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Preceramic Occupations in Belize: Updating the Paleoindian and Archaic Record

  • Jon C. Lohse (a1), Jaime Awe (a2), Cameron Griffith (a3), Robert M. Rosenswig (a4) and Fred Valdez (a5)...

Abstract

Evidence from preceramic Paleoindian and Archaic time periods in Belize has been recorded over the past quarter of a century by a number of projects. This paper summarizes previously published information and presents new archaeological data in bringing the hunting-and-gathering and itinerant horticultural millennia of this region into a more accurate and comprehensive perspective than has been presented to date. The Paleoindian period includes influences from North as well as South America, with settlement preferences shown for river valleys and near-coastal margins. Cave sites hold particular promise for yielding new and well-preserved remains from this early period. The Archaic, beginning as early as 8000 B.C., is poorly dated until 3400 B.C. and was probably characterized by mobile hunter-foragers. The Late Archaic includes two facets, the Early (3400–1900 B.C.) and the Late (1500–900 B.C.) Preceramic, and represents the first appearance and gradual spread of cultivation together with habitat modification. The period beginning around 1500 B.C. shows intensifying maize cultivation, apparently mobile populations, and also the emergence of well-defined stone tool traditions that trend into the early Middle Preclassic. Ceramics seem to appear unevenly from ca. 1200 to 900 B.C., when the Cunil and Kanocha complexes in western Belize and Swasey sphere in northern Belize are reported.

Numerosas evidencias del Paleoindio y del Arcaico de Belice han sido recuperadas durante los últimos veinte cinco años por diferentes proyectos. Este artículo resume la información publicada y presenta nuevos datos arqueológicos en un esfuerzo de colocar la información tanto de cazadores-recolectores como de horticulores centroamericanos en una perspectiva más amplia, precisa y comprensiva que las existentes. El Paleoindio posee influencias de Norteamérica y Sudamérica, con preferencias a los asentamientos en valles fluviales y márgenes costeras. Los sitios en cuevas asegurarían la posibilidad de proveer nuevos y bien preservados restos paleoindios. El Arcaico, quizás comenzando tan temprano como 8000 a.C., no está bien datado hasta cerca del 3400 a.C., y probablemente se caracterizó por cazadores-recolectores móviles durante el Holoceno Temprano y Medio. El Arcaico Tardío incluye dos fases, la Precerámica Temprana (3400–1900 a.C.) y la Tardía (1500–900 a.C.), mostrando la aparición inicial y la difusión gradual de cultivo junto con la modificación del hábitat. A partir del 1500 a.C. vemos un cultivo más intenso del maíz, poblaciones aparentemente móviles y también la aparición de tradiciones de instrumentos líticos bien definidas que persisten hasta el Preclásico Medio temprano. Según la muestra de sitios excavados, las cerámicas aparecerían desigualmente ca. 1200 a 900 a.C., con los complejos de Cunil y Kanocha en el oeste y la influencia de Swasey en el norte de Belice.

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