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A new study of prehistoric Southwestern ceramics, similar to this Ancestral Pubeloan mug from the Mesa Verde region, reveal widespread use of cacao and stomach-churning ‘black drink’. (Mesa Verde Black-on-white Mug ©2014 Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; BLM-Anasazi Heritage Center

A new study of prehistoric Southwestern ceramics, similar to this Ancestral Pubeloan mug from the Mesa Verde region, reveal widespread use of cacao and stomach-churning ‘black drink’. (Mesa Verde Black-on-white Mug ©2014 Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; BLM-Anasazi Heritage Center

Original article:

POSTED BY BLAKE DE PASTINO ON SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

western digs

Stimulating drinks made from exotic plants, like the cocoa tree and a type of southern holly, were consumed much more widely across the prehistoric Southwest than was thought, according to new research.

A recent study — the largest of its kind ever conducted — analyzed nearly 200 samples of pottery from Southwestern archaeological sites, ranging from Colorado to Chihuahua and spanning 650 years of human occupation.

This is the first evidence that the Ancestral Puebloans and other Southwestern cultures consumed the highly caffeinated Ilex drinks.

Until now, the use of ‘black drink’ had mainly been associated with distant cultures in the American Midwest and South, such as the Mississippian metropolis of Cahokia, where it was drunk as part of purging rituals, or for stimulating trance-like states.

Moreover, making both cocoa and ‘black drink’ required plants that grew in far-off climates, researchers say, indicating that the Southwest was part of an ancient ‘caffeine trade network’ that extended from the foothills of the Rockies to the heart of Mexico.

“There are no known plants in the Southwest or Northwestern Mexico that have caffeine,” said Dr. Patricia Crown, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico who led the study.

The results revealed that more than 20 percent of the ceramics contained traces of either cocoa or a potent concoction known as ‘black drink,’ made from yaupon holly, known to scientists as Ilex vomitoria.
“So these caffeinated drinks required acquiring — through exchange or direct acquisition — materials from a distance: Mesoamerica, for either plant, or perhaps the Gulf Coast for the holly.”

Crown was one of the researchers who, in 2009, first discovered traces of cocoa — or cacao — in pottery excavated from New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon.

It was a striking reminder of the great economic reach of the Ancestral Puebloans, whose sites had already turned up other Mesoamerican items, like copper bells and remains of scarlet macaws.

Following that find, Crown and colleague W. Jeffrey Hurst, senior scientist with the Hershey Company, wanted to learn how widespread the use of cocoa was throughout the pre-contact Southwest.

“We were interested in determining the spatial and temporal extent of cacao use in the Southwest and Mexican Northwest,” she said.

“We began by looking at other contemporaneous sites in Chaco, then sites outside Chaco but related to it, then sites with evidence for exchange in Mesoamerican goods in other areas, and then sites that filled in geographic areas or time periods but didn’t necessarily have other evidence for Mesoamerican exchange.”

In all, the new study analyzed 177 pottery sherds from 18 different sites, ranging in age from the year 750 to 1400. They included monuments like Chaco’s Chetro Ketl, the ancient Hohokam settlement in Arizona known as Snaketown, and more recently studied sites like Windy Knob in southwestern Colorado.

Using liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, the researchers then analyzed the sherds for traces of chemicals known as methylxanthines — stimulants that include caffeine, theobromine and theophylline, which are found in cacao and Ilex vomitoria, though in different proportions.

The results, Crown said, were surprising.

“When we started getting results … we realized that not all of them were clearly cacao,” she said.

“Many [of the results] had high caffeine [levels], which is not characteristic of cacao, and some had none of the other methylxanthines — theobromine and theophylline — that characterize cacao.

“So we had to determine what else those samples could be if they weren’t cacao.”

After comparing those residues with ones found in pottery fragments from around Cahokia, where Ilex-based beverages were known to have been used, Crown and Hurst determined that the unusual chemical signatures were likely those of ‘black drink.’

“We fully expected to see evidence for cacao — or not — in the samples,” Crown added.

“We were surprised to find results that suggested that some samples had caffeinated drinks that were not cacao.”

In addition to showing that holly-based drinks were likely used in the pre-Hispanic Southwest, this new analysis reveals just how widespread the consumption of caffeine was in the region.

Of the 177 pottery samples — 40 of them, or 22 percent — turned up traces of either cacao or Ilex, even in the sherds from communities that were not known to have Mesoamerican artifacts, or other signs of influence from far-flung cultures.

This, Crown noted, indicates that the Ancestral Puebloans, the Hohokam, and other Southwestern groups not only traded with the peoples of Mesoamerica and the Gulf Coast, they had prolonged and sustained contact with them.

“Once made into drinks, these plants were consumed,” she said. “So, unlike some other exchanged items, if they were an important part of life in the Southwest, or Northwestern Mexico, there had to be an ongoing supply, even if they were consumed only sporadically.

“This created social and economic relationships with distant populations,” she added.

“Individuals who served these drinks might have created more local relationships and obligations with the people who drank them in feasts or rituals or political contexts.

“So part of the takeaway is that special drinks of these sorts tell us something about relationships with distant areas, and also within local groups.”

Crown and Hurst report their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

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Topic: Chocolate

They were humble farmers who grew corn and dwelt in subterranean pit houses. But the people who lived 1200 years ago in a Utah village known as Site 13, near Canyonlands National Park in Utah, seem to have had at least one indulgence: chocolate. Researchers report that half a dozen bowls excavated from the area contain traces of chocolate, the earliest known in North America. The finding implies that by the end of the 8th century C.E., cacao beans, which grow only in the tropics, were being imported to Utah from orchards thousands of kilometers away.

The discovery could force archaeologists to rethink the widely held view that the early people of the northern Southwest, who would go on to build enormous masonry “great houses” at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and create fine pottery, had little interaction with their neighbors in Mesoamerica. Other scientists are intrigued by the new claim, but also skeptical.

The new research is “exciting, no doubt. … Archaeologists have been looking for Mesoamerican connections to the Southwest for 100 years,” says Robert Hard of the University of Texas, San Antonio, who specializes in the archaeology of the Southwest and was not involved in the new study. But, he says, “I’m not convinced this is chocolate.”

The findings stem from collaboration between Dorothy Washburn, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia, and her husband William Washburn, a chemist at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Princeton, New Jersey. In an earlier study, they detected evidence of cacao in pottery from 11th century burial sites in New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon and in vessels from other Southwestern sites. As a follow-up, the scientists tested bowls excavated in the 1930s from Site 13, which dates to roughly 770 C.E.

The researchers swirled water in the bowls, then analyzed the compounds in the rinse water with a high-resolution liquid chromatograph-mass spectrometer, an instrument that separates the components of a mixture and then determines the mass of each. They found traces of theobromine and caffeine, both found in cacao, in nearly every Site 13 bowl they tested. They also found the telltale molecules in vessels from other villages close to Site 13 and from two Colorado villages. Site 13’s cacao is the oldest in North America, eclipsing the Chaco chocolate by some 300 years. Humanity’s cacao habit dates back to at least 1900 B.C.E to 1500 B.C.E., when Mexico’s Mokaya people were already enjoying a chocolate drink.

In Mesoamerica, cacao was mostly a food of the elite, who sipped a foamy chocolate drink, often spiked with spices, at banquets and other ceremonial occasions. But an 8th century village such as Site 13 probably would have been classless, so the chocolate would’ve been consumed by ordinary people.

Villagers might have drunk it primarily for its nutritional value, rather than for ritual reasons, the researchers say in a paper in press at the Journal of Archaeological Science. Or, as Aztec warriors did, villagers could have taken cakes of maize and cacao on trips, reconstituting the cakes with water to make an early version of instant hot chocolate.

The results, combined with the team’s earlier findings, show that “either a lot of people moved north or there was intensive trade bringing this cacao up” from Mesoamerica to the American Southwest, Dorothy Washburn says. “There’s this incredible and sustained contact between these two areas.”

Until now, the only known imports from Mesoamerica into the northern Southwest were limited quantities of parrots, copper bells, and a few other items, says Washington State University, Pullman, archaeologist William Lipe, a specialist on the Southwest. Most researchers think the cultural development of the Southwest was largely independent of Mesoamerican influences, he says, but a chocolate-drenched Southwest implies that Mesoamerica’s influence on Southwestern architecture and rituals might have been greater than expected.

Other researchers, though tantalized, are also cautious, precisely because the new study and the authors’ previous research have found so much chocolate. If cacao were so common, there would be stories or visual references or historical references to it, writes Ben Nelson, of Arizona State University, Tempe, who studies the ancient cultures of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, in an e-mail.

Archaeologist Michael Blake, who studies agriculture in the Americas, casts doubt on the paper’s suggestion that Site 13 residents may have consumed chocolate as a source of nutrition, either at home or on the road. By the time cacao got to the American Southwest, it would’ve been “scarce, prized, and extremely valuable,” writes Blake, of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in Canada, in an e-mail. “I may serve caviar and fine champagne at my daughter’s wedding feast, but I’m not likely to pack it in my lunch bag when I go on a camping trip.”

Dorothy Washburn responds that evidence of cacao’s importance may well be found in other artifacts from the time, once such objects are reexamined in light of the new findings, and that practices relating to cacao may have died out if people stopped eating it. She also says that their findings don’t rule out that the Site 13 villagers ate cacao mostly as a ritual food.

At the very least, William Washburn says, the results suggest that “these people had acquired a taste for chocolate and knew how to prepare it”—making them not so different from modern-day chocolate lovers 1200 years later.

Original article:
news.sciencemag.org
By Tracy Watson

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Topic Kinishba pottery

Approximately eight centuries ago, people living along the Colorado Plateau in what is now the Four Corners area faced a crisis. Environmental changes that devastated their agricultural practices and likely aggravated social unrest forced significant numbers of these people to move away.

Many of them headed south into central and southern Arizona and western New Mexico, into lands already inhabited by well-established groups.

What is remarkable about this diaspora is that while there is no written record of what happened, much of what archaeologists know is told in the ceramic bowls, plates and figurines that were created and left behind when those civilizations later collapsed.

Patrick Lyons, acting associate director of the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona and head of the museum’s collections, has been analyzing hundreds of ceramics from Kinishba, the ruins of an 800-room pueblo just below the Mogollon Rim in east-central Arizona.

Lyons’s results will be published later this year by the Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series as a chapter in “Kinishba Lost and Found: Mid-Century Excavations and Contemporary Perspectives.”

Lyons, who also is an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology, said his work is a re-analysis of earlier studies, many of which were done by UA archaeologists. The diaspora from the Kayenta region has, in fact, been studied extensively over the last 80 years.

It started in the 1930s. Byron Cummings, the first head of what was then the UA archaeology department, excavated Kinishba. The pueblo is just one of the sites where migrants fleeing the north settled.

Cummings and the students in his field school collected hundreds of ceramic objects, “bushels upon bushels,” he wrote, that spoke to “their individual tastes and skills.” There were pots used for cooking and for storage. Other vessels were used to serve food, sometimes for large groups. There were miniatures and animal effigies. They came in different colors and were hand-painted, or embossed or even perforated.

The earliest studies of Kinishba pottery were published by UA students for their master’s degrees. Unfortunately, the mindset of most archaeologists of that era was geared more toward collecting and less on analysis.

Lyons said more sophisticated excavation techniques and improved analytical methods developed since then has led to a greater understanding of these materials and the people who made them. New discoveries also have made Kinishba a key piece of the puzzle of what happened.
Kinishba, said Lyons, is a bit overlooked as a source of archaeological data, in part because of the haphazard way materials were collected and documented, and because a fire in Cummings’ home destroyed many of his field notes. Emil Haury, who succeeded Cummings, later moved the UA field school to other pueblos at Forestdale, Point of Pines and Grasshopper, and made scientific analysis a more important component of the excavations.
What has become apparent is that local pottery-making at Kinishba and elsewhere was heavily influenced by the techniques brought by the new settlers from the north, including perforated plates and specific painted patters on bowls and jars. While some ceramics were imported, some at great distances, others were made with local materials.

“What a lot of archaeologists are looking to reconstruct is specialization,” Lyons said. “It used to be thought that every village produced its own pottery. Now, we know how to match pottery to the raw materials they were using. There was quite a bit of exchange going on.”

“What it seems like on the Colorado Plateau and on the Rim just below is that not every household had a pottery producer, but in most cases there were many individual pottery producers in a village,” he said

“However, there was a lot of material that came in from outside. There also was a lot of movement of pottery, what we call ‘circulation,’ because sometimes it is not clear whether the pottery is moving in exchange for something else, or being brought in as part of a movement of people – migration. Researchers want to distinguish between those two processes whenever possible.”

Lyons said that the movement of goods points to “relationships” being developed among communities. Some villages specialized in pottery. Others made specialized stone tools or jewelry carved from sea shells.

Excavations by ASM archaeologist Charles Adams at Homolovi, for example, offer convincing evidence that people there grew and wove cotton that they could traded for other goods, especially the prized Jeddito Yellow Ware pottery made on the Hopi mesas.

But Kinishba’s pottery is important because it includes markers of people from the Kayenta region.

“Southwestern archaeologists have been working for a long time on the evidence of people moving out of the Four Corners region and into other places,” said Lyons. “There is lots of good evidence of this in Winslow (Homolovi). The classic case is at Point of Pines. Grasshopper Pueblo is another. Recently, my colleagues and I have been working in the San Pedro Valley to document this as well.

“But what was not known was how much evidence was at Kinishba, which is right in the midst of the other pueblos.”

In addition to providing material for master’s theses and doctoral dissertations, Kinishba was the focus of a report by Cummings in the 1940s. Lyons said the collection has been studied off and on over the years, but never systematically approached in a holistic way. What was needed was a look at the entire assemblage in terms of variability and dates and how the site relates to others nearby.

What became clear from new analysis, he said, is that Kinishba is at the “epicenter” of the migration from Kayenta down to the confluence of the Gila and San Pedro rivers.

Daniela Triadan, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology, has been investigating where the materials used in Kinishba pottery originated. Lyons said her work will, among other thiings, help illuminate personal relationships there and in other communities where people migrated.

“My colleagues and I have argued about is whether and how these enclaves of immigrants that we’re identifying in different places, maintain connections with one another. One thing we see at Kinishba that we don’t see in other places is a lot of pottery that seems to come from Point of Pines. Triadan has already shown connections between Kinishba and Grasshopper.

“But what we now also are seeing is what looks like evidence of links between Point of Pines and Kinishba. Maybe friends and relatives who used to live together in the north country are maintaining connections after they have to leave the Four Corners region. High-tech sourcing techniques can help reveal these connections.”

Lyons said archaeologists have only begun to scratch the surface of Kinishba in terms of what is going on within the site and how it grew and changed over time. Cummings and his students wrote room numbers and other information on the vessels and fragments they collected.

By going back to what written information remains, it may still be possible to correlate materials with the oldest and newest parts of the pueblo, determining when the migrants came and how contacts among communities were maintained.

Original article:
Phys.org
Kenisha ruins

 

 

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Topic: Southwest culture and food

Basketmaker and Pueblo cultures

The high, arid plateau that includes parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Texas and Arizona created special demands on the indigenous peoples of the region. In order to survive they learned to cultivate plants and build architecture that adapted to the climate Although the earliest evidence of maize (Indian corn) pollen is about 1200 BC in the Southeast and 1000 BC in the Southwest, the indigenous peoples of the arid Colorado Plateau region of the Southwest apparently were more receptive to growing Mexican plants as a supplement to wild foods.  Domestication of indigenous plants had begun 2500 years earlier in the Southeast. The combination of a wide variety of indigenous crops, plus the vastly greater supply of wild foods provided little incentive for Southeastern peoples to experiment with imported food sources.

Basketmaker II Period: 1000 BC – 500 AD

Throughout the period 1000 BC to about 500 AD, the indigenous peoples experimented with various crops that originated in Mesoamerica or in their own locale.  Varieties of maize and squash were developed which would thrive in the arid, four season climate. These plants were grown in small gardens at the base camp with little care from their owners.  It possible that the gardens were left unattended for weeks at a time as family bands wandered the countryside, hunting game and gathering wild foods as they ripened.  The cultivated plants became increasingly important to their diets, but never completely replaced wild vegetables and fruits. Several varieties of beans arrived in the region beginning around 400 AD.

The era from 1000 BC-500 AD, when the Southwest’s indigenous peoples were living in pithouses, but becoming increasingly skilled at gardening is known as the Basketmaker II Period.  Archaeologists assigned this label because until about 750 AD, Southwestern cultures did not know how to make pottery.  Baskets and ultimately, gourds, were used for storages.  Pottery was first created in the Southeastern United States around 2500 BC and in Mexico around 1600 BC.  It is not known why corn cultivation traveled from Mexico 1750 years earlier than the knowledge of pottery.

The architecture of the Basketmaker II Period was extremely simple.  Up until around 300 AD crude huts were created by digging shallow pits and stacking saplings over them in a teepee fashion.  In the winter, the covering of the teepee-pithouse was probably animal skins.  In the warmer, dryer months, available vegetation was woven into the framework to provide shade.  These lightweight structures would have provided no protection against poisonous snakes or large predators.  Undoubtedly, on many a night, a rattlesnake slid into a pithouse to snuggle up to something warm!

Basketmaker III Period: 500 AD – 750 AD

Beginning around 500 AD, the Southwest’s indigenous peoples became much more sedentary. Corn, beans and squash had become a much more important part of their diets.  They had learned that cultivation and perhaps, pouring of water on the plants would greatly increase productivity.  Several other Mexican crops, such as peppers, also were being planted.

During the Basketmaker III Period, the pit houses in farmstead hamlets became more stoutly built, larger and more sophisticated.  Their construction often included interior partitions, anterooms and air circulation baffles.  Families often lived in these more substantial pithouses for up to 15 years.  They were able to become more sedentary because of the increased proportion of cultivated foods in their diets. They still built simple teepee-like pithouses at locations where small bands seasonally hunted or gathered wild foods.

Pueblo I Period: 750 AD – 900 AD

Beginning around 750 AD, the indigenous peoples of the Southwest began occupying permanent farmsteads that provided families most of their vegetative dietary needs.  Wild seeds, nuts, cactus leaves and fruits supplemented the cultivated foods. 

The knowledge of making pottery arrived onto the Colorado Plateau around 750 AD.  This technology might have been spread by the dispersal of the population of Teotihuacan between 600 AD and 750 AD. An external source for ceramics seems likely since several ethnic groups began immediately making quite sophisticated pottery. With the actual knowledge on how to created vitreous ceramics from clay was accompanied by an understanding of color slips and decorative patterns. In the Southeast, the first crude pots appeared around 2500 BC, but the evolution to more sophisticated and decorative ware was much, much slower. (See article on Teotihuacan.)

The bow & arrow was introduced in the Southwest during this period. This technology might also have been the result of major population movements out of central Mexico due to the abandonment of Teotihuacan. Prior to that time, the primary hunting weapon had been the atlatl, a lightweight javelin which was slung at game with a throwing stick. The bow & arrow greatly increased the range at which a hunter could kill game. This resulted in more animal protein being available to their families.  With increased, and more nutritious food supplies, came larger families, longer life spans and population growth.

Domestic architecture changed radically when families began living on permanent farmsteads.  Some pithouses were still built, but those ethnic groups which settled on farmsteads began building rectangular wattle & daub or masonry houses.  The wattle & daub houses were similar to the more primitive structures in the Southeast.  Vertical posts were planted into the ground. A lathing of vines and saplings was woven between the posts. Upon this lathing was packed several layers of clay. In the Southwest, this is known as adobe construction. Unlike houses in the Mississippi Valley and eastern United States, the roofs of these houses were either flat or only slightly sloped.  They were framed with crisscrossed samplings and sheaved with whatever vegetation was available.

A little later stone masonry houses appeared.  Their form was almost identical to that of the adobe houses, and they also had flat or slightly sloping roofs.  The walls were made by stacking fieldstone walls with clay mortar. 

Initially, the adobe and fieldstone houses were small one room sheds.  However as the indigenous people became more experienced in building solid wall houses, they increased in size.  The typical manner that a farmstead home would expand was for cubicle of similar size to be added linearly to the original structure.  Sometime additions were constructed at right angles to the original line of rooms, but the homes continued to be only one room in width.

By the end of the Puebla I period, large villages had developed.  Some of these villages contained as many as 600 residents.  While the majority of residents concentrated in villages, or at least hamlets, others continued to live on isolated farmsteads.   The cultural sophistication of the region was about to change radically.  Around 900 AD, the people living in Chaco Canyon (now New Mexico) beginning constructing architecture like no one had seen in North America.  The cultural advancements of Chaco Canyon soon spread outward in a 200 mile radius circle.

Original Article:

Richard Thornton

4/2010

examiner.com

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