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Traces Behind the Esmeraldas Shore

Warren DeBoer

Publication Year: 1996

Although long famous for its antiquities—notably intricate goldwork, elaborate pottery, and earthen mounds—the Santiago-Cayapas region of coastal Ecuador has been relatively neglected from the standpoint of scientific archaeology. Until recently, no sound chronology was available, and even the approximate age of the region's most impressive monument, the large and much-looted site of La Tolita, remained in doubt.

Building on evidence obtained during the last decade, this book documents an eventful prehistory for Santiago-Cayapas that spans three millennia. A highlight of this prehistory was the reign of La Tolita as a regional center from 200 B.C. to A.D. 350. Archaeological data from
La Tolita's hinterland indicate a complex and changing social landscape in which La Tolita's hegemony was never absolute nor uncontested.

Abundantly illustrated and written in a crisp, witty, and occasionally irreverent style, Traces Behind the Esmeraldas Shore will stimulate debate and rankle interpretive conventions about those social formations that archaeologists gloss as 'chiefdoms.'

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

I don't recall the exact date (it was an evening in the spring of 1986), but the conversation remains clear in memory. Paul Tolstoy called from Montreal and asked if I would be interested in participating in his upcoming archaeological project in Ecuador. ...

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1. Backward

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pp. 1-8

As a retired Peace Corps volunteer homesteading along the Esmeraldas river, Thomsen reminds one of a Conrad character slowly sinking into terminal tropical torpor. The insects bite, the midday sun burns, and nightly rains carpet the forest floor with knee-deep mud, but above all, the misplaced European is unnerved by the prospect that the jungle has no history ...

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2. Coast, River, and Forest

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pp. 9-25

It is a powerful convention that the second chapter present the environmental background as if such presentation were obligatory and logically precedent to what follows. The "natural" backdrop of landscape and waterscape is always, in part, a product of the history of human utilization. ...

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3. Sketching the Sequence

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pp. 26-67

The construction of a reliable chronology is a basic archaeological task. Without a sound chronology, any inferences about subsistence, settlement, or social systems in the past are likely to be historical monstrosities. The main mission of this chapter is to develop a cultural sequence for the Santiago and Cayapas basins on the basis of stratigraphy, ...

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4. Vagrant Vestiges: Valdivia and the Mafa Phase

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pp. 68-81

For many archaeologists, the earlier the better. While the most elaborate pottery dating to a mere A.D. 500 may be described in a technical monograph or regional journal, even the scrappiest of sherds, if dated to several millennia B.C., warrant a press release. ...

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5. La Tolita's Hinterland: The Selva Alegre Phase

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pp. 82-105

As Lathrap et al. (1985: 68) wryly observe: "It seems almost an operative corollary of Murphys Law that archaeological traditions are usually named after their least appropriate members." Selva Alegre, although a phase rather than a tradition, might comply with this complaint. ...

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6. From Patas to Pedestals: The Guadual Phase

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pp. 106-129

The Guadual phase begins with a bang. There is a major shift from polypod patas to tall, often flamboyantly shaped or decorated pedestals. There is a sudden and related transformation in serving vessels: plates with chalky pastes are replaced by compoteras with fine sandy pastes. ...

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7. La Tolitah Aftermath: Herradura, Las Cruces, and Mysterious Mina

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pp. 130-159

To understand a sequel is difficult if what it follows is very incompletely known. Yet that is the task here. To preface, let me review what is known and not known about what came before. ...

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8. Back to Barbarism: The Tumbaviro Phase

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pp. 160-172

If Herradura and Las Cruces evince a retreat from the mainstream of the collapsing La Tolita world to the relative isolation of secondary drainages, then Tumbaviro represents a virtual hydrophobia in which the typical settlement is situated atop an interfluvial ridge away from navigable waterways. ...

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9. The Coming of the Chachi

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pp. 173-188

For many archaeologists trained during the heyday of the New Archaeology, the terms diffusion and migration are still likely to invoke considerable antipathy. The whole agenda of the New Archaeology was to show how cultural change could be accounted for in terms of intrasystemic and local adaptations. ...

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10. Local Linkages and Global Extensions

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pp. 189-211

"Linkage" is one of those vogue words that appears to be insinuating itself rapidly into anthropological vocabulary. Why this should be so is unclear. The Simpler and essentially synonymous "link" would seem to do the job as well. After all, we get by without speaking of "extensionages" (may this neologism never catch on!). ...

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pp. 212-213

"Epilogue" is the more common term at this point in a book, but according to the dictionary on my desktop, epi in the original Greek meant "near" in either space or time and could refer to immediately above, below, before, or after. Out of a sense of symmetry to the "foreword" that opened this volume, "afterword" would seem to be the more specific and appropriate title. ...

Appendix 1: Textiles

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pp. 214-215

Appendix 2: Phytoliths

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pp. 216-220

References Cited

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pp. 221-230


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pp. 231-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780817383626
E-ISBN-10: 081738362X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817307929
Print-ISBN-10: 0817307923

Page Count: 254
Publication Year: 1996