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Cobble Circles and Standing Stones

Archaeology at the Rivas Site, Costa Rica

Jeffrey Quilter

Publication Year: 2004

In this first-person tale of archaeological adventure in the tropical forest, Jeffrey Quilter tells the story of his excavation of Rivas, a great ceremonial center at the foot of the Talamanca Mountain range, which flourished between A.D. 900 and 1300, and its fabled gold-filled cemetery, the Panteón de La Reina. Beginning with the 1992 field season and ending with the last excavations in 1998, Quilter discusses Rivas’ builders and users, theories on chiefdom societies, and the daily interactions and surprises of modern archaeological fieldwork.

Writing in the first person with a balance between informal language and academic theory, Quilter concludes that Rivas was a ceremonial center for mortuary rituals to bury chiefly elite on the Panteón. Through use of his narrative technique, he provides the reader with accounts of discoveries as they occurred in fieldwork and the development of interpretations to explain the ancient refuse and cobble architecture his team uncovered. As his story progresses amid the enchantment of the Costa Rican landscape, research plans are adjusted and sometimes completely overturned as new discoveries, often serendipitous ones, are made. Such changing circumstances lead to new insights into the rise and fall of the people who built the cobble circles and raised the standing stones at Rivas, a thousand years ago.

The only book in English that focuses on a single archaeological site in Costa Rica, which continues to develop as a destination for archaeological tourism, Cobble Stones and Standing Circles will appeal to laypeople and professionals alike.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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Chapter One: Getting There

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pp. 1-26

The name of the central bus station in San José is derived from Costa Rica’s Coca Cola bottling plant. The “Coca Cola” is not a single building but rather a section of the city streets near the central market. Different bus companies with routes to one part of the country or another are found in separate complexes of large open-air garages, waiting areas, restaurants, shops, and the streets themselves. The place is in a constant state of high energy as everything from modern luxury...

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Chapter Two: The 1992 Field Season

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pp. 27-56

The Operation A field at the end of the Calle Mora, on the uppermost terrace of the valley, was bounded by barbed wire except for the eastern side, at the terrace edge. This was close to where my family and I had stopped the car on our visit, though it did not seem to hold the significance that my wife had implied in her advice on where to dig. Most of the field was in short...

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Chapter Three: Fieldwork in Operation E, 1993

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pp. 57-78

Our three months of fieldwork at the Rivas site in 1992 had been quite successful. We had sampled a variety of different locales: a set of domestic structures, the area around a petroglyph, and a cemetery. We also had discovered some very impressive architecture not known for the area before. Now we had to determine what to do next. It seemed reasonable to...

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Chapter Four: Expanding Our Understanding of the Site, 1994

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pp. 79-100

For the 1994 field season, we had three things we wished to accomplish. First, there were a few loose ends to tie up in Operation E. Second, we wanted to dig in an area that might yield some spectacular burials in Operation D. Depending on the outcome of that work, our third goal was to do a shovel test pit survey of the...

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Chapter Five: Refining Our Knowledge of Rivas, 1995–1997

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pp. 101-130

After three field seasons at Rivas we had learned many things. The Rivas site was quite different from other Chiriqu

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Chapter Six: The Pante

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pp. 131-154

The Pante

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Chapter Seven: The Artifacts

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pp. 155-182

When we walked down the slope of the Pante

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Chapter Eight: The Physical and Social Worlds of Ancient Rivas

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pp. 183-200

Everything I have written up to this point has been designed to lead you, the reader, to the same conclusions I made, some time ago, that Rivas was a special ceremonial center for mortuary practices to bury elite on the Panteón de La Reina. I came to this conclusion after the fateful Loot Day. Although I had an “aha!” moment, I can’t remember exactly when...


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pp. 201-202


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pp. 203-206

References Cited

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pp. 207-214


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pp. 215-218

E-ISBN-13: 9781587294846
E-ISBN-10: 1587294842
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877458760
Print-ISBN-10: 0877458936

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2004