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Title Testing the Veracity of Paleoethnobotanical Macroremain Data: A Case Study from the Cer¿¿¿¿n Site, El Salvador
Publication Date
Degree MA
Discipline/Department Arts and Sciences: Anthropology
Degree Level masters
University/Publisher University of Cincinnati
Abstract Archaeological research conducted in 2009 at the Cer¿¿¿¿n site, a Late Classic Maya village in El Salvador rapidly buried in volcanic ash from the Loma Caldera eruption in A.D. 600, identified intensively cultivated outfields planted in manioc (Manihot esculenta) and maize (Zea mays) 200 meters south of the habitation area. Ash from Loma Caldera encased plants growing in the outfields when the volcano erupted, and the spaces once occupied by these plants were cast in plaster to reveal an unusually detailed view of an ancient agricultural landscape. A midden comprised of abundant charred paleoethnobotanical macroremains and artifacts was found among these fields. Manioc and maize stems cast in plaster were found to be growing from the midden at the time of the eruption. This thesis hypothesizes that manioc plant parts would be identified in the midden’s assemblage of charred macroremains since the plant’s stems grew from the midden. A paleoethnobotanical analysis conducted with the midden assemblage did not identify any manioc plant parts, however. To address the absence of manioc in the form of macroremains, the following questions are posed by this study: Do the plant remains identified from the midden reflect those plants identified in their systemic contexts within the Cer¿¿¿¿n village and the site’s southern agricultural outfields? If the plant remains from the midden and those plants identified in their systemic contexts in the village and outfields are similar, did Cer¿¿¿¿n’s unusual site formation processes contribute to this lack of a preservation bias between the two assemblages? Or does greater parity exist between plant macroremains recovered from the archaeological record and plant resources utilized at ancient Maya sites than archaeologists and paleoethnobotanists currently realize? If the plant remains from the Operation P midden differ from the plants identified in their systemic contexts at Cer¿¿¿¿n, how can plant use practices, site formation processes, and recovery/identification biases introduced by archaeologists and paleoethnobotanists contribute to discrepancies between the two assemblages? This study concludes that the absence of manioc and other plant taxa in the form of carbonized macroremains in the archaeological record does not necessarily preclude their presence and use by the ancient Maya at sites lacking the unique preservation conditions present at Cer¿¿¿¿n. Incorporating the systematic collection and analysis of both paleoethnobotanical macroremains and microremains into the research designs of archaeological projects in the Maya area will help to bridge the gap between archaeologically invisible plant resources and those used by the ancient Maya.
Subjects/Keywords Archaeology; Cer¿¿¿¿n; Paleoethnobotany; Classic Maya; Manioc; El Salvador; Zapotit¿¿¿¿n Valley
Contributors Scarborough, Vernon (Committee Chair)
Language en
Rights unrestricted ; This thesis or dissertation is protected by copyright: all rights reserved. It may not be copied or redistributed beyond the terms of applicable copyright laws.
Country of Publication us
Format application/pdf
Record ID oai:etd.ohiolink.edu:ucin1337287040
Repository ohiolink
Date Indexed 2020-10-19
Grantor University of Cincinnati

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…3 Figure 3. Map of operations excavated during 2009 field season...........................................4 Figure 4. Map of El Salvador..................................................................................................8 Figure 5…

…Cern is located in the Zapotitn Valley of north-central El Salvador, adjacent to the town of Joya de Cern (Figure 4). The Zapotitn Valley lies within a volcanic chain spanning the length of El Salvador, and is bordered by two volcano…

…Approximately 20 km north of the Zapotitán Valley, the Río Sucio drains into the Río Lempa, which drains all of El Salvador and much of Central America (Daugherty 1969:38). 
 Figure 4. Map of El Salvador. Note: Redrawn from Lentz et al…

…x28;1996a). Climate At an elevation of 450 m asl and a latitude of 14N, the site is situated within a tropical monsoon climate and annually receives an average of 1,700 mm 300 mm of precipitation, with 96% of this amount falling between May and…

…atop structures in the village proper, but this grass is no longer evident in the Zapotitn Valley or in El Salvador. Trachypogon plumosus likely grew in large quantities within savanna habitats during the Late Classic period in the Zapotitn Valley…

…volcano deposited between 1 m to over 10 m of TBJ in a 25 km radius surrounding the volcano and between 20-50 cm to the northwest, extending beyond El Salvador’s border with Guatemala (Dull et al. 2001:Figure 1). The TBJ tephra immediately killed…

…Late Preclassic settlements in 
 western El Salvador experienced complete demographic collapse as a result of the Ilopango eruption, from both the widespread deaths caused by thick TBJ airfall and pyroclastic flows as well as from migration…

…operator excavating foundations for a series of grain silos discovered Cerén in 1976. After an archaeologist from El Salvador’s National Museum decided that the structural remains were recent, landowners in Joya de Cerén asked Dr. Payson Sheets and his…