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"Mohammed's SEVEN Paradise": The Exploitation of Faunal Resources in the Rivas Region of Nicaragua by Mary Pohl and Paul Healy "Mohammed's Paradise" wasthe wayOviedo described southwestern Nicaragua in the sixteenth century. He was referring to Islamic paradises—lush parks maintained by royalty for hunting and other amusements. Oviedo claimed that fish and game occurred in greater abundance in Nicaragua than anywhereelse in the Indies (Oviedo, in this volume, Chapter Two). The Santa Isabel "A" (J-RI-4) and Cruz (J-RI-7) sites in the Rivas region of southwestern Nicaragua contained smallbut well preserved faunal samples. These bones provide tangible evidence for the exploitation of animalresources in the prehistoric period. Such data can be used in conjunction with ethnohistoric documents to reconstruct aboriginal hunting patterns. The fauna from the two archaeological sites refers primarily to the Alta Gracia and Las Lajas phases of the Late Polychrome Period. These cultural remains have tentatively been identified with the historic Nicarao. Santa Isabel "A" (J-RI-4) also yielded a respectable sample of bones from the preceding La Virgen phase of the Middle Polychrome Period. These hunters may have been Chorotega. The vertebrate remains reflect the relative locations of the two sites. The Cruz site (J-RI-7), situated on Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua, contained high percentages of turtle bones (Table 17). Very large specimensof Chrysemys sp. (pond turtle) and of Kinosternon sp. (mud turtle) were being taken from the lake. At least one other, unidentified species was also being exploited in small quantities. In all, turtles comprise 94 per cent of the Alta Gracia phase and 72 per cent of the Las Lajas phase vertebrate fauna. 287 288 Archaeology of the Rivas Region, Nicaragua In contrast, white-taileddeer (Odocoileus virginianus} were always more abundant at Santa Isabel "A" (J-RI-4). This site islocated on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. Deer, together with large mammal bone fragments that probably refer to deer, make up 78 per cent of the Las Lajas phase vertebrate fauna and 67 per cent of the La Virgen phase bones (Table 18). Deer and other game living in the region would have been attracted to the water in the lake, especially during the intense dry season characteristic of the area. These animals would have been accessible to the inhabitants of Santa Isabel "A." Archaeological and ethnohistoric data have led to the conclusion that agriculture was prominent in the Rivas region in prehistoric times. The presence of agricultural activity generally makes an area more attractive to white-tailed deer. Deer populations can be reduced , however, if agriculture is too extensive and hunting too intense . One would expect that pressure on deer populations wouldhave been greatest during the Late Polychrome Period. Human populations reached their peak at that time. Moreover, ethnohistoric records indicate that the Nicarao relied more heavily on hunting than did the Chorotega (Chapman, in Wyckoff 1973). The degree of pressure on deer resources can be analyzed in the archaeological record (Table 19). During the Middle Polychrome Period (La Virgen phase), a sizeable proportion of the deer bones were those of immature animals. Late Polychrome Period deer bones Phases Species Mammals Homo sapiens (human) Urocyon cineoargenteus (grey fox) Odocoileus virginianus (white-tailed deer) Large mammal (probably deer) Medium mammal Birds Large bird Reptiles Kinosternon sp. (mud turtle) Chrysemys sp. (pond turtle) Turtle, unidentified Total Alta Gracia No. Percentage 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 4 6 74 88 84 Las Lajas La Virgen Apompua No. Percentage No. No. 5 9 5 1 2 48 1 71 7 2 13 7 1 3 68 1 1 1 2 San Roque No. 1 1 Table 17 Faunal Remains from J-RI-7:Cruz Site, Ometepe Island "Mohammed's Paradise": The Exploitation of Faunal Resources 289 Table 18 Faunal Remains from T-RI-4:Santa Isabel "A" Phases Species Mammals Homo sapiens (human) Cebidae (monkey) Ateles geoffroyi (spider monkey) Dasypus novemcinctus (armadillo) Dasyprocta punctata (agouti) Procyon lotor (racoon) Cf. Nasua narica (coati) Odocoileus virginianus (white-tailed deer) Large mammal (probably deer) Medium mammal Reptiles Kinosternon sp. (mud turtle) Chrysemys sp. (pond turtle) Chelonidae (sea turtle) Turtle, unidentified Fishes Fish, unidentified (probably shark) Total No. 3 1 Las Lajas Percentage 4 1 La No. 7 1 Virgen Percentage 7 1 (2 matching femora) 1 1 53 4 1 1 6 1 1 73 1 1 73 5 1 1 8 1 1 2 1 1 56 13 12 10 1 104 2 1 1 54...


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