfromanarchaiccounting device.Basedontheanalysisandinterpretationofa selectionof8,000tokensorcountersfrom116sitesin Iran,Iraq,the Levant,andTurkey,itdocumentsthe immediateprecursorofthecuneiformscript. 27 b&wphotos,18 linedrawings,3 maps,5 tables, 42 pagesof charts $19.95 paperback 4vm UniversityofTexasPress BOX7819 AUSTIN,TX 78713 ATBOOKSTORES,ORCALL800-252-3206. I 364 [Vol. 62, No. 2, 1997]